Baking Banana Bread on a Whim

8 Mar

I woke up this morning and saw that my bananas were on their last legs. They were too “icky” to eat straight-up, so I thought, “What to do with this mush?” The answer: make banana bread.

I am by no means an experienced baker, but I do like doing it. Baking is such a talented art, and a lot harder than people think it is. Unlike stringing together a meal for dinner, baking is a very precise process–if you put too much of one ingredient, the end product can range from mediocre to really, really poor.

But that’s why novices like myself follow recipes to the hilt (well, sort of). I had found a recipe on the Internet about a year ago that I’ve tinkered with over time, so I printed it out, and scrounged around for the ingredients.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (but I always used more)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water (this time I used leftover hot coffee)
  • scattered oats and granola
  • (chocolate chips if you have them…I didn’t 😦 )

Most of the time, baking ingredients are very simple, and are more often than not readily available in-house. Luckily, I had just enough whole-wheat flour from the last time I baked (the bag expires next week!), and the rest of the ingredients were scattered around in different cupboards.

First things first, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. It’s always best to pre-heat before you do anything, because if you don’t have a hot oven while your mixing, it adds an additional 15-20 minutes to the waiting process. And trust me, you don’t want to wait any longer than you have to before eating this delicious bread.

After you pre-heat the oven, the fun starts. Take a large mixing bowl, and beat together the 1/2 cup honey and 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Honey is very thick and syrupy, but the vegetable oil helps “cut” it, creating a nice liquid fusion. Also, notice how the recipe doesn’t have sugar? The honey serves as a perfect source of sugar, which in turn makes this banana bread a much healthier version.

After its mixed well, add 2 eggs to the bowl, and continue to beat the mixture. The yolks give the mix a nice bright hue (I always think of George Costanza when he asks Jerry about whether his blind date has a “pinkish hue”), and are essential to most baked goods.

Now here’s the messy part. Unless you have a fancy-shmancy electronic mixer (I don’t), you’re going to have to mix the bananas in yourself. The recipe calls for a “1 cup mashed bananas,” but I always put more. I also suggest breaking up the bananas into pieces as opposed to mashing them whole.

Note: You can mash to your liking depending on whether you like more chunks in your bread, or a more smooth consistency.

Throw in the teaspoon of vanilla, and mix up the bananas with the rest of the mix. Here’s where the batter starts to actually become a batter. Toss in the 1 3/4 cups of whole-wheat flour (and 1/2 teaspoon salt), and mix well. You have to make sure the liquid and the flour really blend together, otherwise you’re going to end up with a very inconsistent batter.

This is where I did a little experimenting. Usually the recipe calls for 1/4 cup hot water, but I wanted to use something more interesting. Earlier in the morning, I had made a pot of Zabars coffee. I rarely ever finish it, so I decided to put it to good use. I’ve never made coffee/banana bread, but I love both ingredients in baked goods, so why not? Make sure to add the 1 teaspoon baking soda to the hot coffee (or hot water) before putting it in the batter. Baking soda is living proof why baking is sort of like chemistry class. It is an essential cooking agent, as it reacts to the other ingredients, releasing carbon dioxide, thus helping the bread/cake rise. After you see the bubbly reaction with the coffee/hot water, dump and mix it into the batter.

If you have nuts, chocolate chips, or anything else (oats and granola in my case), you can now place them in. Chocolate chips really make this bread extraordinary, but then again, when is chocolate ever a bad idea.

After you’ve mixed in your guilty pleasures, spread the batter into a greased loaf pan (I’d suggest a 9×5 loaf pan), and pop it in the oven. Depending on the batter, it will take between 55-60 minutes to bake, and it will also need an additional 30 minutes to cool off.

It may seem like a lot of steps, but if you follow them correctly, you’ll have yourself a good end product, and a whole lot of banana bread.


2 Responses to “Baking Banana Bread on a Whim”

  1. Krista March 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    So what happened with coffee experiment? was it as tasty in banana bread as it would be, say in chocolate cake? and cheers for using honey as a sweetener.

    • benberkon March 9, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

      Hey Krista,

      I didn’t put enough coffee in to really taste its flavor profile, but I will certainly use more in my next batch. I’ll let you know when I do.

      Thanks for reading!

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