Reader Gerhard, one of the world’s all-time great banana bread enthusiasts, reports that his bread has been getting steadily paler over the years. At least compared to the deep golden brown that he used to get and prefers. He wonders: why that might be? Could banana cultivars have changed any over the years? Maybe his flour? Or could it be some other factor?
Gerhard, I’ve had that same experience. Occasionally I think my crust isn’t as brown as my mother’s, or the crumb isn’t the same rich yellow. The cause is usually very simple: I’ve added too much acid to the batter in the form of lemon juice or buttermilk. As we discussed on the blog here not long ago, pH has a big impact on browning reactions. An acidic batter will yield a paler product. This is not to say you don’t want to add any acid, especially if there’s soda in the formula. But be aware of adding much extra acid. My recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of either milk or buttermilk. For a deep golden bread, I’ll use regular milk.
So my feeling, Gerhard, is that perhaps you’ve gotten in the habit of using more acidic ingredients over time, or perhaps you’re not measuring as closely as you’ve gotten more comfortable mixing up batches of batter. Of course something else to remember is to make sure your bananas are good and brown. The riper the bananas the more sugary they are, and that’s good for caramelization! Thanks for the question!