Banana bread bars with brown butter frosting

If you like bananas in any way, shape, or form, this recipe will be your bliss. A moist, almost fudgy, cake is cut into bars and topped with a brown butter frosting. 

By , The Pastry Chef's Baking

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    Even if you're not a frosting person, don't skip this brown butter frosting.
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So, you remember how I always say I only eat one taste test piece of whatever I make and give the rest away, even if it turned out and I like it? If something is really good, I might indulge in a second piece the next day but it would have to be pretty fantastic to warrant a second taste. So it might be something of an endorsement if I tell you I ate three pieces of this in the same afternoon. Yup, three. 

The first piece practically made my eyes roll to the back of my head in gastronomic bliss. The second piece also went down easy. I probably had pushed it too far by the time I finished the third piece and a couple of hours later and I remembered why I usually eat only one (or two) pieces of something really good. But still, no regrets.

If you like bananas in any way, shape, or form, you must make these bars. I don't usually endorse something so wholeheartedly as I know we all have different tastes but seriously, try these! If you don't have overripe bananas on hand, go out right now and buy the most ripe bananas you can find then let them sit on your counter until they turn black. The wait might be tortuously long but let that be a lesson to you to have overripe bananas on hand for baking emergencies like this. Although now that I've used up all my overripe bananas, I have to start the cycle over because I am so making these again

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If anything nonchocolate could be fudgy, that's how I would describe the texture of these bars. Don't overbake them or else they'll be more cakey than "fudgy" but don't underbake them too much either since bananas already add a lot of moisture to whatever they're baked in and you don't want it mushy or gooey but "fudgy." I baked mine to the point that the bottoms were still a bit dense but the top half was just perfect. 

And once again, I have to say the frosting was perfect for these bars. Even if you don't like frosting, don't skip it! I ended up using only three cups of powdered sugar rather than four since I didn't want the frosting to be too sweet. When you make the frosting, be sure to whisk it well over the stove to emulsify the brown butter in with the rest of the ingredients. 

When you spread it over the hot banana bread bars, the butter will tend to separate as the frosting sets. Just blot it carefully with a paper towel to absorb it. It'll look better once it cools not to have pools of separated butter on top. I didn't try these until they were completely cool. If I'd had a piece when they were warm, they might've been a bit gooey for me. But once at room temperature, they were perfect.

The frosting does set once the bars are cool. If you want to stack pieces on top of each other, separate the layers with wax paper or else the moist bottoms of the bars on top will stick to the frosting of the bars beneath them (I discovered that the hard way). 

Banana bread bars

Adapted from Life's Simple Measures

1-1/2 cups sugar

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1-3/4 cups (three or four) ripe bananas, mashed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I left them out)

Brown butter frosting

1/2 cup butter

3-4 cups powdered sugar (I only used 3 cups)

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. For the bars, in a large bowl, beat together sugar, sour cream, butter, and eggs until creamy. Blend in bananas and vanilla extract. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and blend for 1 minute. Stir in walnuts, if using.

2. Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. 

3. Meanwhile, for the frosting, heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Let the butter fat solids turn a delicate brown and remove from heat immediately.

4. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk. Whisk together until smooth (it should be thicker than a glaze but thinner than frosting). Using a spatula, spread the brown butter frosting over the warm bars (the frosting will be easier to spread while the bars are still warm). If the butter separates from the frosting, blot carefully with a paper towel. Cool completely before cutting.

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