Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gluten Free Banana Bread (Victory Never Tasted So Good)

Banana Bread has been a favorite treat of mine for as long as I can remember. My mom used to make a few loaves at a time and freeze the extras so we wouldn’t run out too quickly. When I went off to college, I only got banana bread when I went home. I wanted to make my own, but the recipe Mama used required a mixer, which I did not have. I began searching the Internet, hoping to find a recipe I could work with. Well, lucky me, I came across the mother lode of cooking sites, Simply Recipes. The banana bread recipe on the site is what kept me coming back for more and more culinary creations. I had the recipe memorized for a while, it's just that good. Finish reading this post, and then go check it out.

I have never been much of a baker, although I will say that my break-and-bake cookies and my Betty Crocker brownies are delectable. You laugh, but it is actually rather easy to screw them up, so let me be proud of myself, please! With all the accurate measuring and timing needed, baking from scratch is something I have to really motivate myself to do. So, when a little more than a year ago I ventured into a strange new world called “Gluten Free,” it was intimidating and scary and there was no wheat flour there. I thought it was going to be my worst nightmare. In fact, I have said several times in the past, “If I couldn’t eat bread or pasta I think I would die.” Well, I am still here, folks. I like puzzles and I like challenges, and the world of Gluten Free is just a big, challenging, wheat-less puzzle.

Initially, I despaired, thinking I would never again snack on (or binge on) the delicious banana bread that I missed so terribly. I tried making the Simply Recipes loaf by just subbing in a gluten-free all-purpose flour and I think I used stevia instead of sugar. I was not impressed. It was too dry and it just didn’t taste right. After resigning myself to a banana bread-less existence, I plucked up the motivation to do some more searching for the right recipe. One of them used rice flour and it was too gritty. Another one that used a mixer was too crumbly and cakey. I refused to give up and, inspired by Inigo Montoya, decided to go back to my favorite recipe.

"When the job went wrong, you go back to the beginning"

I looked at the Simply Recipes banana bread recipe and willed it to work with me. Since my last go-round with it I had learned a lot in the world of Gluten Free. I discovered coconut sugar and I had learned a little bit about some of the various gluten free flours. Almond flour and coconut flour are better at holding on to moisture and I wondered if they would solve my problem of the loaf coming out too dry and crumbly. Armed with my gluten-free allies, I began.

Here is the original recipe.  If you love gluten, give it a try. It's delicious.

Here are the ingredients I used:
  • 4 bananas (mashed)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour
  • ¼ cup Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and mash your bananas (You can use a potato masher, a fork, a whisk - whatever you've got. It doesn't have to be perfectly smooth). Add the melted butter, beaten egg, coconut sugar, and vanilla to the mashed bananas and mix with a wooden spoon until well blended. You will notice that the batter has a dark, caramel-like color because of the coconut sugar. Next, add the dry ingredients - baking soda, salt, gluten-free all-purpose flour, almond flour, and coconut flour. Mix until well combined. Grease/butter a 4x8 metal loaf pan and pour in the batter. In my experience, a metal pan works best; I have tried using stoneware and glass loaf pans and the banana bread comes out rubbery. Metal is the way to go!
Pop it in the oven for 60 minutes. I checked the center of the loaf with a knife to try to gauge whether it was cooked all the way through. I feared it would burn on the outside if I left it in too long, so I couldn't wait for the knife to come out totally clean, but it was pretty close.

After letting the loaf cool for about 10 minutes, I held my breath and flipped it out onto a cooling rack. It held together in one piece! It was a good sign! I hollered joyfully to my husband, “I made a gluten-free banana bread that didn’t fall apart!” Then I did a happy dance.
A few minutes later, we sliced into the loaf. It was only slightly crumbly on the outside and it was still moist on the inside. Better yet, the taste and texture were FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC! It might as well have been the recipe I had been making for the last few years. I did another happy dance.

I wanted to make sure this wasn’t some freak accident, so I stocked up on bananas and gave it another go, and the second loaf was EVEN BETTER. Drew had his first taste of it and declared, “This is the best banana bread I have ever had, gluten-free or otherwise.” He has been with me on this banana bread journey, so he knows that this is a very sweet victory I have won.

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