Banana Bread Brownies with Vanilla Caramel Glaze

Sometimes I make a recipe according to the lavish ideas I have rolling around inside my head and get so excited when I’m about to pull my newest creation from the oven, only to discover it didn’t go quite like I planned. Or worse, I have a cake-tastrophe.

In the case of these brownies, I didn’t get what I planned. I got more than I planned, in the best way.

I intended to make chocolate banana bread, baked in a 9-by-9-inch pan, so that it would take on a banana bread meets banana bars meets chocolate cake quality.

What emerged from the oven was much more like brownies with a hint of banana than chocolate banana bread. Although the brownies have banana undertones, chocolate steals the thunder. I love happy chocolate accidents.

Chocolate steals the show because it’s used in three ways, and one of those ways does not include using chocolate chips or melted chocolate. I won’t make you do chocolate math and I’ll just spill the cocoa beans how I did it.

First, I used cocoa powder. Ordinarily, I don’t use cocoa powder in brownies because I find it tends to dry them out and prefer to use melted chocolate. Here, however, the bananas kept the brownies gooey and moist and counteracted any drying effects that cocoa powder tends to have.

Secondly, I used chocolate Greek yogurt which tenderized the crumb and boosted the chocolate intensity level.

Baked goods made with yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk stay especially moist and soft and the chocolate yogurt worked according to plan and the brownies are soft and springy, tender, and chocolaty.

The third chocolate use came via a box of packet of instant chocolate pudding mix tossed into the batter. Although the pudding mix can be omitted, I think of it as moisture and softness insurance in powder packet form. I’ll likely never bake banana bread again without it because it does magical things.

However, if you choose to omit it, I recommend increasing the amounts of both cocoa powder and granulated sugar, about 2 extra tablespoons of cocoa powder and 2 to 4 extra tablespoons of granulated sugar. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to recreate the softness, depth of flavor, moisture, and just a certain x-factor the pudding provides.

I glazed the brownies with my favorite frosting, Vanilla Caramel Glaze, which I used on the Spiced Apple and Banana Bundt Cake. I want to bake things just as an excuse just to have that glaze. It’s buttery, rich, very caramely, smooth, and it has great flavor depth, which is surprising considering how few ingredients are used.

I want to dig my fork into the luscious caramel-vanilla ribbons over and over. I made extra glaze just to have around midnight, when my strongest want-a-spoonful cravings come on, from homemade peanut butter to frosting and glaze. I never crave celery sticks at that hour.

Although the brownies have some springiness and sponginess to them, they are not cakey, which is a good thing because I hate cakey brownies. They’re springy and bouncy in the way that a chocolate cake-mix-cake is. However, they’re not just a chocolate cake with some banana throw in; nor are they banana bread with some cocoa powder added. They’re fudgy and brownie-like.

So although I intended to create chocolate banana bread for Week 6 of Banana Bread Fest I’m so pleased these didn’t come out according to plan. Long live good kitchen karma.

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Banana Bread Brownies with Vanilla Caramel Glaze

Tender banana bread meets chocolaty, decadent, rich brownies. For those times you want chocolate but need to use up your ripe bananas, make these. Not cakey, very fudgy, and extremely moist.

Yield: one 9-by-9-inch pan, about 9 to 12 generous squares

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: about 1 hour+, for cooling

Ingredients:

Brownies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (one stick)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

6 ounces chocolate, vanilla, or plain Greek yogurt (one standard-sized small container; or sour cream may be substituted; I use Chobani Vanilla Chocolate Chunk)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 1 1/2 large or 2 small bananas)

one 3.9-ounce box chocolate instant pudding mix (not Cook ‘n Serve)

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened natural cocoa powder

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste

Vanilla Caramel Glaze

Makes about 1 cup glaze, enough to generously glaze the brownies

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (half of 1 stick)

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons cream or milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 to 2 cups+ confectioners' sugar, sifted (must be sifted)

Directions:

Brownies - Preheat oven to 350F, line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside.

In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter, about 1 minute. To the melted butter, add the granulated sugar (may be reduced to 3/4 cup if you like more bitter brownies), brown sugar, egg, yogurt, vanilla, and whisk to combine. Add the bananas and stir to incorporate.

