The Creamy Ingredient Martha Stewart Uses To Level Up Banana Bread

Easy to make and comforting to eat, banana bread is one of those simple recipes that's made time and again in many home kitchens. A basic banana bread recipe is a great way to use up fruit that may be past its prime, and it's also easy to add or switch up the ingredients to take the familiar favorite to the next level.

Martha Stewart has her own way of elevating banana bread, and it involves using an ingredient you may not have previously considered: sour cream. The thick, tangy liquid tends to be associated more with a topping for nachos or baked potatoes, or with swirling into soups. But sour cream actually works brilliantly in sweet cakes and bakes such as banana bread, too.

Sour cream is made by adding lactic acid bacteria to dairy cream, which gives it its signature tart flavor as well as its thick consistency. When used in baking, this tanginess helps to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients, such as the sugar and fruit in banana bread, as well as adding richness. And it also boosts the texture, too, making the finished result deliciously moist.

Martha Stewart uses sour cream for rich, tender banana bread

A blend of fat and acid, sour cream works well in cakes and baked goods such as banana bread for a number of reasons. First is the fat content. Sour cream contains at least 18% milkfat, according to the FDA, and that fattiness adds an extra-rich taste as well as making a baked good tender and velvety. Its thick consistency adds additional moisture without making the batter thinner the way that ingredients such as milk or buttermilk can do.

The acid in sour cream plays a part too. Both the flavor and texture of banana bread are enhanced by this feature, which works to tenderize the gluten strands, which results in a softer, more tender crumb. As well, the acid, which is responsible for the sharp taste of sour cream, also helps to improve the overall flavor balance in banana bread. It stops it from being overly sweet, while adding a subtle tangy taste.

You don't need a lot of sour cream when baking, either, so it's a great way to use up that half-full container sitting in the refrigerator. Martha Stewart adds just half a cup of sour cream to the batter for her banana bread loaf. She also adds chopped pecans or walnuts to further elevate the texture, but if you want to make it extra special, it's also easy to spruce up your tired banana bread with a bonus layer of extra sliced fruit.

Use sour cream to enhance cakes and bakes

Banana bread isn't the only sweet treat that can be elevated with a little sour cream. Its versatility means it's a great ingredient to try in all sorts of dessert recipes. Try a cup in a simple pound cake for a simple yet tasty bake you can easily make with standard pantry ingredients. Or try incorporating sour cream in a rich chocolate cake, a moist homemade Bisquick coffee cake, or fruity strawberry cupcakes for ultimate richness.

You could also combine sour cream with eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla, and apples for a next-level apple pie filling. The hardworking ingredient can even be used in cheesecakes; just beat sour cream with the cream cheese, eggs, and flour for an extra-silky result. Or try using the tangy dairy product as a frosting to top cakes and cupcakes. It's a less sweet but satin-soft alternative to cream cheese frosting.

If you don't have any sour cream on hand, you can also use creme fraiche or full-fat Greek yogurt in a pinch. Or try making your own version of sour cream by mixing a cup of heavy cream with a quarter of a cup of buttermilk, and letting the liquid sit in a sterilized jar at room temperature for a day in order to ferment. But chances are you'll regularly be buying sour cream, because once you've tried using it for baking, you won't look back.