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When life hands you bananas…

January 24, 2010 11 comments


I like bananas, but only when they’re yellow. If I eat one when there’s any green to it at all, I know I’ll be punished for my impatience by a hard and bitter fruit. On the other hand, ripe bananas have something in them that tickles my throat — when I was a kid, they used to make me cough — so I probably have a mild food allergy. Still, they’re a very healthy, inexpensive and versatile fruit so I usually like having them around. But being a cheapskate I hate having to throw away the brown ones which have passed their window of attractiveness, which is why I’ve always been a big fan of banana bread.

I always thought of banana bread, and its cousins carrot cake and zucchini bread, as the “stone soups” of quick breads. I mean, looking at most of these recipes, each of these would probably taste just fine without their eponymous ingredient.

Some years ago when I was a UU youth advisor, I was looking for a snack to bring to a overnight event and saw all these brown bananas in the kitchen. Knowing that there were vegans in the group who generally chose to abstain from most baked goods — all of my own baking included milk and eggs — I wondered if I might be able to find something in one of my hippie cookbooks (I’ve flirted with vegetarianism and veganism for years, but haven’t managed to work up the discipline, leaving me a hardly worth mentioning lacto-ovo-pescatarian).

My hippie cookbooks failed me, and there was no internet yet to speak of, so I was forced to improvise. Amazingly, I found this vegan chocolate cake recipe in — of all places — the Betty Crocker cookbook that had been left behind by an old roommate who probably used it mainly for its instructions for cooking meats and potatoes. Anyway, it turns out this recipe uses the science fair volcano technique — baking soda and vinegar — to get the cake to rise. With a little trial and lots of inedible error, I managed to figure out how to use the same method to make the eggless, milkless banana bread that for years has been my default pot-luck contribution. I get lots of requests for the recipe, so here it is:

Redlami’s Vegan Banana Bread

redlami's banana bread

3 – 1/3 cups flour*
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cider vinegar
4 mashed ripe bananas
1 cup chopped nuts (optional; some people like nuts in it but I don’t)

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Combine and pour into three lightly greased loaf pans, or one 13×9 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes, or until dry toothpick comes out clean.

Variation 1: Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread
After mixing all the batter, separate out about a third of it, mixing in 1/4 cup cocoa. Pour the plain batter into a 13×9 baking dish, then add the cocoa mixture on top, swirling it in with a knife. Bake as usual.

Variation 2: Spiced Banana Bread
Add the following to the dry ingredients: 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1 cup raisins.

*I don’t claim it will make it healthy, but if you’re looking to cut down on the guilt, whole wheat flour works just fine.

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Categories: Essays, Recipes Tags: , ,