More bananas. *sigh*
Baked Elements has a whole chapter on them, and this is the first Baked Sunday Mornings recipe from the new book using those wretched mushy, slimy things… I was not excited about this. However, I have to admit that the other recent recipe that we made from Baked Explorations, Bananas Foster Fritters, was a surprising delight. In that post, I waxed poetic about my disdain for bananas, so I won’t whine about them further here…. especially since this Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread is fantastic! Yes, that’s right– I actually like two banana recipes. In a row. I wouldn’t dream of eating one of those vile things raw, but for some reason, I seem to like them when baked into breads, muffins, or cupcakes.
I don’t think I’ve ever made a quickbread from scratch before, and I ended up having to make this one twice because, well, I didn’t follow directions. It’s really a pretty simple recipe… if you do what it says. The banana bread is made by combining the dry ingredients in a bowl, then the wet ingredients in another bowl, and folding the wet mixture into the dry. Then stir in the poppy seeds and pour the batter into a floured loaf pan. The recipe calls for very ripe bananas, which you mash before combining with oil, milk, eggs, and honey. I couldn’t bring myself to use very ripe ones that were extra soft, brown, and nasty– that’s just asking a little too much. So I settled for “pretty” ripe, which was slightly less repugnant. For my first attempt, I mashed them by hand with a potato masher, which seemed to work well enough, though it was a fairly chunky mixture.
The batter came together as expected, and all seemed well in the banana bread world…
The prescribed baking time is 60-70 minutes, though after 54 minutes, my bread looked beautifully brown all over, with that awesome craggy split on top. The only part that didn’t look done was the top-center (the part peeking up through the cracks), but after successfully testing for doneness in several other spots, I made the executive decision to take it out a little early. I didn’t want it to burn or dry out, and I thought the top might firm up slightly the way a moist cake tends to do when it’s cooling.
The loaf looked great… until I unmolded it and the top of the bread collapsed into the middle. Still, I thought it might be okay by the time it reached room temperature. The time finally came to cut into it… the edges and outer parts of the loaf were perfectly moist and a dark shade of amber, but that center part… straight-up raw. Sad face.
Fortunately I was able to cut around it and salvage some yummy scraps, but a re-bake would be necessary this week– I haven’t had to do that in a while! Where did I go wrong? Two things: a) the loaf really does need to bake for at least an hour, and b) the instructions say to test the loaf in the center! I tested it nearly everywhere *except* in the center, because I could tell by sight that that part was not cooked through when I took it out. In retrospect… DUH.
Fast-forward a couple of nights, and I was ready for a second try, with two slight modifications in mind. I decided to blend the bananas in a food processor, rather than mashing by hand. I couldn’t quite get all the lumps out with the potato masher, and in addition to the under-baking problem, I had unsightly yellowish/purplish patches throughout the first loaf from the banana chunks. Not appealing to look at, nor did they make for a nice bread texture. The second batter was definitely smoother with the puréed bananas, and it came together just as easily as it had the first time.
The second change of course had to do with the baking stage. I considered reducing the oven temperature from 350°F to 325°F, but my fellow bakers suggested leaving the temperature as-is and tenting the loaf pan with aluminum foil towards the end of baking instead, so it could bake longer without burning or drying out. I added the foil after 45 minutes and let the bread bake for another 20 minutes– et voilà! My banana bread was a deep amber brown (but not at all burned), and the batter lurking inside the split-open center was very moist, but cooked. (I even checked this time!)
Now, if you’ve been reading my blog posts, you may have noticed a trend in which I often cannot stand leaving a recipe well enough alone– I like to put a little twist or variation on things when inspiration strikes me. While the loaf was golden and pretty, it was also rather… plain. I love the look of quickbreads with a drizzled glaze, which I thought that would be a lovely addition to this loaf. What kind of glaze? I originally thought about peanut butter, and then my mind wandered to marshmallow because of another blog post I’m working on, and THEN a thing of beauty transpired in my sugar-obsessed brain… FLUFFERNUTTER glaze! I just learned about marshmallow fluff, which is apparently a cherished East Coast confectionary phenomenon, and is different than the marshmallow creme found at my local grocery store. (What would we do without Amazon?) The combination of fluff and peanut butter seems to be the stuff of childhood lunchbox legends, and something deep in my soul told me that it would be the perfect topping for my banana bread!
I couldn’t find a single recipe for a glaze combining these two ingredients, so I played around with the quantities and came up with the following recipe. I plan to experiment further with this… (Hold on, did I just *invent* fluffernutter glaze?!)
- ¼ cup marshmallow fluff
- ¼ cup smooth peanut butter (I’m a Skippy girl)
- 3-5 teaspoons milk
Place the marshmallow fluff and peanut butter in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 10 seconds, remove the bowl from the microwave, and whisk the mixture until combined– it will be very thick. Microwave for another 10 seconds and whisk until smooth and homogenous. Add 3 teaspoons of milk, one at a time, and whisk after each addition until incorporated. The consistency will become looser with every teaspoon. It will still be fairly thick at this point, though pourable. To make a thinner glaze, add 1-2 more teaspoons of milk and whisk until your desired consistency has been achieved.
Alternatively, if you want it pretty thick (more like a spread than a glaze), add 1-2 teaspoons of milk total. If you go this route, you could even spread it on individual slices, rather than on top.
Drizzle the glaze over the banana bread in your desired pattern and allow to set slightly. (It will stay fairly soft, as there is no confectioners’ sugar in the mixture.) Or cut the bread immediately and devour it with warm glaze– whatever your fancy.
Finally, it was time to cut into Loaf #2 with its pretty dressing… I am very pleased to report that tenting the bread with foil did the trick! This loaf was not only handsome on the outside, it was evenly baked all the way through. Puréeing the bananas helped get rid of most of the funky colored spots, though I still had a few lighter banana patches and dark spots; I realized that the dark spots were just small lumps of the dark brown sugar that didn’t get mixed in with the flour.
So, the loaf was baked through and had a great interior texture… what about the flavor? I found the banana to be very strong, though surprisingly not in an unpleasant way. I actually *liked* it… quite a lot! The other lovely feature of this bread is the poppy seeds. I enjoy lemon poppy seed bread, poppy seed challah, etc., but I’d never had banana poppy seed bread. The book suggests chocolate chips as an alternate mix-in, and though this was tempting (believe me!), I stuck with the poppy seeds, and I’m so glad I did! They provide a beautiful textural contrast to the moist, soft bread with their delicate crunch in every bite.
Although I think my banana bread-baking skills need some polishing, I was so pleased with this recipe and definitely plan to make it again. In fact, I liked it so much that –I can’t believe I’m saying this– I’m actually craving banana bread, and I’m excited to try other variations! (Hmm, peanut butter, chocolate, butterscotch, or dare I say… speculoos??) If you are a banana bread enthusiast, you will LOVE this recipe; if you are not exactly a fan of bananas like me, I urge you to try it– you might find it to be quite a revelation.
For the Honey Banana Poppy Seed Bread recipe and everyone’s blogs for this week, visit Baked Sunday Mornings! Just do it.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.