Martha Stewart's Brilliant Swap For Heavenly Banana Bread

Domestic goddesses quake in the shadows of Martha Stewart — whose clean, refined, and crafty persona has guided American etiquette, homemaking, and cooking for well over 20 years. She has hosted a variety of television shows, written several books on cooking and crafting, and has even opened her own restaurant known as The Bedford. Stewart is the master of many subjects, including the art of making a delicious loaf of banana bread. A staple for many home bakers, from beginner to enthusiast, banana bread is a simple cake that is endlessly delicious and ridiculously simple. But just because the recipe is simple, it doesn't mean that Stewart hasn't brought her own flair to the dish. There is one easy and delicious addition to banana bread that Martha Stewart swears by, and that's sour cream.


Stewart incorporates the creamy and tangy ingredient in place of milk in her banana bread recipe, as it brings more moisture and a sharp flavor that plays off of the fresh taste of the bananas. While sour cream is often used as a topping for tacos or latkes, it is no stranger to baking. The ingredient is often found in cakes and frostings, and you can even replace the water in your pie crust with sour cream for softer results. The addition of sour cream to banana bread brings out the best qualities of this sweet treat, so of course Stewart would incorporate this ingredient into her signature recipe.

What sour cream brings to your banana bread

Okay, so what exactly does sour cream bring to the table (or loaf, in this case)? Well, for one, sour cream packs a wallop of flavor that can make a sweet and simple banana bread shine. Marta Stewart notes that sour cream sets her recipe apart from run-of-the-mill banana bread recipes. The ingredient adds a tangy flavor that carries through the banana bread, offsetting the sweetness of the loaf and highlighting the banana-based flavor. This combination of creamy bananas and tangy flavors isn't so odd once you consider how often bananas are paired with yogurt, which offers a similarly zingy flavor. Stewart even suggests using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in this recipe if you don't have sour cream on hand, as it offers a similar flavor profile. 


In addition to offering an intense flavor, sour cream also adds richness to any baked good. In this brown butter banana bread recipe, the richness of the brown butter is intensified further with sour cream. Most banana bread recipes call for either milk or buttermilk. Buttermilk adds a level of acidity similar to sour cream, which helps to perk up the texture and taste of your banana bread. But sour cream's higher fat content adds a level of moisture and richness that milk, and buttermilk, for that matter, can't quite match. This makes your banana bread even more delicious, bringing out its sweet taste.

Not just a matter of flavor

But it's not just a matter of flavor and moisture. Sour cream brings out the best in your baked goods and can give your banana bread a more tender result. This is because — in addition to adding moisture to your baked goods — the fat content in sour cream also helps prevent gluten strands from forming as you mix your batter. Now, why would you want to prevent gluten from forming in your banana bread batter? For one, while gluten adds structure to your baked goods, too much gluten can turn them into a tough and rubbery mess. Adding sour cream prevents this from happening, even with vigorous mixing. 


Sour cream is an acidic ingredient, and its acidity helps to create a softer texture in baking. Of course, adding acidity to baked goods, and cake in particular, is nothing new. Buttermilk is often crucial to cakes and biscuits because the acidic nature benefits the texture. But sour cream has the benefit of a subtler flavor as well, while still maintaining a tangy taste that will take your banana bread to a higher level entirely. Plus, it has the added benefit of being Martha Stewart-approved.