Banana Bread for a New Day

Who doesn’t like banana bread? With its caramelized crust and moist, sweet crumb, it is so comforting and delicious. Unfortunately, however, most tasty recipes not only are prepared with regular white flour, but also with lots of white sugar. These ingredients contribute to the texture and flavor we all have come to love and crave, but they certainly create more of a cake than a bread and one which is loaded with stuff we really shouldn’t be eating regularly.

This revised recipe is based upon one of my traditional favorites, but I have chosen the ingredients carefully to create a bread that is still delicious, but also gluten free and much healthier. Firstly, I have replaced all-purpose white flour with a combination of gluten-free spelt and almond flours. When combined, they create a bread with a tight and moist crumb and fine texture.

Next I swapped coconut sugar and granulated monkfruit for white sugar. Again, sugar is crucial to adding moisture and satisfying texture to cakes and breads, so substituting for it can be tricky. Coconut sugar does a great job here, though, as it not only maintains the texture we love, but it also contributes a modest caramel-like essence to the bread. Monkfruit adds another layer of sweetness and subtle caramel flavor, but, really, if your bananas are super ripe, you probably don’t even need it.

As for the eggs and butter, they remain true to the original recipe, although I have chosen organic free-range and grass-fed varieties. Obviously, they are so flavorful and pure in their own right that they can only add integrity to the final product. (If you choose to substitute flax meal for the eggs, you certainly can, but I have found that this bread is much more dense and moist. It’s still yummy, but the flax just doesn’t give the bread the cake-like texture we expect.)

Lastly, I have tossed in raw cacao nibs in place of chocolate chips and added a bit of lemon in the form of essential oil. You don’t have to add any chocolate at all, but my kids happen to like it in their banana bread. If you prefer chips, there are several very good dairy- and sugar-free brands that are widely available in most markets. The cacao nibs, though, which retain their natural bitter chocolate essence, are a pleasant addition to this recipe. They remain a bit firm in the final bread, and their bitterness contrasts satisfyingly with the sweet bread. As for the lemon, I chose to incorporate a few drops of my favorite lemon essential oil by doTerra. (You can also add some fresh lemon zest, but it’s fun to use oils in this application.) This oil is incredibly concentrated and aromatic and contributes a brightness that beautifully complements the sweetness of the bananas and the bitterness of the chocolate.

This recipe comes together quickly and the bread stores well, either in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to one month. I call here for baking it in a nine-by-two-inch cake pan, but play with the shape if you wish. Make one large loaf (in a 9 ½-by5 ½-by-3-inch pan), muffins, or smaller rounds or loaves, of course reducing the baking time if you bake it in smaller vessels.

This bread is delicious anytime of the day for snacking or dessert and of course would be a happy addition to a school lunch box.

Makes one 9-inch round bread 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup of room-temperature unsalted butter with 1 cup of coconut sugar and 2 tablespoons of granulated monkfruit and mix on medium-high speed until fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Incorporate 4 eggs, one at a time, again stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add 3 mashed ripe bananas, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 4 drops of doTerra Lemon Oil (or 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest) and continue mixing. (If the batter appears a little “broken” at this point, it’s okay.)

Whisk together 1 ½ cups of spelt flour, 1 cup of fine almond flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon sea salt in a medium bowl. Reduce the mixing speed and gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Toss in 1/3 cup cacao nibs and mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into a buttered and parchment-lined 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. (or 325 degrees F. in a convection oven) until it is well risen, dark golden brown, fragrant, and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a re-sealable bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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