Gone Bananas: 7 Ways to Transform Those Brown Ones on Your Counter

In the life of a banana, the time between "perfectly ripe" and "overripe" can be but a fleeting moment. That's why God invented banana bread. But that's just the beginning! Transform your past-prime fruit into first-rate muffins, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, waffles, and more.

Banana-Chocolate Bread

Chocolate chunks add a touch of luxury to the workaday loaf. We like the variety of sizes we get from chopping: Tiny bits of chocolate flavor the bread beautifully, while larger ones provide big hits of deliciousness.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups mashed overripe bananas (3 to 4)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Cook's Note

Store tightly wrapped in plastic, up to 3 days, or freeze, up to 3 months.

Chopped or Chips?
For this loaf, we like the variety of sizes we get from chopping. Tiny bits of chocolate flavor the bread beautifully, while larger ones provide big hits of deliciousness.

Kitchen Tip
If your bananas aren't quite ripe enough, put them in a 300-degree oven, unpeeled, for 15 minutes to soften.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl as needed.

3. Beat in bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and chocolate on medium. Pour batter into pan. Bake until a skewer inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

4. Let bread cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

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Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

In one batch of hearty cookies, find the flavors of two bakery classics: chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. Chopped walnuts and rolled oats add texture and more layers of taste.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted

Cook's Note

Use a ripe banana, which has more concentrated flavor than an unripe one.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.

2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.

Zucchini, Banana, and Flaxseed Muffins

Shredded zucchini, ripe banana, and ground flaxseed dial up the nutrition factor in these moist muffins.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (from 1 large zucchini)
1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (from 1 large banana)
3/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cook's Note

Fresh zucchini and ripe banana add moisture to these muffins, ensuring they are soft and tender but low in fat.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, flaxseed, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add zucchini and banana and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined (do not overmix).

2. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let muffins cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.

Related: 21 New Thanksgiving Dessert Ideas to Try This Year

Banana Whoopie Pies

These golden-edged banana cookies stuffed with cream-cheese frosting unite two favorites -- whoopie pie and moist banana cake -- in an immensely satisfying revival.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana)
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Combine banana and sour cream in another bowl.

2. Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed, until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add banana mixture in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture.

3. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Pipe batter into 1 1/4-inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing rounds 1 1/2 inches apart.

4. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto wire racks. Let cool. (Unfilled cookies can be stored for up to 1 day.)

5. Beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

6. Pipe or spoon 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture onto the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies. Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve immediately.

Healthy Morning Muffins

Banana shares the spotlight with carrots, raisins, and oats in these hearty, low-fat muffins.

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large egg
1/3 cup skim milk
4 medium carrots, shredded
1 medium ripe banana, mashed

Cook's Note

To store, keep in an airtight container up to 3 days.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt until there are no lumps. Stir in oats and raisins. Add oil, egg, milk, carrots, and banana and stir until blended.

2. Fill each muffin cup with 1/4 cup batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature.

Banana Cupcakes with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting

For a handheld treat that takes the cake, try these cute confections -- they combine the flavor of classic banana bread with a creamy spiced frosting.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 ripe bananas), plus 1 whole banana, for garnish (optional)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Honey-Cinnamon Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. Make a well in center of flour mixture. In well, mix together butter, mashed bananas, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to incorporate flour mixture (do not overmix). Dividing evenly, spoon batter into muffin cups.

3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Spread tops with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting. Just before serving, peel and slice banana into rounds, and place one on each cupcake, if desired.

Banana-Raisin Bread Pudding

Custardy, comforting bread pudding gets an added dose of sweetness from chunks of banana.

Butter, room temperature, for baking dish
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
12 ounces challah bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
3 bananas, sliced 1 inch think on the diagonal
1/2 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack set in lower third. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar until combined; whisk in milk. Add bread, bananas, and raisins; toss gently to combine. Set aside to let bread absorb liquid, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish; sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of bread pudding comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

More from Martha Stewart:
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You'll go bananas for this freezer pie -- a good choice for fruit that isn't too far gone.