Banana Bread Redux

Happy 2011! Though I typically settle into a bit of a depression over holidays passing by (especially saying buh-bye to Christmas tunes!), this year I'm trying to get excited for other things in my life instead. Like shedding a few pounds after tossing the leftover cookies, getting back to a workout routine, and planning to see friends who we haven't seen since before Thanksgiving due to time inexplicably flying by.

On New Year's Eve, I spent the day at my parents house, breaking in my new camera by taking lots of photos of this little cutie.

 

Shaun and I opted to stay in with a Boardwalk Empire marathon. What can I say, we are obsessed! Is anyone else watching? The night was capped off with a little hors d'oeuvres spread in front of our Christmas tree.

 

On New Year's Day, we hopped the Path into the city for a little lunch and Rockefellar Center with Shaun's parents, aunt, uncle and cousin. No matter how many times I see the tree, it never gets old.

 

Meanwhile, in my time off from work last week, I worked on some new recipes. Last year, I tested out The Joy of Cooking Banana Bread Cockaigne and it quickly became one of my favorite quick bread recipes. But when I realized that I had a bowl full of these...

I thought I'd change it up and try out a healthier option. You know, part of that whole post-holiday cut the fat thing. Oh and please don't judge me for allowing a bunch of bananas to rot on my countertop. Thanks.

But look what came of those ugly things! I was so happy with how this bread turned out. Let's face it, by substituting applesauce for oil and honey for sugar, it's not necessarily a sure thing. But this bread was a moist, filling one that I'd surely make again!

Whole Wheat, Almost Sugar-Free Banana Bread
*Makes 1 loaf
1/3 C unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C honey
2 tbsp Splenda brown sugar blend
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 bananas, very ripe and mashed
1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 C hot water
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the applesauce, honey and Splenda brown sugar blend.

Meanwhile, mash up the bananas.

 

Add the eggs to the applesauce mixture and mix well. Beat in the vanilla and mashed bananas. Stir in the flour and salt, mixing until just combined. Add the baking soda to hot water. Mix to let dissolve and then add to the bread batter. Lightly stir in the walnuts. Pour into a greased loaf pan.

 

Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Slice up and enjoy!

So there you have it. A simple way to change up your standard banana bread into a delish, healthy, guilt-free option! So what do you think?

And for the question of the day: How are you beating the post-holiday New Year blues? Or are you simply psyched to kick off 2011?

 

Banana Bread

The last few weeks have been quite busy over at the Humiston house. Between work busy-ness, Shaun's school work and apartment hunting, there's been less cooking and more dining out. Which also means the sad near-demise of some foods that I purchased while grocery shopping last week that were unfortunately on the verge of going bad (a major no-no in our kitchen since we like to devour just about everything that we purchase). So when I came across a free Saturday afternoon and two overly ripe bananas, browning by the minute on my countertop, I decided that perhaps these wouldn't have to visit the graveyard of uneaten produce. Instead, I thought that a quick banana bread was in order.

So I consulted the big guns. I pulled out my copy of The Joy of Cooking - an admittedly seldom used cookbook in my collection (though after this winning treat combined with the ease of use and instructions, I'll certainly be consulting it more frequently) - and searched for Banana Bread. Hoping that I'd just so happen to have the remaining ingredients for the bread, I came across a recipe for Banana Bread Cockaigne. And wouldn't you know it...my pantry actually housed the necessary ingredients. One hour and fifteen minutes later, a moist, crumbly, fall apart in your hands banana bread was born.

Banana Bread Cockaigne
*Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C sugar
1/3 C vegetable shortening*
3/4 tsp lemon zest, grated
2 large eggs
1 C ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 bananas)
1/2 C chopped walnuts
brown sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the slour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (which was my preferred method), beat sugar, shortening and lemon zest until creamy. Then, beat in eggs and bananas, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure that all gets incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Once all combined, remove from mixer and fold in walnuts with a rubber spatula. Don't overmix at this point, or you will have tough bread. Put mixture into generously greased bread pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, as desired. Bake about 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (Note: I baked mine for 60 minutes and the outside was slightly more brown than I had wanted). Cool slightly, then unmold. Cool completely, slice and serve with a bit of butter.

The result? A moist, delicious banana bread with just the right hint of walnut and brown sugary goodness. And there you have it. A super easy banana bread that's perfect for aging bananas. What do you think? How do you use aging fruit or other foods?

*If the thought of shortening scares you, you can use 6 tbsp of unsalted butter at room temperature. Since I'm of the instant-gratification generation, I just couldn't wait hours for butter to soften. I needed my baked bread and I needed it now. I did remember that long ago I had purchased Crisco for a Whoopie Pie recipe that I made two Christmases ago and hadn't used it since. So I pulled out my little baking box and voila...two untouched packages of vegetable shortening (that coincidentally weren't set to 'go bad' until this July...hurrah for the long shelf life of shortening!). I then ditched the plan for room temperature butter and went with the Crisco instead. My Grandma Mary would be so proud. And since the bread was such a success, I'm writing the recipe with vegetable shortening...though I supposed you could use butter instead, but I feel like it just wouldn't be as decadent.