Over the last few days, I’ve watched my bananas go from a bright yellow, worthy of wearing the leader’s jersey in the Tour de France, to a soft brown, like a tattered and mud-splashed elementary school bus.
Banana bread and banana muffins are always easy options for an overripe bunch. But banana bread is – let’s be honest – closer to cake than either bread or a trip to the bottom of the food pyramid. For that reason, I took my overripe bananas and turned them into real banana bread – not the quick kind. Indeed, if you know me, you know that I often enjoy taking the long and meandering route, passing through several culinary steps and preparation detours over what might have otherwise been a one-step, ten-minute trip, down the intercity highway (see curried couscous).
While this banana bread requires kneading and resting, rather than mixing and pouring, it is real bread with real taste. It’s delicious and, dare I say it, even good for you.
*While the bananas do not overwhelm, the bread will have a distinct banana flavor to it. With the exception of a PBJ, this bread will probably not make a great sandwich bread. On the other hand, it will make a great side or snack. Simply slice, toast, and spread with butter, jam, or
especially even Nutella.
whole wheat banana yeast bread
PREP TIME: 40 minutes
DOWN TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 35 minutes
YIELD: Makes 2 loaves (You can easily freeze the extra loaf)
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, plus more for topping
1/2 cup warm water (105-115° F)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (about three packages)
1/2 cup mild honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 to 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas (about 2 1/2 bananas)
1 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of honey. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the mixture doesn’t foam, you’ll have to discard it and start over with new yeast.) Stir the yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into the cooled oatmeal.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the whole-wheat flour, 2 cups unbleached flour, and salt. Add the oat mixture then the bananas, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto the wet dough onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough, with floured hands, until the dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (the dough will be slightly sticky). While you’re kneading, add just enough unbleached flour to keep the dough from sticking to your surface.
4. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a large, oiled mixing bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 90 minutes.
5. Lightly butter two loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place each loaf in a buttered pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover the loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the dough rise at a warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes.
6. Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly brush the tops of each loaf with some of the egg wash and sprinkle with oats. Bake the loaves until they are golden and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 30 to 35 minutes. (Remove 1 loaf from pan to test for doneness. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen.)
7. Remove the bread from the pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 60 minutes. Slice and serve! (I’ve found the loaves are easiest to slice when turned on their sides).