Totally a winter person, I’m never happier than when I get up early to find the world frozen solid with snowflakes dancing down in the glorious mist. Once the coffee is made, I cast my eyes around the kitchen to see what’s available to bake for breakfast. Who doesn’t want to turn the oven on when the windchill is below zero? This morning, I saw I had way over two hours before it was time to leave for worship (if we made it – the roads were looking slick) and quickly zeroed in on a bunch of blackening bananas. Banana Bread it was, but it needed to be banana bread with a healthy twist. Yes, I’m on a roll. Bad pun there.
The things that take quick bread to the nutrition dump are white flour, too much sugar, and sometimes more fat than you’d ever need in one loaf of bread. Whether or not we think hard about it, these much-loved “breads” are more like cake than bread. Sad. True. Thing is, while you can easily change a recipe in certain ways (using part whole wheat flour, for instance), the sugar and the fat can’t be left out all together if we still want a treat-like loaf. It’s not simply about taste because sugar, believe it or not, acts as a liquid for moisture and provides color. Leave it out and, “Hello, dry, ugly and pale baked goods!” Fat is important for taste (imagine dry toast; ye gods) but also provides texture when beaten with the sugar. Without any fat, the bread dries out much more quickly. Consider the oh-so-sad, brief lifespan of a baguette, which by nature contains no fat at all. So we only nudge those ingredients first a little this way, then a bit more that way, and if careful, can still come out with a luscious, tender loaf that doesn’t take us over the calorie count by the end of the day — my goal.
In the case of this particular loaf, I cut the butter in half by using the old applesauce trick. Applesauce can, without a lot of trouble, replace half the fat in some baked goods. Folks even do this for boxed brownie mixes. I left out half of the sugar, knowing the bananas would provide plenty of sweetness. Just for health’s sake, but also for a nuttier flavor profile, I snuck in one cup of whole wheat flour (hello, whole grains). The nuts stayed as they’re always good for you as long as you don’t overindulge and I tossed a little granola on top pretty much for good looks and fun. Since it’s my homemade granola, though, I know it’s no problema.
There’s no need to think I’ve gone all health food on us, but I do want what’s best for you and your most-loved ones any time of the year. You can even forget that I’ve tried to increase nutrition here and just bake a loaf of cheery banana bread when you try this:
Granola-Whole Wheat Banana Bread
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 medium bananas, mashed
- ½ cup salted butter, softened
- ½ cup applesauce
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup granola
- PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set rack at center. Grease a 9x5x2 loaf pan well.
- MIX DRY INGREDIENTS: In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- MIX WET INGREDIENTS: In a medium bowl, beat together the bananas, butter, applesauce, sugar, and eggs.
- MIX THE WET AND DRY INGREDIENTS/POUR INTO PAN: Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, add the walnuts, and stir together until just mixed. Pour the batter into the greased pan, scraping sides with a rubber spatula, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the granola.
- BAKE 50-60 MINUTES or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Holding pan at both ends, bang firmly a few times on the counter, and turn out onto rack. (Use a small, thin knife to go around the edges of the pan if the bread doesn’t pop right out.) Cool nearly completely before slicing. (Let rest a day before cutting to marry flavors if you have time.) Wrap tightly once cool or place in sealable plastic bag and store 2 days at room temperature, one week in the fridge, or 2 months in the freezer.
EASY CHANGE UP: Swap in brown sugar for the white granulated sugar for a darker bread and more of a caramel taste. I tried this in my second testing and was quite pleased.
The Best Way to Store Whole Grains/KINGARTHURFLOUR (hint: freezer is best)
What the pros say about reducing/exchanging fat, flours, and sugar: Can You Use Applesauce Instead of Oil or Butter for Baking/BONAPPETIT How to Substitute Whole-Wheat vs White Flour/FOOD52 How to Reduce Sugar in Muffins/KINGARTHURBAKING
If you like this, you might also like my:
LIFE GOES ON:
I’ll share I’ve been under the curse of a mean, nasty old sinus infection for nearly two weeks. Really grateful for soup in the freezer and grocery delivery. Thankful beyond knowing for friends and family who texted or called daily, “How are you? Do you need anything?” And, what a boon (Wait! Help! Is my doctor reading this?) to find an in-date penicillin prescription I’d never used in the medicine cabinet. I dipped into it desperately late one Friday night and never looked back. The dogs who, despite only going out for the bare necessities, stayed by my side day and night were my saving graces. Thank you, God, for many blessings and especially for increasing health.
Good to be back in the kitchen with you and back at the blog on a Sunday afternoon for a first draft.
Stay warm; bake healthier quick bread,