Sunday, November 28, 2010

As If You Needed Another One...

Banana breads are really one of the culinary universe's chameleons. You can do pretty much anything you want to them - leave them spartan, plain and proud, or go crazy adding everything from different spices to nuts to fruit and even candy. Ranging from the ├╝ber rich, full-on butter and egg cake-like creations to a  dairy-, oil- and sugar-free loaf and even a raw vegan dessert, pretty much anything is fair game. But usually all banana breads we make are reliant on a single basic formula - we find one that works for us and our kitcheny circumstances and stick with it's ratios of fat/flour/binder/banana, just tweaking here and there.

So why even bother posting yet another banana bread recipe? After all, I fall victim to the "tweaker" mentality too. And yet, I have still managed to post almost thirty banana-filled quickbreads, muffins and cakes. Probably because with each progressive incarnation, each addition or flair, the results are so welcomed by those I give them to that I can't not share with everyone!

There was one "aha" moment in banana bread baking that only came to me very recently... this year, in fact. That was when I realized (via Guilty Kitchen) that the key to achieving the sweetest, most intense banana flavour was pre-roasting the fruit. In under an hour, you can go from just over-ripe bananas to natural candy - like a caramel on steroids that took a trip to Jamaica and packed you along for the ride. Needless to say I can't ever think of making banana bread the same way again! But other than that one extra step, my recipe has stayed pretty much static over the years.


I wound up with yet another good excuse to play "banana bread doctor" last week, when I had a few hands of mini bananas and a small bag with the remnants of a fruit-and-nut trail mix kicking around. While I set the nanners on to roast into oblivion, I performed my usual "let's clear out the pantry" ritual for add-ins. What I wound up with was a rich, moist loaf that was 100% whole grain, vegan and full of protein. I also got away with not adding any oil, butter or shortening - the dregs of a jar of organic, natural almond butter took care of the base "creaming" mixture and the fruit took care of the rest. The heightened, concentrated caramel tones from the bananas (and the sheer volume of them) meant I could cut the sugar down a bit too - and I opted for a rich, dark Demerara for the little edge of molasses flavour.

By the time the bread was baked, cooled, sliced and wrapped, I knew I had something good. No, scratch that. Something great. Sure, it's just a quick bread, but you'd never guess how simple it was to whip up by the looks of a slab cross-section - or the smiles on my classmate's faces!


Happy Trails Banana Bread
Serves 10
6 medium, ripe bananas
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup ground pumpkin seeds
½ cup ground psyllium husks
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
2 tbsp natural, smooth almond butter
½ cup Demerara sugar
1 tsp fresh-grated ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 ¼ cups fruit-and-nut trail mix
2/3 cup slivered almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 400F, line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
  2. Place bananas, peel on, in a single layer on the lined sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, then allow to cool enough to handle.
  3. Peel bananas into a bowl and mash, set aside.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and grease a large loaf pan.
  5. While bananas are roasting, whisk together flour, pumpkin seeds, psyllium husks, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  6. In a large bowl, beat together almond butter, sugar, ginger and vanilla.
  7. Add bananas and almond milk and blend well.
  8. Add flour mixture all at once and stir just until moistened. Fold in trail mix and almonds.
  9. Spread into the prepared loaf pan.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake a further 25 minutes.
  11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely before slicing.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 347.7
Total Fat: 12.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 93.0 mg
Total Carbs: 59.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.5 g
Protein: 8.2 g