Friday, March 18, 2016

Baker's Corner: Blueberry Banana Bread

Most home bakers have a tried and tested recipe for banana bread either passed to them from family or friends or else a self-discovered favourite recipe from the sea of recipes out there. Everyone claims their version to be the numero uno and I'm no different! But I'm not making a sweeping statement here. I have made banana bread in the past consulting different recipes but those attempts aren't a patch on this one. This one turned out moist, flavourful, not-too-sweet and moreish. Exactly what I hoped for and perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee. My quest for the perfect banana bread recipe has finally come to an end 

I must thank my 16-month old toddlers for this successful kitchen experiment. Previously, bananas hardly had a place in our fruit bowl. Me and my husband like them but we'd end up having to buy an insanely huge bunch and after the first few would get eaten, the rest would sit there turning blacker each day until I'd just get fed up and throw them away. And by then that characteristic overripe banana smell would stink up the house....ugh! Back then, I didn't have the time or feel the need to put overripe bananas to use. But fast forward to today, bananas are a staple in my household. My twins go bananas over bananas (one slightly more than the other). I swear my younger twin is a monkey in the guise of a human baby. She likes them so much, she can eat them at every meal and even up to the point of gagging (until I intervene and decide that she has had enough!). Before this addiction started, as mealtime approached, right on cue she would come running towards me saying - "mum mum" (her word for food). Nowadays she comes running to me saying - "nanana" (her word for banana!). A few weeks ago, she caught sight of her favourite food on a cartoon and went ballistic signalling to the telly & shrieking "nanana" "nanana" and then proceeded to tug on my sleeve to make sure I beheld the glorious sight.

Toddlers I tell you!

Even though bananas are high in-demand in my world right now, it always turns out that the last two remaining turn rogue by the time they are to be consumed. So I was on the look-out for the perfect banana bread recipe to make use of them and avoid wastage. A fuss-free recipe that could be made in a short time and which would yield a moist banana flavour-packed loaf was the expectation. I went through a bunch of recipes, picked out what I liked from a few remarkable ones, put them all together and made my own version. I decided to skip commonly added ingredients like chocolate chips and nuts since I wanted my kids to sample it. They love blueberries and I happened to have fresh blueberries at the time so in they went. I was initially unsure whether to add in spices or not but the allure of vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg was too powerful to ignore.

Since this recipe worked its charm on me, I have plans to tweak it to make it a bit healthier for my girls. Whole wheat flour instead of plain flour and pure maple syrup instead of sugar should do the trick. And also since they love anything to do with pumpkin, I was considering making a pumpkin-banana bread variation too.

Anyway, coming back to this recipe, you don't need a stand mixer to whip the wet ingredients (doing it manually with a whisk or a hand-held electric whisk will get the job done) but I used it anyway. The preparation took hardly 10 mins. After that I just let the oven do its job and at the end of 55 mins I had a gorgeous looking loaf and a kitchen that smelled like heaven! Yay triumph!

Check out the recipe and remember to scroll down to the notes section where I have suggested all the possible substitutions and variations. Now go grab a couple of mixing bowls and get baking!

I
Blueberry Banana Bread

Preparation time: 10 min; Baking time: 50-55 min 
Total time: ~1 hour
Yield: 1 loaf
Recipe category: Breakfast/American
Recipe skill level: Easy
Recipe source: A mishmash of several recipes

Ingredients:

1¼ cup all-purpose/plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 cup light brown sugar 
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, Optional
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, Optional
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large overripe bananas, mashed (~1 cup mashed)
1/4 cup plain yogurt or greek yoghurt or sour cream*
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (~180ºC). In a bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.



2. Grease and flour a 9x5 inch metal bread loaf pan. The flouring step is important.


3. In a large bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon & ground nutmeg. Remove 1 tbsp of this flour mixture and use it to coat the blueberries. Keep the flour-coated blueberries aside.


4. In another bowl and using a hand or stand mixer, whisk the sugars and butter very well until pale (~5 min).


5. Now slowly add the room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.


6. Fold in the mashed bananas, plain yogurt & vanilla extract.

The mixture curdled probably because the yoghurt was cold but that's no biggie.


7. Now make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients slowly mixing until just combined. Do not overmix.


8. Working gently, fold the flour-coated blueberries into the batter.


9. Immediately transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake on the lower middle oven rack for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don't be tempted to take out the bread earlier just by seeing the crust go very brown. This loaf needs at least 50 minutes (if not more) to cook through.



10. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing using a serrated knife. Serve along with a hot beverage.

Notes:
  • You HAVE to use bananas that are overripe in this recipe. Those bright yellow (or, shudder, green) ones just aren’t going to cut it. You want the peels to be nice and spotty and the insides mushy. Even on the verge of rotting works (sounds gross, I know!)
  • You don't need to make the bananas into a puree. Some chunks are alright and infact desirable
  • If you want your banana bread to be sweeter then increase the brown sugar to 1/2 cup from 1/4 cup
  • *Sour cream is a better replacement to plain yoghurt. If you have it on hand, use it
  • If your mixture curdles after adding the eggs or in the next step, don't fret. It'll sort itself out in the oven
  • You can use chocolate chips, peanut butter chips or butterscotch chips instead of blueberries
  • Grate in some citrus zest for additional flavour
  • You can use toasted walnuts or pecans or almond slivers in this recipe for that nutty crunch
  • Store leftovers wrapped in aluminum foil (to preserve moisture) at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can also wrap individual slices in plastic wrap and freeze for several months.

Suggested reading:
For a delicious Banana Walnut Cake, click here


Cheers,


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