Awhile back, I baked a loaf of sourdough banana bread that wasn't too bad, veganizing and further altering a recipe I found when searching The Fresh Loaf for sourdough inspiration. Although still a quick bread, the absence of cinnamon in the loaf and the inclusion of sourdough starter were pleasant changes to the usual banana bread situation. This time around, I wondered whether it was possible to create a yeasted banana bread. A little online searching led me to this recipe, which formed the basis of the version I ended up attempting. To try to maximize the banana flavor, I increased the number of bananas from two to three, and roasted them skin-on to intensify their natural sweetness, avoiding the need to add sugar. Whole wheat flour added a touch of fiber, while pecans provided a bit of nutty crunch. I also reduced the amount of fat by half. Here is my heavily-altered version of the bread:
Yeasted Roasted Banana Bread (adapted from this Angry Asian Creations recipe) (printable recipe)
Yields 1 large loaf
2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c water, warm to touch
Pinch of sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one .25-oz package)
3 very ripe bananas, roasted, peeled, and well-mashed*
1/2 c nondairy milk, warm to touch
2 T melted vegan butter, cooled
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c pecan pieces, toasted (optional)
*To roast bananas, place unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 min. Remove from the oven and let cool before peeling and mashing the fruit.
In a large bowl, mix together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture sit for five to 10 minutes to proof. Add mashed bananas, nondiary milk, all-purpose flour, and 1/2 c whole wheat flour, stirring until well-combined. Mix in salt and melted vegan butter. Incorporate the remaining whole wheat flour, 1/2 c at a time, until dough is no longer sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a ball, place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature for one hour, or until the dough has doubled in sized.
De-gas the dough. Knead in the pecans, if using. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Form the rested dough into a loaf and place it in a large, lightly oiled loaf pan. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, or until the top crests fully over the rim of the pan. Before the dough has completely risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Uncover the loaf and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn the pan 180 degrees and bake the loaf for another 20 minutes. The top should be golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool for one hour before slicing.
I enjoyed this bread the most on the same day it was baked, while it was still slightly warm. Both the sweetness and banana flavor are subtle but distinct, so to best detect those features, eat the bread toasted plain, or with only a small amount of sweet, non-overpowering adornments. It can also be used as a neutral accompaniment to more strongly flavored food, if you don't necessarily need that mild banana flavor to come through.
Unfortunately, even with three overripe bananas squared away, I knew that in a matter of only a day or two after baking the yeasted banana bread, I'd have another two bananas sporting browning peels. For those, I opted for the plain ol' banana muffin route, with a few changes. I decided to again forgo spices and revisited the roasted banana method for a batch of mini muffins, hoping that miniaturizing the quick bread would help to make it more appealing. Behold, another recipe:
Roasted Banana Mini Muffins (adapted from this recipe) (printable recipe)
Yields a little over two dozen mini muffins
1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 c rolled oats, coarsely ground, or instant oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 very ripe bananas, oven-roasted, cooled, peeled, and mashed well
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/2 c nondairy milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Lightly oil mini muffin tin(s) and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, blend the dry ingredients to combine. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing only until everything is combined. Using a small scoop (approximately 2 T amount), fill the mini muffin tin with batter. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Cool for five minutes before removing the mini muffins from the tin to a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm.
These mini muffins are a simple, anytime treat. If you must, you can always add some cinnamon or nuts to the batter before baking to add more dimension. Because these mini muffins are not too sweet, they are a nice departure from your usual cloying, fattening breakfast muffin. Just be mindful that their small size can leave one especially prone to popping a few too many...
If anyone has suggestions for more unique (or tried-and-true, other-than-your-usual-banana-bread) culinary uses for overripe bananas, I'd love to hear from you!