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Sunday, May 16, 2010

~A Bread by Any Other Name~ Banana recycling in its most delicious form

I love to keep as organic and local as possible with my food, especially my produce.  It tastes better, its better for you, it looks a lot better (without the delicious wax coating... ugh) but, alas, it does tend to go bad quickly without fresh bags or the like.  The local part my be difficult when it comes to Bananas in eastern Washington but organic we have...  and the same holds true for them.  But have no fear!  Bad bananas are the only GOOD banana's sometimes.

~Walnut Banana Bread~
Printable Recipe 

3 Mashed Bananas
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 C Melted Butter
1/3 C Water
1/8 C Canola Oil
1 2/3 C Cake Flour
1 C Bakers Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Fresh ground Cinnamon (3/4 Tsp pre-ground)
Walnuts, Chopped

SPECIAL TOOLS:  9"x5" Loaf Pan
                               8 Mini-Loaf Pan

Yield - 1 9"x5" Loaf or 8 Mini-Loaves 

~Chocolate Variant~

 Substitute 1/3 C Cake Flour for 1/3 C Non Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder and increase oil to 1/8 C + 2 Tablespoons.

I made this batch for my girlfriend Katie.  She was recovering from a tough work week and I thought "I know I could do with some good banana bread sometimes..."  I made a point of trying a few new tricks for the occasion.

The only problem I found with this and I suppose any other banana bread recipe is that you will need really mushy, over ripened Bananas...  The problem comes up when you think of making banana bread and you have none.  You can't really go to the store for mushy bananas so you might need to make some yourself by roasting!  ...and roasting = thermal chemistry which in turn leads us to...


When you eat a green banana, that dry, gritty "taste" in your mouth is tannic Astringency.  The same goes for Red wine and certain fruits like persimmons.  This sensation is less of a flavor out tongues or noses can perceive than a sensation caused by physical contact.  Ongoing research has suggested that tannin "mouth feel" is at least in some part a product of size and shape of the polymerized tannins interfering with the ability of saliva to lubricate surfaces in the mouth properly.  Whatever the many and quite complicated reasons behind the astringent properties of these chains, there is no question about not we wanting them in our sweet baked goods!  Either by aging normally in at room temperature or by roasting, the goal is to oxidize these long chain macromolecules and thus break them and alter them, rendering them less capable of creating the astringent feel.  

Oxygen Spectra

When we roast, the thermal energy from the hot oven accelerates these reactions, speeding up the process and giving us the same end result as if we waited for them to ripen on their own.  The foil wrap also helps the process along by reflecting thermal energy around inside the bananas, not letting it escape, increasing internal temp and maintaining even heating even as the oven temp may fluctuate.  Delicious roasty sweet bananas ready for banana bread baking thanks to thermally catalyzed oxidation of long-chain tannin macromolecules.  Mmmmm boy!  SCIENCE!


Roasting Instructions:

If you're going to roast bananas instead of using room temp ripened ones, first preheat your oven to 400f.  With a very sharp knife, remove the stem as close to the fruit as possible without breaching the peel completely.  Wrap your bananas tightly in foil and place in the oven in a sheet pan or other shallow vessel to catch any drips and drabs.  Roast for 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and slice open, allowing as much excess juice to drain out as possible without squeezing too much.  Now you can simple proceed with the standard recipe.  I like following this method as it tends to result in a more interesting flavor palate in the resulting bread/cake/muffin.

Preheat oven to 350f.  If you roasted bananas just prior, set your temp to 350f.  Sift together Flour, Sugar, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt, Cinnamon in a large bowl.
I went a bit out of the way this time to grate and grind my own Cinnamon as this batch was made for a gift.  I think that in most cases, standard, high quality ground spices work just fine but in situations where a spice is used as a stand out or, as in this case, a subtle stand-alone, it may be worth your time to grind your own.  The Best tools for this I find are a Microplane Zester and a simple mortar and pestle set.  From there it's a simple task of grating the Cinnamon sticks (or nutmegs or any other whole spice) then pestling it into a fine powder.  Remember: any spice ground from whole pods/sticks/seeds will be fairly strong, stronger than what you buy pre-ground and you will need to adjust accordingly.

Mash Bananas in a medium bowl and add eggs, butter, water, and oil.  Make a well in your dry ingredients, pour in the liquid and stir until thoroughly blended.  Add as many walnuts as you like and stir.

Pour into a  9"x5" Loaf pan and top with more walnut halves if you like.  You can also pour into an 8 mini-loaf pan.  Bake single loaf 35-45 minutes or Mini-loaves 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted 1" from the center comes out fairly clean.

These loaves are one of my all time favorites and I suspect they will grace my top 5 no matter how much I learn about pastry.  They smell great, they look great, they keep for a LONG time in the fridge, they make great gifts, they have a subtle sweet flavor, and maybe best of all they can be whipped up in about 45 minutes at minimal ingredient cost.  One of the best things on a bright spring morning is a nice thick slice, toasted with butter and a cup of hot spiced tea!


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