Add the dry pudding mix, cocoa powder, and stir or whisk to combine; batter will appear lumpy because of the bananas. (Note: You are not making pudding; simply add the mix as a dry ingredient. It may be omitted and add slightly more cocoa powder, flour, and granulated sugar may instead be added, to taste. I recommend using the pudding because it softens, tenderizes, and flavors the brownies)

Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix or brownies will be tougher as the gluten will over-develop. The batter is quite thick and dense, and is fluffier than typical brownie batter. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 40 to 44 minutes, or until top is set and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will not come out completely clean because these are gooey, dense, and fudgy. Allow brownies to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. While brownies cool, make the glaze.

Vanilla Caramel Glaze - Note - This is a fast moving recipe; have everything in place before you begin.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. To the melted butter, add the brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring nearly continuously. Allow the mixture to boil quite rapidly for 2 minutes, stirring nearly continuously. Remove the pan from the burner, allow it to cool for about 1 minute, and add the cream, taking caution because the mixture could bubble vigorously. Whisk aggressively to incorporate the cream and calm the bubbling.

After the bubbling has subsided, add the vanilla and whisk to combine, using caution because the alcohol in the extract could cause the mixture to bubble up again. Add the confectioners' sugar one-half cup at a time, until desired sauce consistency is reached (I absolutely recommend using sifted sugar so the glaze whisks up smooth, silky, and free from lumps). Drizzle glaze over brownies with a spoon for a drizzly speckled effect with the white on black; or pour it over the entire top surface for a uniform thin layer of glaze (if you are using the drizzle approach, you may have excess glaze and it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month for a future baking project). Allow glaze to set up for a few minutes if desired; or slice and serve immediately. Unglazed brownies will keep for up to 5 days in an airtight container at room temperature. Glazed brownies should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and will keep for up to 1 week, or can be frozen for up to 3 months. I prefer these brownies chilled and store them in the refrigerator.

Related Recipes

Banana Bread with Vanilla Browned Butter Glaze – Week 1 of Banana Bread Fest

Zucchini Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting – Week 2 of Banana Bread Fest

Pumpkin Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese GlazeWeek 3 of Banana Bread Fest

Spiced Apple Banana Bundt Cake with Vanilla Caramel GlazeWeek 4 Banana Bread Fest

Carrot Pineapple Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese FrostingWeek 5 Banana Bread Fest

Fudgy Nutella Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting – My go-to brownie recipe and it’s the base I use for all other brownie recipes. Made in one bowl with a whisk and it’s a 5-minute easy batter to make, just as easy as a mix

Chocolate Cake with Chocoalte Ganche – The best homemade chocolate cake recipe, no mixer required. Better, easier, and faster than a box and the ganache can be made in the microwave in minutes

If you had to pick banana bread or brownies, which would it be?

This is such a hard call because at times I want chocolate, and nothing else will do, so brownies it is.

However, when it’s done right, very little can trump a perfect slice of banana bread. I adore it – in case you hadn’t noticed with 6 weeks of banana bread, banana cake, or banana something.

Do you have a great recipe for banana bread or for brownies?

Between melting butter or creaming it, melted chocolate or cocoa powder and how much, how many bananas and whether to whip them or mash them; how much flour, baking soda or baking powder or a combo of them, how many eggs, or eggs plus a yolk, how long to bake, size of pans…Other than chocolate chip cookies, no other two recipes seem to have more variations and methods than banana bread or brownies and everyone has their favorites.

This recipe is my jumping off place for banana bread and the inspiration for the subsequent weeks of Banana Bread Fest. This was week 6 and I have week 7’s recipe already made.

This recipe is my foolproof one-bowl brownie recipe upon which all other brownie creations are derived. It’s as easy and fast as a boxed mix, no mixer required, and the resulting brownies are much richer, more intense, uber-fudgy, not at all cakey, and yo’ll never need boxed brownie mix again.

Feel free to link up your favorite recipes for either banana bread or brownies and have a great week!

Reminder that these giveaways are still going on:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies + KitchenAid Stand Mixer + $200 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card Giveaway (through Monday 10/8 – winner announced next post)

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