Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bananarama (Roasted Banana Bread)

Perhaps it's embarrassing to admit to, but I just recently learned the "flax egg" trick of vegan baking. Whisk together one tablespoon of freshly ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of water and chill for one hour and you have a dairy-free "egg" with all the binding action of the original. Excited as I am with this new knowledge, I can scarcely resist the urge to try it out over and over again. Our friends Gregory & Piyanka gave Aaron a copy of the Forks Over Knives cookbook, so I have a hefty source from which to seek inspiration.

Inspiration: now in baking form
In this case, however, I was happily helped by the internet when what began as a search for a recipe for "browned butter banana bread" instead led me to a recipe for roasted banana bread. The lack of the butter component was just as well, because we had somehow achieved the inconceivable and run out of butter. Eager to have more fun with flax, I tweaked it to be fully vegan. One could also very easily prepare this recipe using the standard ingredients in identical proportions, but the incredible roasted banana makes butter superfluous.

I can't believe it's not butter
Roasting is one of my very favorite cooking methods: it develops full flavors and is easy as boiling water, yet I had never thought to try it with bananas before. It starts out a little questionable: darkly blackened banana skins give way to squishy, juicy hot banana flesh. I couldn't help but feel reminded ever so slightly of Cthulhu as I shucked the skins and tipped slippery-soft bananas into the bowl. The flavor, however, is amazing.

They smell really good
Who needs butter? Some form of arcane witchery occurs when you roast bananas in their skins, because this may be one of the very most buttery flavored banana breads I have ever made. It's a rich mahogany color, deeply moist, even for a banana bread, and the roasted banana flavor is at once tropically exotic and comfortingly familiar. With the assistance of a little extra cinnamon slipped into the batter and the requisite crackly crust of a cinnamon sugar topping, it forms a rich, dark, full-bodied harmony of flavors, like a string quartet playing with oboe in the background. Toasty warm and springily soft, it's ready to slice and eat in about an hour.

Roasted banana bread (vegan)

Banana bread is my beloved way of cleaning out the fruit basket each week, attempting to make up for lost time. Due to the roasting, one could probably get away with using simply ripe bananas, as opposed to the very ripe listed in every recipe. Still, the strength of flavor will undoubtedly improve if you wait until the skins have begun to spot.

4 very ripe bananas
1/2 c turbinado sugar
2 tbs vanilla paste or extract
1 tbs ground flax seeds + 3 tbs water (1 egg, for non-vegans)
1/3 c almond milk
1  1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbs turbinado sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon (topping)

Preheat an oven to 350 F.

Place the bananas, peel and all, on a lined baking sheet and roast until darkly browned and bubbling with juices, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool.

Lightly grease a loaf pan with some vegetable oil and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the peeled bananas, sugar, and vanilla together with a fork until lumpy, but thoroughly combined.

Beat in the flax gel, then the almond milk.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the dry mix directly into the banana mixture and stir until just incorporated.

Almost there
Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake until deeply fragrant and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Sweet success
Remove the pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Unmold from the pan and allow the bread to cool completely on the wire rack.



Unknown said...

It never occurred to me to roast bananas--will have to give it a try.

James Pereira said...

I'd never thought of it, either, but the results are sooooooo good. Definitely a must-try!