Banana Upside-Down Brownies

banana brownies

I have a confession. I really like bananas (they’re a healthy, portable snack and I go crazy over banana-chocolate cake), but I feel guilty about the environmental and social impacts.

Bananas are grown with some of the highest pesticide levels of any tropical crop. Normally we don’t worry about it because we don’t eat the contaminated peel, but the pesticides leach into soil and kill surrounding wildlife. Also, bananas are grown in Latin America (imagine the fuel costs and how unripe they have to be to ship properly), where workers are denied fair wages and health care. Before you throw your hands up in frustration, please buy organic and fair-trade bananas (sparingly). Yes they’re more expensive, but that’s how much they’re supposed to cost. And then go ahead and make these banana brownies.

I first got this idea when I went to a demo and ate brownies with grilled bananas. So gooey and good. I decided to make it a one-pan affair by baking the bananas and brownies together. The brownies are an old standby. They’re like the box-mix kind, with their chewy bite and crackly, paper-thin crust, but better. They also happen to be low-fat. The only brownie I like more has three sticks of butter and 3/4 pound of chocolate, so you can’t really compare. The topping has a couple tablespoons of butter or optionally none at all, making the whole thing healthier than expected.

Personally I think these need nuts to break up the gooey texture, but a lot of people who like fudgy brownies liked these as is. If you’re not a fudgy fan, I suggest adding a handful of toasted walnuts or cocoa nibs (toss with a teaspoon of flour, so they don’t sink to the bottom) during the last stage of mixing.

Banana Upside-Down Brownies

Topping recipe adapted from David Lebovitz; brownies adapted from Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich
16 servings

For the topping:
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100 g) packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons water or butter; cubed, at room temperature
3-4 ripe medium bananas (organic and fair-trade please)
A few drops of lemon juice

For the brownies:
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (112 g)
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened dutch process cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder, dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or 1/4 cup cocoa nibs, tossed with a teaspoon or two of flour

  1. Make the Topping: place the brown sugar and water or butter in an 8×8″ metal cake pan. Place the pan directly on the stove and warm over low heat, stirring until the sugar is the texture of wet sand. If using water, simmer for about 45 seconds. If using butter, stir just until the sugar is moist and bubbling, then remove from heat. (It won’t be completely smooth, and there may be a few bare spots.) Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Peel and slice the bananas in 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices. Arrange them, slightly overlapping, over the melted brown sugar. Sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.
  3. Make the Brownies: place the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  5. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar until combined (texture will remain gritty). Add the eggs, vanilla, and dissolved espresso powder. Beat with a wooden spoon about 40 strokes, scraping the sides of the pan as necessary. Add the dry ingredients and the walnuts/nibs (if using) and beat for another 40 strokes, or just until completely combined.
  6. Scrape the mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out a little gooey. Note: the brownie recipe calls for 20-25 minutes, but mine were nowhere near done then. I have a temperamental oven, so check the brownies at 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after that, and be prepared to bake for up to 40.
  7. Cool for about 20 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the brownies to help it release from the pan. Invert the brownies onto a serving platter. When completely cool, cut into 16 pieces. If keeping for more than one day, store in the fridge.

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12 Comments »

  1. Lindsay said,

    Genius Su! I love this! It leads me to another recipe idea… what about a peanut butter blondie with the bananas? I love peanuts butter and banana. Hm, maybe I’ll give it a try. Great inspiration here. :)

    May 3, 2010 at 12:39 am

  2. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Ooh, reminds me of banana cake with peanut butter frosting. I’ve wanted to make The Elvis for a while. http://www.foodaphilia.com/2007/07/elvis-cake.html

    May 3, 2010 at 12:46 am

  3. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) said,

    Wow I’ve never heard of, or seen anything like this. Pure genius!

    May 11, 2010 at 9:53 am

  4. Gwen Winsor said,

    I made these last night! very good. and I added a little under 1/2 cup of walnuts. Its funny because when I make regular brownies my favorite pieces are always the middle pieces. on this batch the edges are sooo much better :) thanks for the dessert!

    May 11, 2010 at 4:19 pm

  5. Eliana said,

    What a genius idea. I’ve only ever seen upside down cake but never brownies. They look super delish.

    May 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  6. Sweets By Vicky said,

    This is a super intense idea! I am totally liking your mad scientist moment. MMM, it’s like halfway to bananasplit heaven!

    June 8, 2010 at 9:32 am

  7. Karin said,

    Made this last night for a bunch of friends and they loved it!
    It really had that gooey consistency that I love, nom nom!

    The only problem I had while making it was to get it out of the pan, the sugar made it stuck to the bottom. Not really a big problem as it was just as easy to scope it out and flip it with a spatula, but still.

    Very nice recipe all in all!

    September 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

  8. Dee said,

    I made these today, and they are INCREDIBLE.

    September 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  9. Roz said,

    Hello Su. Amazing idea & superb combination of banana upside-down and brownies. I’ve tried & it is awesome but mine not as pretty as yours. Check it out here:
    http://homekreation-recipes.blogspot.com/2010/12/banana-upside-down-brownies.html

    December 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

  10. Goddess said,

    Soooo love it. Banana, as one of the ingredients in brownie recipe, has never ever crossed my mind. Yet, I was wrong. So native and will learn cooking it. This could be so exciting! :)

    April 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm

  11. Denise said,

    Spare me the lectures on what to buy and how often.

    September 20, 2011 at 8:13 am

  12. Shalini said,

    Just tried the brownies. Came out absolutely delicious. Will send you a link to the photo soon.

    December 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm

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