When Mike and Kelly and I come together, we always wind up with an overabundance of bananas from both our households. Some travel all the way to Moscow from Portland, needing to be used up before they turn liquid. Others have accumulated at my home base, as I try to squirrel away more than usual for Mike’s morning smoothie habit. The result is usually a mountain of overripe bananas. The week they came to help me move was no exception to that rule. Mike walked through the kitchen on the way to something else, pondering the bananas along the way. “Someone needs to make a banana bread,” he said more to himself than anyone else.
But I heard it. And it catapulted me into banana bread land, and a funny memory long ago when some overripe bananas were sitting on the very same kitchen table. Mike was maybe 11 or 12. I kept asking him if he would eat some banana bread if I made it (wanting to use up the bananas, but fearing I would eat it all myself if he didn’t want any), and like a typical preteen, he kept not answering me with anything definite. Finally, he said, “MOM! What IS it with the banana bread?!” I looked at the bananas, and looked at him, and said, with an absurd amount of misplaced passion,”The clock is TICKING on these bananas!!” Suddenly I saw both how ridiculous I sounded and could picture how ridiculous my hyper-focus on not wasting the bananas might have looked to him. We locked eyes and both started to laugh. And I made some banana bread.
This time we were dismantling the house. And that, I rationalized, was good reason to use up bits and pieces of things in the fridge and in the cupboards. Could I pull together from such bits and pieces a banana bread that would delight all the hungry movers I would have on my hands in a few hours? I had sorghum flour. I had tapioca starch. I had a little maple syrup. And all those bananas. Even though there were a million other things to do, I couldn’t resist the challenge, and the chance to bake one more thing in my old kitchen before it wasn’t mine anymore.
Most of the useful and effective techniques I learned for baking gluten free come from Karina’s fabulous blog Gluten-Free Goddess. And most of the ingenious strategies for making baked good fat free come from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. In fact, I referred to Susan’s blueberry-banana bread recipe as I mocked up this version. It’s “kicked up,” as Karina would say–goodness I love that phrase (as if the banana bread itself had heels to kick up in the air!)–with a little bit of lime zest, some powdered ginger–and never fearing too much of a good thing–some dried banana bits. That’s what makes it “double” banana bread. So don’t leave them out if you can find some that are not made with oil or extra sugar. In fact, if you have a food dehydrator, you can make them yourself in just a few hours by cutting up part of a banana into small pieces. Line your tray with baking parchment first though, because they get really sticky as they dry.
Double Banana Bread (Vegan and Gluten Free)
3 large very ripe bananas
1/3 cup almond milk
2 tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs banana chip pieces or bits of dried banana
3 deglet dates, chopped
4 walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 375
Mix the almond milk and the lemon juice together and let it sit for a few minutes to curdle. In a large bowl, mash the bananas thoroughly with a fork. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, and almond milk-lemon juice mixture to the bananas and mix well. In a medium bowl combine the sorghum flour, tapioca flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix together with a whisk or a fork. Add the banana bits and chopped dates to the wet mixture. Add the flour mixture and the walnuts and fold altogether gently until well combined. Spoon/pour into a silicone non-stick loaf pan. Or line a glass or metal pan with baking parchment and spoon/pour the batter into that. Bake for 50-60 minutes, depending on your oven. It’s done when there are a few cracks in the surface and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes, then turn out onto a metal rack to continue cooling. Please wait until it’s completely cool to slice. Gluten-free loaf breads will fall apart if you try to slice them when they are still very warm.
Notes: Just as you should be careful to let it cool before slicing, also be careful not to over bake your bread. I baked the one I made at the new house just a tad too long, and that can contribute to it crumbling more easily. But it will still taste good. So as not to scarf it down all myself, I use Karina’s trick of slicing and then wrapping individual slices in aluminum foil. You can also stack them with some wax paper or baking parchment in between and put in a freezer bag. But I like the individually wrapped slices. I’m a little squeamish about using the aluminum foil alone, so I first wrap each slice in some waxed paper. A little extra work, but I worry less. And once it’s in the freezer, I forget about it. So every once in a while I see it’s there, and I can have a little treat.
Usually when I’m baking gluten free, I like to make my own flour-starch mix as I learned to do on Karina’s blog. But this time I was using up what was on hand, so I didn’t combine the sorghum flour with any other flour. And I was happy with the results, because sorghum flour works well on its own, along with some starch, like the tapioca. Even potato starch will work well in baked goods.
When Mike saw that I had banana bread in the oven, he was thrilled. When it was ready to slice, he said, “Mom, this is great–but you didn’t have to make banana bread.” I smiled, and said, “I know. But I wanted to.” And I thought to myself, the clock is ticking on the bananas. And on our time in this kitchen. So why not sweeten our last hours on Asbury Street with a new twist on an old favorite? It was good enogh that I made it again in the new kitchen, so I could share it here. Maybe next time I’ll use lime juice instead of lemon. A little more ginger. Or leave out the dates and use all dried banana bits. Maybe. But maybe not. Have you got any bananas that are going tick tock? As Shakespeare wrote, “ripeness is all.”