Friday, January 14, 2011

Endlessly Alterable Banana Bread

I make a lot of banana bread. If you live in a two-person household and refuse to eat any bananas that are riper than slightly under-ripe, it's inevitable. I am, I'm sad to say, obsessively picky about fresh bananas. Any hint of a black spot and the unfortunate fruit is doomed for the deep-freeze. It's consigned to the icy depths until it is joined by four or five compatriots, and then resurrected on baking day, transformed. 

If you've never frozen and then thawed a banana, you probably don't know how simultaneously disgusting and rewarding it is. Frozen bananas turn blacker than black, and weep a sticky tropics-scented juice as they thaw, but they emerge from the cold transfigured—sweet, sloppy, and almost pureed. Perfect for moist, tender, slightly sweet banana bread that is nutty with whole grain flour, pebbled with chocolate chips, and deadly delicious with a smearing of salted butter.

I've been using this recipe for three or four years now, and have baked it so many times that I no longer do much more than glance at it. I certainly don't follow the original exactly, which is why I love it—I've made every substitution and alteration to it that I can think of, and it always turns out beautifully. It also only takes about 5 minutes to throw together. You can use almost any flour, combination of eggs and egg whites, and kind of yogurt. It's the one baking recipe that I always have the ingredients on hand for, just because they're always in my kitchen serving other purposes. The one variation I haven't tried yet is to substitute agave nectar for the sugar—it would work along the lines of 1/2 cup of agave, only 1/4 cup of yogurt, and reducing the temperature to 325 degrees. I've also simplified the mixing process so that it uses only one bowl. I'm not a lover of doing dishes, so I'm never discouraged from baking this by the prospect of a sinkful.

The other endlessly alterable aspect to this recipe is the shape and size of the final product. This makes a large amount of batter—enough to make one large bundt shape, two loaves, some muffins and a loaf, or many muffins. You could also make mini banana muffins—perfect for little hands. I eat this for breakfast, snacks, and dessert. I often leave out the chocolate chips, or add in some chopped walnuts. It's delicious with almond butter, and lasts for at least four days. It also freezes and thaws beautifully—no surprise, considering that it's flecked with freezer-happy bananas. 

Ingredients:

4-6 medium bananas, very ripe (preferably frozen and then thawed)
½ cup low-fat yogurt (plain, vanilla, or a smooth-textured fruit flavour)
½ cup vegetable, olive, or warmed coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs, or 2 eggs and 2 whites
2 ½ cups whole-wheat all-purpose or stone-ground bread flour (or other neutral-flavoured whole-grain flour of your choice—spelt, kamut, or a combination)
¾ cup cane sugar or granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
½- ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped toasted walnuts or toasted coconut or chopped banana chips or dried cherries or a combination of any

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare, either by lining with paper liners or greasing, 18 muffin cups, 9 muffin cups and a loaf tin, two loaf tins, or one large bundt pan. 
Mash the bananas in the bottom of a large bowl. 
Add the yogurt, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until eggs are incorporated. 
Add dry ingredients, including optional add-ins. Stir until just combined. 
Divide batter between muffin cups and tins. 
Bake muffins for 20 minutes, loaves for 40-60 minutes, and bundt tin for 60 minutes. The muffins/bread is done when the top is darkly golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out almost completely clean. 

Adapted from Dieticians of Canada Cook Great Food: 450 Delicious Recipes (Robert Rose, 2002). 

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is yummmm!! Banana bread is one of my all time favorites!! I've never tried it with yogurt though...can't wait to try it. I've reached your blog through your weightwatchers one. Thanks for posting these great recipes. I will be trying them out. :0)

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