Welcome to my exploration for superbly decorated cakes and great recipes for those with milk allergies.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ripe bananas... Oh what to do?

There truly is nothing quite like the hearty sweet aroma of a simply stellar banana bread filling your home with wholesome goodness if it’s cold outside or not, but especially if it’s on the chilly side.  

This banana bread is so good it superseded the notion of waiting for breakfast and landed straight on the desert plates, so fast my head spun. I almost forgot to snap a quick picture and had to rescue this last loaf from the greedy clutches of my eager little pantry raiding gremlins. And that wasn’t easy. I couldn't keep from taking a bite myself!

I won’t say my recipe is a “healthy recipe” by far, but it does have a few redeeming qualities:  rolled oats, whole wheat flour and more eggs than the usual loaf of a banana bread to name a few.  

I have never been a huge fan of nuts and bits of fruit in banana bread, but that doesn’t make me a banana bread purist or stop me from making a heart healthy additions and changes.  I use whole wheat flour and rolled oats for obvious nutritious benefits. I use more eggs than the average recipe because I like a moist, dense and protein packed bread that can offer a real balance to the sugary sweetness.  And since sugar is an important moisture source it shouldn’t be drastically reduced or it will alter the breads consistency and leave you with a dry mouth full of crumbs you can’t manage to choke down with out a tall glass of milk. And, I don’t do Milk. Though if you really wanted to you could reduce it  a little, but be careful.

Now for the good stuff… you’ll notice this recipe calls for Bourbon Vanilla Paste and I highly recommend you rush right out and get some. Scour the city or country side for it and do not under any circumstances leave any rock unturned till you at last have some in your possession.  I insist you do not substitute just any old plain vanilla extract for it. It’s like a cake maker’s crack and you’ll turn into a habitual user and eventually become a pusher like me. This dark, thick, viscous stuff is the nectar of the baking gods! It’s a carefully guarded secret that is only being unveiled to you because this recipe simply wouldn’t be the same with out it. So come on over to the dark side real soon. You’re taste buds will thank me. 

I use Earth Balance Natural Buttery spread because it's the closest thing to real butter in both flavor and texture and, even though it's expensive it's worth it. 

I also insist on Saigon Cinnamon and freshly ground Nutmeg. The aromatic quality is key here because we also eat with our nose. Saigon Cinnamon contains the highest amount of essential oil of the various cinnamon's and its quality is a definite and distinct notch above your average jar of cinnamon up in the cupboard so give it a try. As for the freshly ground nutmeg, there simply is no alternative once you have become hooked on its nutty, intense, spicy lullaby. Get yourself a gar of whole Nutmeg and a micro plane STAT. Did you know that nutmeg was once classified as a narcotic!?!  No seriously look it up. No wonder we love to inhale the rich aroma of spicy baked goods.  You know what, I really don’t care because, when used appropriately it delights your senses and calms you at the same time leaving you feeling empowered and good. A full tummy doesn’t hurt either, so let’s not forget about that recipe I have been tinkering with.

Oat'n Nanner Bread  (makes 2 5x9 loafs)

2 ½ cups of whole wheat flour 
2 TBSP vegetable shortening  
1/3 Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (softened)
 ¼ cup oil
 5 eggs
 ¾ cup Soy Milk
2 TBSP Spiced Rum(don’t worry the alcohol bakes off and leaves a subtle layer of flavor that shouldn’t be skipped)
 1 ½ cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
 ½ teaspoon salt
 1  teaspoon baking soda 
 2  teaspoons baking powder  
 1 Tablespoon Bourbon Vanilla Paste or Double Strength Vanilla
 2 teaspoon Saigon Cinnamon
 ¼ teaspoon Apple Pie Spice
 ¼ teaspoon freshly ground Nutmeg
 4 medium sized bananas- light brown spotty skinned (because that’s how I like them- not too sweet)
 1 cup rolled oats
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on low speed incorporate 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening into flour, salt and baking soda until you have moist crumbs.

 In a separate bowl,whisk eggs till slightly fluffy. While whisking, stream in softened EarthBalance Spread, and oil. Then mix in soy milk, vanilla paste, rum, spices and hand mashed bananas.
Add wet mixture slowly into flour on low till fully incorporated and add in oats and continue to mix till oats are evenly dispersed. 

Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.  
 Bake at 350° for I hour or until done and lightly brown on top. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan and diving, in if you can.

Makes two 5x9 loafs.

Tip: #1 My personal preference for sweet breads is to lightly grease and sugar the inside of my pan with white sugar for a sweet sticky crust that holds in crumbs.  I also dust the tops of my sweet breads ever so lightly with white sugar for a delicious crust that never gets over looked.

 Tip: #2 An easy way to mash those bananas is by sticking them in a plastic ziplock and squish and knead them till your heart’s content then squeeze them out into your recipe when needed.

Why no milk?

My catalyst for making up scrumptious treats whether beverage, savory or sweet are the adverse effects from a nasty allergy to milk, developed during adulthood and pregnancy. Actually the list is a bit longer then just milk, including: whey, sodium casienate, lactose, gelatin etc. Basically anything from the udder end of a cow is a no go for our table. My kids luckily can eat an actual steak and hamburger whilst I look on and dine on turkey burgers, pork or chicken of some sort. I can not eat beef  with out suffering the consequences, so I would rather not.

Since I am a die hard foodie, meaning I love food, all food- great food and sweet foods alike, I have an insatiable appetite for knowledge of my daily bread and how to properly prepare it to it's fullest potential. It can be a bit challenging to alter recipes that call for butter and milk, cream or beef, but I am not deterred till I can tantalize our tongues with equitable renditions. I love researching recipes and experimenting with my substitutions. There is something scientifically geeky while simultaneously primitively satisfying about creating sustenance that is both beautiful and mouth watering.