23 July 2011

Banana Overload

It's a familiar scenario: Green bananas sit atop the kitchen counter, waiting to soften to a perfect yellow-but-slightly-green ripeness. But during the warm summer, the transition sometimes happens faster than one expects, or takes notice; before long, the green-tinge has disappeared to a vibrant yellow, quickly yielding dark speckles that escalate even more quickly into brown patches. In a matter of mere days, those unattended bananas have transformed into a state of mushy, chestnut-colored overripeness--too soft and sweet for eating as-is. One is then left to ponder the final, practical destination of the neglected fruit, vowing to monitor the next bunch of bananas more closely.

That particular situation repeats itself over and over around here, likely due to a longstanding habit of keeping the kitchen stocked with bananas. (It became relevant again this week, as one certainly will have already guessed.) When I've run out of freezer space to accommodate frozen peeled bananas to reserve for smoothies or "soft serve," banana bread, muffins, pancakes, and the like become standard fare. Those are all fine for occasional enjoyment, but I prefer to stray from the usual quick-bread route whenever possible. I've already tried my hand at yeasted banana bread--a delectable change of pace, but allowing the dough to proof and bake is not exactly a quick affair. At some point during the food brainstorming process, I thought of granola, wondering whether it was possible to incorporate banana into a snack that was both low-fat and crunchy. Doubting the possibility of such a result--like applesauce, banana as an oil substitute tends to make baked goods soft, or at best, chewy--I adopted crunchy, fruity, low-fat granola as my next edible project.

With no idea how this experiment could turn out, I used the double baking technique that makes my Almond Granola Clusters nice and crisp, hoping for a positive result. Much to my delight, it worked. Want to know the details of what I did? Well, dear readers, don't fret; I wrote it down to share with you, if you happened to be so inclined to try your hand at making banana granola.

I kept the ingredients quite simple, allowing the banana flavor to come through. Cinnamon and cardamom add warmth to the granola, while vanilla and almond extracts jazz up the flavor a bit. This recipe relies primarily on the overripe bananas' natural sugars and a dab of maple syrup for sweetness, resulting in a barely-sweet granola; as always, feel free to adjust ingredients to your liking.
Spiced Banana Granola Clusters (printer-friendly version)
Yields approximately 4 cups
Gluten-free option; soy-free

3 c rolled oats (Use gluten-free, if necessary.)
1 c coarsely-ground raw almonds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 c well-mashed, overripe banana (approximately 2 medium-sized bananas)
1 T milled flax seed + 2 T warm water, whisked and allowed to thicken
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
2T to ¼ c light amber maple syrup, or dark amber for more distinct maple flavor (Adjust sweetness to taste.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, ground almonds, cinnamon, and cardamom. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, flax seed mixture, vanilla and almond extracts, and maple syrup. Add the banana mixture to the oat mixture and stir until everything is well-distributed. Place the dough onto the lined baking sheet and press the dough down as a single mass, uniformly ⅛- to ¼-inch thick. If using a half-sheet pan, the dough shouldn’t reach the rim. Bake for 20 minutes, only until the edges of the granola begins to brown slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F/170C and remove the granola to cool for approximately five minutes.

Carefully break the granola into bite-sized clusters and spread them over the same lined baking sheet. Bake at the reduced temperature for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pieces are golden-brown; stir the clusters and rotate the pan midway through bake time. Remove from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely on the baking sheet; the clusters will become more crisp as they cool. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

What's your favorite way to use leftover bananas?

By the way, I updated the Recipes tab to reflect which items are gluten-, nut-, or soy-free (or if applicable adaptations are noted). It's not the prettiest format, but I hope the labels make browsing recipes easier for people who are concerned with various food sensitivities or allergies.


  1. Awesome! I definitely had way too many bananas last week - I ended up just freezing a bunch for smoothies. It's hot but turning on the oven for a while is a small price to pay for banana-y cool, crunchy granola for the rest of the week! Thanks for the recipe.

  2. I always have a TON of overripe bananas in my kitchen! This looks so good, and not too sweet. Such a good use of surplus bananas!

  3. this is great! we always stock bananas so my husband gets enough potassium but even the first signs of browning are too ripe for him. I like rather ripe ones but there's so much I can eat:) I'll try this next chance I get. thank you for sharing this recipe!

  4. awesomeness! imagine a mix of peanut butter granola and banana granola? oooh....yeah.

  5. I'm always surprised how fast bananas go from green to brown. The banana granola looks awesome! :-)

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