Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Orange You Glad

I came home from Boston to a really overripe banana. I keep putting old bananas in the refrigerator thinking I'll use them for banana bread one day, and just watch them shrivel for 9 months at which point I throw them out. So this time, I resolved to make the banana bread right then. I had the time; I had the banana.

I checked a couple of bread books and found a likely candidate. The recipe I chose was based on a hawaiian recipe with macademia nuts and shredded coconut. (Claim Jumper makes apple muffins with coconut and I really like what coconut does to the texture and bite of the muffin.) I had purchased some unsweetened shredded (more flaked, really) coconut from the Bangluck Market a couple weeks back and decided to try it as is, even though I suspected the recipe was expecting me to use sweetened shredded coconut. I only had one banana, so I made half a recipe. Lastly, I don't have macademias and I'm not a huge almond fan, so I tried my luck with pine nuts.

The banana bread texture was really light and fluffy. It needed more sugar, but the taste and texture were otherwise really good. I'm not sure if it was the recipe, method, or shape but it was so light and fluffy, the pine nuts I'd put in just fell out when I cut the slices. Given the fact that I often think I'll make banana bread and often don't, I may have to try this again but vary the shape of the pan to see if I can figure out if it's the ingredients, my method of stirring it up (different from recipe), or the low rise of my loaf that made the texture so fabulous.

  • 3T sugar (may want 4T if using unsweetened coconut)
  • 3T butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2t vanilla extract
  • 3/4c flour
  • 1/2t baking soda, level
  • 1/4t baking powder, heaping
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/4c shredded coconut
  • 1/2c nuts (macademia or almonds rec. I used pine nuts.)

Preheat oven to 350F, coat small pan with butter or Pam for Baking. Line pan with parchment if you can. I used an 8" round lined with a buttered coffee filter. Doubling the recipe calls for an 8"x4" bread pan.

Mash sugar and butter into paste with a fork. Mash banana into it. Whip in the egg and vanilla. [You could use a beater instead. I like stirring and mashing.]

Sift together the dry ingredients. Don't pack up the flour, if anything, go a little shy on it. [I usually sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup, tap it a couple times to get out big air pockets, and level it off. This time I scooped up the flour and leveled it off, so I only used 2.5 quarter-cupfuls (5/8c packed, 3/4c loose.) I sifted the stuff twice to make sure the leavening agents were well mixed in.]

When mixing the dry into the wet, conventional wisdom says don't overstir because the gluten in the flour starts to get activated and makes the bread tough. So I figured reducing the amount of flour getting a lot of stirring would help. The recipe said to add 2/3 then 1/3 of the flour, but I went even further.

Mix a third of the flour mix into the wet stuff. Stop stirring when all the flour is wet.
Sprinkle the coconut in, mix loosely until it's all distributed.
Mix half the remaining flour in until almost all incorporated.
Mix in rest of flour (and nuts if desired). Stir until just coated then stop stirring. Really, resist it. You can scrape down anything left on the edges, if you haven't already, and make sure the bottom of the bowl got scraped, but after that it's two swipes with the spoon or fork. Then stop. Really.

Pour into lubed pan, level the batter, and bake. It's done when it starts to smell really good and a toothpick comes out clean. For 2X the recipe and an 8"x4" pan, the recipe says to cook it for an hour. I used the amounts listed above, poured it into an 8" round (batter was maybe 3/4" deep to 1" deep) and it cooked in 25 minutes. Recipe says to rest the pan sideways for 10 min, but for my little pan, I just inverted it on a cooling rack and it came out clean with parchment on bottom so it didn't crack.

This smelled wonderful. It tasted good but needed more sugar. The coconut I used was finely shredded. I liked it though I'm sure tradtional American coarse shreds would work fine too. It was so light and fluffy the nuts just fell out. I'm not sure if pecans with all their crevices would work better, or tinier pieces wouldn't be so heavy, or if almond slices or slivers would work, but it is worth trying again for sure.

Let me know if you try it and have any luck. Try varying the loaf depth and the sugar amount, or just do the same thing I did, and see if you get this same thing. I'm so used to fruit and veg loaves being wet and dense that this has taken my completely by surprise. I hope it's not just dumb luck.


Anonymous said...

When you say that the nuts fell out, do you mean that they went to the bottom? I made zucchini bread recently and the batter was more watery than I usually make (perhaps I used more zucchini than usual -- in the future I might press some of the water out) and I used pecans that were not as finely chopped as I normally use ... so I found that the nuts floated to the top.

CrankyOtter said...

The nuts stayed evenly distributed in the batter, but when I sliced into or bit into the bread near a nut, it just fell out then, from the edge.