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The best part about banana bread is that it's a delicious way to repurpose bananas that have over-ripened and turned black. But if you're in the mood to bake banana bread and all you have are fresh, yellow bananas, how can you ripen them quickly?
There are a few different methods for browning bananas. Our friend and author of Kate the Chemist: The Awesome Book of Edible Experiments for Kids, Dr. Kate Biberdorf, shares an easy-to-follow experiment that's the perfect indoor activity for curious kids. Even better? At the end, the whole family gets to enjoy a freshly-baked, sweet and healthy treat!
- 7 fresh bananas
- Permanent marker
- Paper bag
- Baking sheet
- Butter for greasing pan (or nonstick cooking spray)
- 9x5-inch bread pan
- Mixing bowl
- ½ cup butter, softened
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 medium bowls
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Cooling rack
First, label the outsides of 3 fresh bananas with a permanent marker as A, B and C. Record the appearance and firmness of each banana (and take a picture, if possible).
Experiment A (Brown Paper Bag):
- Place Banana A into a brown bag.
- Roll the edges of the bag over gently and loosely tape it shut. Set aside for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, remove the banana from the bag and compare its appearance to your before photo.
- Peel the banana and analyze the appearance, firmness and taste of Banana A.
Experiment B (Microwave):
- Poke a few holes in Banana B with a fork.
- Microwave Banana B for 30 seconds.
- Flip the banana over and microwave for 15 seconds longer.
- Remove the banana from the microwave and compare its appearance to your before photo.
- Peel the banana and analyze the appearance, firmness, and taste of Banana B.
Experiment C (Oven):
- Heat the oven to 300°F.
- Place Banana C on a baking sheet and bake for 20–30 minutes (or until the banana peel is black).
- Remove the banana from the oven and compare its appearance to your before photo.
- Peel the banana and analyze the appearance, firmness, and taste of Banana C.
- Compare your results to determine which banana had the sweetest taste.
- Repeat the technique that produced the sweetest banana for 4 fresh bananas. Leave the bananas in the peel (for now). We will use these bananas for the rest of the experiment.
- Take the butter out of the refrigerator and set aside.
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Rub the bread pan with butter (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).
- In the mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar by hand (or with an electric mixer).
- Add the eggs and stir.
- Add the buttermilk and vanilla and stir.
- Peel the 4 newly prepared bananas and put them into one of the medium bowls.
- Use a fork to mash the bananas.
- Add the bananas to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until you have a homogenous mixture, where everything looks completely mixed together.
- In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir.
- Add the remaining flour mixture and stir.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared bread pan.
- Bake the bread for 60–75 minutes (or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean).
- Allow the bread to cool for 15 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the pan and place it on a cooling rack.
- Allow it to cool completely before enjoying your bread!