December 7, 2010

Middle Eastern Banana Bread

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I'm not good at baking banana bread.  Maybe that's not exactly a fair assessment, because It's clear I know how to follow a recipe (most of the time...), but usually, when I make banana bread, it just ends up tasting "fine."  It's not great, or special, or something to blog about, although I've done that a few times anyway.  My "banana bread rut" is actually a shame because I really like the idea of banana bread.  I like to save ingredients from going to waste.  I like to re-purpose things.  I like bananas, and I really, really like bread.  So I push forth and keep making banana bread.  And I keep hoping I'll get it right.  I think this recipe's the one.

I found this recipe on a lovely blog I recently stumbled upon called My New Roots.  It's written by a woman named Sarah Britton, who works as a chef at two organic vegetarian restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark (and if that's not lovely, I don't know what is).  I scrolled through a ton of Sarah's recipes but this one spoke to me-- perhaps because it's called the "Coziest Banana Bread" and I feel a lot like hibernating and being cozy these days.  Other than that though, I really like that this recipe uses spelt flour, a ton of bananas, and moderate amounts of better-for-you oils and sugars.  I had high hopes for it, which usually means I end up disappointed.  But not this time!

Of course, I changed a few things because I was in the mood for a slightly gussied up banana bread.  I still kept the base recipe pretty much the same so you could easily omit my Middle-East-inspired changes or just head over to Sarah's blog and see the original.  The result?  I think it's the best banana bread I've ever made.  And here's the catch: it's 100% whole grain, it's vegan, it's low in (natural) sugar, and it doesn't taste like you're making any compromises. I think we have a winner.

Middle Eastern Banana Bread 
I took this banana bread in a different direction with some ingredient inspiration from the Middle East.  The spices are very subtle because I didn't want to over-do it, but I think they could easily be kicked up a notch (though this also depends on the strength of your spices).  1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom and 3/4 a teaspoon cloves would probably be a nice adjustment.  Also, I only had 4 ripe bananas (~a scant 2 cups mashed), which may be why I needed a bit extra milk in the end.
Adapted from My New Roots

¼ cup milk of your choice [I used almond milk and needed a bit more, added at the end]
6 Tbsp. olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil [I used 1/2 coconut oil, 1/2 olive oil]
6 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups mashed ripe bananas (approximately 5 medium bananas) [I only had 4... see headnotes]
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, chopped
1/3 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

1 packet (~ 1 tablespoon) raw sugar for topping (optional, but recommended for a nice crunch)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Oil a standard loaf pan or an 8 inch cake pan (this will change baking time from mine).

In a medium bowl, mix the milk, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and bananas until blended.  In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Add banana mixture and incorporate using as few strokes as possible. Fold in the chopped apricots and pistachios.

Pour into your pan and lightly smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with raw sugar and more spices, if desired.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (time varies greatly according to oven – mine took about 45 minutes, Sarah's an hour, and the recipe suggests only 30 minutes. Check periodically after the half hour mark.)

1 comment:

Sarah B said...

Hey Lynna!

Great to hear that your banana bread let-downs are over! I love this recipe too, and look forward to using your additions next time. Thanks for the inspiration :)

In health, Sarag B