When the oven timer goes off, you pull out your fresh-baked banana bread and set it aside to cool. You wait anxiously to slice into it, but when you do, you find a doughy mess in the middle. There are a few reasons this happens and several ways you can prevent it from happening again.
Check Your Ingredients
Before you even start mixing, make sure you have ingredients that work. Quick breads typically use baking soda and/or baking powder as a leavening agent to help lift and aerate them. If your leavening agent isn't doing its job, you'll end up with a dense, potentially soggy banana bread that won't cook as it's meant to.
Baking powder and baking soda don't last forever, contrary to popular opinion. If you leave them in your cupboard for too long, they'll become inactive, and they won't be able to catalyze the chemical reaction that makes bread rise.
To test baking powder, MSU Extension suggests placing 1 teaspoon in a bowl and pouring in one-third cup of hot water. It should begin bubbling ferociously. It's similar with baking soda — place 1 teaspoon in a bowl and add 2 teaspoons of white or apple cider vinegar. You should get the same reaction. If not, toss it and buy a replacement.
Mix the Batter Well
Both under-mixing and over-mixing batter can lead to bread that won't cook in the middle. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture advises mixing your dry ingredients thoroughly. The wet ingredients should be mixed separately; then the bananas and any other fruit or nuts your recipe calls for should be mixed into the wet ingredients.
Finally, pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients. Gently fold them in until just moistened. The batter will remain lumpy.
Test Your Oven
Your oven temperature may be off and you don't even know it. So, while you may be following the recipe exactly, your bread isn't fully cooking because your oven isn't hot enough. Or, it's too hot, which is cooking the outside more quickly than the inside.
Simple fix: Invest in an inexpensive, portable oven thermometer and place it on the rack inside the oven. Turn your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat it for about 20 to 25 minutes. Check your portable thermometer to see what your oven's actual temperature is.
If you want to be really accurate, get a second portable thermometer and check the first one against the second one to make sure they are both giving you the same measurement. If your oven's temperature is off, you'll have to adjust it in the future and use the portable thermometers as your guide.
You also want to make sure to preheat your oven properly. Your oven may beep, telling you it is preheated to your desired temperature even when it's not. Use your portable thermometer to make sure the oven is at the proper temperature before putting your pan in the oven.
Measure Banana Bread's Internal Temperature
Most people use the toothpick method to gauge whether their banana bread is ready to come out of the oven. If the stick comes out clean or with a few crumbles on it, the bread is done. That's a fine method, but if you're using it and still ending up with bread that won't cook in the middle, it's time to get a bit more technical.
You might already have a digital meat or candy thermometer at home. If not, you can purchase one inexpensively. To check banana bread's internal temperature, insert the thermometer into the center of the bread all the way down to the bottom of the pan. As you pull it out slowly, you'll notice that the temperature drops as you near the center.
If it drops below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, the center of the bread is not cooked yet. According to King Arthur Flour, banana bread's internal temperature should be between 200 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Gluten-free banana bread should reach an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees. If your bread is not done yet, slide it back into the oven and recheck it at two-minute intervals.
- Baking Business Magazine: "Leavening Agents Bring Lift to Baked Goods"
- Quaker Oats: "Baking Tips for Breads"
- David Lebovitz: "How to Tell If Baking Powder Is Still Good"
- Kitchn: "How to Test If Baking Soda or Baking Powder Is Expired"
- University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Quick Breads"
- King Arthur Flour: "How to Tell When Banana Bread Is Done"
- MSU Extension: "Rising Ingredients: Baking Powder and Baking Soda"