August 19, 2010

Banana Bread

One of my favorite childhood food memories is my grandmother's banana bread. Not from a box, but homemade with ripe bananas, granulated sugar and walnuts. I loved smearing cream cheese across the top of each warm slice. As much as I loved it, her original recipe calls for a few ingredients I now try to avoid -white flour and sugar, and unfortunately, the cream cheese. So I got to thinkin', this would be a good recipe to "makeover" into a healthier version, and although it wasn't as yummy as my grandma's, it tasted pretty darn good! (Note that I did use about two teaspoons of white sugar/cinnamon to dust the insides of my bread pans. I don't think the recipe would be as delicious without doing that one little step. It's hard to live totally guilt-free!) With that being said, let me tell you what I did...

My first obstacle was: What ingredient should I use in place of white sugar for the bread?  I chose brown rice syrup. It's not as sweet as sugar, but it's caramel-like and buttery, which was perfect for this particular recipe. Brown rice syrup also helps to control blood sugar, as it has a lower glycemic index than refined sugar. It's a bit on the expensive side, but worth the investment for good health. I purchase organic brands which you can find in the gourmet section of your grocery store or local food coop.
My second obstacle was: What should I use instead of white flour? I chose organic whole wheat pastry flour. It feels very silky, almost like it's been sifted fifty times. You can also see the whole wheat grains in the flour, so you know you're getting extra fiber. I purchased the flour at our local grocery store, but I've also seen it cheaper at The Christmas Tree Shop.

As I was mixing this altogether, I thought "hey, this doesn't look half bad"...See for yourself-

Banana Bread
makes 2 loaves

For dusting pans (mix together in a small dish):
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the bread:
1/3 cup softened butter
1 and 1/2 cups of brown rice syrup
4 small ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup lite sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 and 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

First prepare your bread pans. I lightly grease them with a small amount of butter, then sprinkle the inside of each pan with sugar and cinnamon. Turn and shake the pans to evenly coat the bottoms; then set aside.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, add softened butter and brown rice syrup. This really is delicious....
Beat together on low speed until shiny and smooth.
Peel and mash the bananas..
add the bananas to the butter mixture, and gently beat in the sour cream (or yogurt), salt, baking soda, vanilla and eggs.
Spoon in the cinnamon and flour one cup at a time, mixing slowly to combine (don't overbeat).
At this point, you can also add whatever else you'd like to this batter, like mini chocolate chips, blueberries or coconut. You can see how creamy it looks, almost like a cake batter.
Gently spoon batter into prepared pans. I sprinkled the tops of my loaves with chopped walnuts, which is optional for you.

Bake for 50 minutes, then increase oven temp to 350 degrees, baking 10 minutes longer until center is set and loaves are nicely browned. (Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread if you're not sure).
Allow to cool 20 minutes before removing from the pans. I double wrapped one loaf and popped it in the freezer for a later date, and sliced up the other one for "on-the-go" snacks.

Food For Thought:  Bananas contain FOS "fructoogliosaccharides"
 which are basically food for good bacteria in your body (think probiotics). In yoga and
 nutritional type therapies, bananas are considered to be a cleansing and rejuvenating food choice.
(from The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth/Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS)


Elaine said...

That looks really good, especially with the nuts on top. But how about letting us have your grandma's original recipe, for those of us who don't want to eat so healthy. The cream cheese sounds delicious.

"Vanilla and Thyme" said...

Hi Elaine - if you want to prepare this recipe "Grandma's way", then use 1 and 3/4 cups of white sugar instead of the brown rice syrup, and 2 and 1/4 cups of white flour. Instead of yogurt, use regular sour cream. Enjoy! :)