I will always buy organic bananas. It’s worth it to avoid eating unnecessary chemicals. But, have you ever tried buying only one or two organic bananas? It’s impossible. They’re packaged into bunches of six or eight, wrapped at the top with magical plastic wrap that adamantly refuses to give way, then completely secured several times with industrial green tape that’s probably Hulk-proof. Unlike regular bananas that are available a-la-cart, it’s all or nuthin’ with them organic babies. I buy eight of these stubborn, inseparable fruit, but I’m unwilling to sacrifice six of them to over-ripeness before I can eat them. Now, we face the dilemma of what to do with a bunch of past-their-prime bananas- the Sunset Boulevard of the produce aisle.
Here’s my solution, and my recipe for a healthier version of banana bread that maintains the yumminess, but reduces the fat and calories. And, bonus – it’s vegan.
I like to read through the recipe and get all my ingredients ready before I start. That helps me avoid common mistakes, like forgetting to include the baking powder, or substituting baking soda for baking powder, or realizing I’m completely out of baking powder. (As you can probably tell, I have a love-hate relationship with baking powder.)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pans with baking spray or liners. This recipe makes enough batter for two small-ish loaf pans (7.5 x 3.5), or one small-ish loaf pan and six muffins. I will be making both. I will put half the mixture into a loaf pan and give it to some friends I’m visiting this weekend. The other half will go into muffin tins. Making muffins, instead of a second loaf, will allow me to freeze the muffins and portion them out slowly, instead of succumbing to the temptation to eat an entire loaf in one sitting. (The hard part is actually putting the muffins in the freezer and not eating them all like a muffin-lovin’ chain eater.)
Cut them into small-ish pieces, and smash with a potato masher until pureed. You can also use a food processor or blender for this step, but I hate cleaning those things, so I don’t. Other mashing ideas: a ricer, a fine mesh strainer, an immersion blender, a big heavy book wrapped in plastic. That last one might be messy – so let’s just stick with the potato masher.
Add the wet ingredients and spices to the bananas. (My head tells me it understands why sugar is always considered a “wet” ingredient, but my heart tells me it’s dry. It’s an ongoing debate.)
Whisk the baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the flour. Then fold them into the banana mixture. Be sure everything is mixed evenly, but don’t over-mix.
Chop chocolate chips into smaller bits. Fold in chocolate pieces or walnuts or other goodies. (Dried cranberries or apricots would be delicious, too!)
Fill six muffin tins with 1/4 to 1/3 cup mixture. Put the rest in the loaf pan. (It should only fill the pan about two inches.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, then test the muffins. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out mostly clean. Unless you hit a chocolate chip – then you win the prize of licking the chocolate off the toothpick. Insert a clean toothpick into another part of the muffin. If it comes out mostly clean, you’re good to go. Remove the muffins, but leave the loaf pan. The loaf will take longer to cook, so continue cooking the loaf another 15 to 20 minutes until the same toothpick test tells you it’s done, too.
Put completely-cooled muffins into a zip top freezer bag to freeze. It’s important to let them cool completely before putting them into the freezer. Otherwise, the steam will cause ice crystals to form and make your muffins yucky.
Here’s the complete recipe. Enjoy!
1 1/2 cup flour (either white or whole wheat or a mix of the two)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 medium-sized over-ripe bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Handful of dairy-free chocolate chips or nuts (optional)
1) Pre-heat oven to 350
2) Prepare pans
3) Peel, cut, and mash bananas
4) Add wet ingredients, sugar, and spices
5) Whisk dry ingredients together, then fold into banana mixture
6) Fold in chocolate chips
7) Place batter in loaf pans or muffin tins
8) Bake for 20-40 minutes (depending on if you’re making muffins or loaves) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean