Sunday, July 4, 2010

Berry Brilliant

Banana bread has to be one of those recipes, like brownies and chocolate chip cookies, that has about a zillion and one variations, techniques and tricks. Pretty much, though, no matter what you do to it, it always comes out edible, if not supremely delicious (this sad one being the lonely exception in my experience)! Even if a loaf is a bit too dry after sitting a couple days (to which I ask who has banana breads around for a few days?), it's nothing that a smear of butter or a drizzle of honey can't easily rectify. But like those brownie and chocolate chip cookie recipes, banana bread is the type of food with an almost unachievable ideal that most people don't remember ever having but somehow have cemented in their mind's eye.

So I'm not going to try to create "everyone's favourite" or "the best in the world" when it comes to making banana breads. Gosh, I have too many incarnations of them as it is (and you haven't even seen all of them yet!), to even pick a favourite from my own stash, but my goal has stayed the same over the years - make something tasty and ever-changing! Most importantly, perhaps, my "ideal" banana bread has to be able to adapt to my needs and whims - and use up not necessarily just over-ripe bananas, but the plethora of other potential ingredients around here! These are chock-full of all kinds of good stuff - 11 of the ingredients are on the WHFoods list, and I wasn't even trying to be "good" this time! There are even antioxidants from the blueberries and chocolate chips I tossed in, so there's no excuse not to give this a go.

An added bonus of any quickbread is that they are their own built-in muffin recipes too. With a different pan and a shorter time span, pre-portioned goodies are at your fingertips without the need to look up a different mixture. For instance, if you opt for muffins with this recipe, they bake best at 375F for about 25 minutes, whereas the loaves prefer a more balmy temperature of 350F.

Wondering what Maca root powder is? Well, it's touted as a "superfood" for the hormonal system, helping regulate metabolism, energy levels, growth, sexual development and general sense of well being. It's on the rare and pricey side of things, hence the "optional" marker, but if you do a lot of physical work, exercise or suffer from debilitating issues like Chronic Fatigue syndrome or hypothyroidism it may be worth a look, especially if you tend to "drink" one or more of your meals a day.

Believably Brilliant Banana Bread (or Muffins)
Makes 30 muffins or 2 loaves
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 tbsp hot water
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup maca powder
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 large, over-ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups frozen (unthawed) or fresh blueberries
1/4 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup toasted buckwheat kernels (kasha)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease 2 loaf pans.
  2. In a small dish, combine flaxseed and hot water, set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, wheat germ, maca powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together cheese, sunflower seed butter and sugars. Add flaxseed mixture, vanilla and bananas, beating well.
  5. Add half the flour mixture and blend in, then add milk and butter and beat well.
  6. Add remaining dry ingredients, stirring just to combine, then fold in berries, toffee bits, chocolate chips and buckwheat.
  7. Bake 55-60 minutes. Cool in the pans 20 minutes before unmoulding and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 162.0
Total Fat: 4.1 g 
Cholesterol: 4.7 mg
Sodium: 51.7 mg
Total Carbs: 28.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 4.0 g