Thursday, March 24, 2011

Battle: LA (banana bread edition)

Inspired by this magnificent film*, I set up my own little combat mission.

Battle: Banana Bread

In one corner, a recipe from Simply Scratch that made me immediately decide to jettison my old standby banana bread recipe** because it was severely lacking in Streusel Topping.    In the other corner, an alien invader: all-vegan, completely healthy, gluten- and guilt-free banana bread from the She Sez blog.


vs. this:

No contest, right?

Wrong.  That wacky health food was seriously some of the best banana bread I had ever eaten.  I took both banana breads to a brunch, and they battled, side by side, to a dead heat with the crowd.   In Santa Monica.

Healthy Vegan - lower left; Full of Butter - upper right
Time to call in the marines.

Streusel-Topped Banana Bread

Besides the topping element, I had to try this because of the roasted bananas.  It really does work!  This bread is delectable.  The texture is almost like a banana cake, and that dessert-like sensation is only heightened when you bite into it and taste the butter and the sugar blended perfectly with the extra sweet aroma and flavor of bananas and the crunch of walnuts in the topping.   So delicious!!!

For the bread:

3 ripe bananas
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbs. milk
1 c. sugar
8 Tbs. (1 stick) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

For the streusel:

1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
heaping 1/3 cup of chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lay the bananas, peel and all, on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until peels are very dark brown.  Reduce oven temp to 325.  Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan, or line with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to hang over the sides.***

Peel bananas and place into a mixing bowl.  Add cinnamon and nutmeg, and mash together with a fork or a potato masher.  Stir in the milk and set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time.   Stir in the banana mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then slowly add to butter mixture, stirring only until flour disappears.  Don't overmix, or the bread will be dry.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake for 40 minutes.  About 30 minutes in, prepare the streusel.  Using a food processor or a bowl and pastry blender, mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together.  Cut or pulse in the butter, until mixture resembles coarse, chunky crumbs.  Mix in walnuts.

Take the bread out of the oven.  It should be light brown but still jiggly.  Cover completely with the streusel topping. Return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then carefully remove and allow to cool completely on baking rack.

Utterly Guilt-Free Banana Bread
I first sampled this bread at the home of a tremendously health-conscious person, after a meal of lentil salad and our choice of tofu or boneless skinless chicken breasts (I went for the chicken, and the lentils were very tasty.)  When she brought out dessert, I was surprised, and when I took my first bite, I was shocked.  It was wonderful!  Super moist, very rich, with almost a caramel flavor, it was completely addictive.  Be forewarned, though.  Unless you eat like this everyday, the ingredients will set you back a pretty penny at Whole Foods.

1/4 c. refined coconut oil
1/2 c. coconut sugar (I used date sugar in mine)
1 egg or "egg" replacer (if you use a real egg, it's not vegan, but it's still good for you)
4-5 ripe bananas, peeled
1 1/2 c. quinoa flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
almond meal, for pan prep
vegan (or not) chocolate chips or nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350, and, using coconut oil, grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Dust with a little almond meal to prevent bread from sticking.

Combine coconut oil, sugar, and egg, and beat well with an electric mixer.   Add bananas, and mix again.   In separate bowl, whisk quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Stir gently into banana mixture.  Do not overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  If using chocolate chips or nuts, sprinkle them on top now.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Cool for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

* Featuring a scene where the rag-tag group of soldiers, led by their about-to-retire-because-he-lost-some-good-men-out-there-and-it's-killing-him-inside staff sergeant, have finally reached the rubble-covered remnants of a Santa Monica police station to rescue the hapless civilian family (complete with an adorable dark-eyed moppet who will soon be referred to as "my little marine") at an absurd cost in dollars, lives and the audience's time. After a horde of invading aliens crashes the double doors, only to be repulsed by the pluck of our heroes, they find one surviving but injured extra-terrestrial and drag it through the dark hall, lit eerily by flickering florescent lights. They then proceed to abuse the living #@?$!&@ out of it, trying to determine "How do we kill the damn thing?!" Suddenly, the lovely aunt of "my little marine" steps forward, face artfully smudged, and says:

"Maybe I can help. I'm a veterinarian."

It's a lock for best original screenplay.
** From The New Moosewood Cookbook.   This one's nice because you mix the bananas with black coffee, and add orange peel into the bread.  It's very grown-up tasting and makes wonderful toast, perfect for slathering with butter...come to think of it, I'm going to retrieve that recipe right now.  After all, you can't have topping every day, right?
*** A neat trick I read about after I'd already done it the other way.  Helps keep the topping on, and makes getting the bread out of the pan a breeze.  Hope you read this first.


  1. There needs to be more gluten free recipes. Thanks for your efforts.

  2. You are very welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the banana bread!