Thursday, June 6, 2013

In the Kitchen: Semidulce Banana Bread


Now y'all know I love a good puddin', but gotta keep my sweet tooth in check as of late. And although I may have to skip dessert, I don't have to give up sweets entirely. I've been having the inner most desire to explore the world of baking and one idea I've been toying with is a semi-sweet range. I'd really like to try recipes (and create my own) that use natural fruit sweeteners and more importantly cut the amount of overall sugar. My inspiration comes from this Wholefoods cooking course by Nicky Clinch that I recently signed up for. One of the key concepts to the class is to listen to our bodies and respond to our cravings the healthy way. And although you might feel like eating candy, something as simple as sweet butternut can satisfy our sugary cravings.

2 cups of heritage flour
1/2 cup of ground nuts
1 teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup of coconut sugar
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cups of room temperature water
1 cup of chopped almonds

Hub mentioned one of his favorite baked goods is banana nut bread and it was the perfect tester for my semi-sweet approach. Preheat your oven to 350F/175C. I chose heritage flour as my base, but any wholewheat flour will do. I've been told by a pastry chef that white flour has more gluten than wholewheat flour and often "wholewheat" bread is a combination of the two flours. This recipe is 100% wholewheat with all the minerals, vitamins and proteins that come from wholegrain. The density, taste and texture needs a bit getting used too, but it's worth it. I like heritage's rustic nutty flavor and thought it would work well with bananas and nuts.

Mix the dry ingredients together apart from the cinnamon. Cinnamon is a medicinal magic spice that is naturally sweet without the 'ose and stabilizes blood glucose levels. So if you like things extra spicy, feel free to increase the quantity. Compared to other banana nut recipes, I used half the amount of sugar and used coconut sugar. It's made by drying the sap of the coconut blossom and that's it. If you can't find coconut sugar I would recommend a natural sugar like honey or maple syrup EXCEPT agave nectar. Agave nectar has been highly marketed as a natural and low GI sugar sub, but it's highly processed and has a neg impact on your body like high fructose corn syrup. In a separate mixing bowl combine the bananas, cinnamon, vanilla extract and olive oil and mix until smooth. Since this recipe uses a small amount of sugar, it's really important that your bananas are ripe and the skins on the verge of black. Then mix in your dry ingredients and nuts and gradually add the water. This recipe makes one large loaf, but I prefer using a smaller 1lb loaf tin and making two batches. Bake for 1 hour if you are using a large loaf tin or 35-40 minutes for a small tin.

A smaller tin makes for smaller portions and therefore less calories, which is important to me when it comes to sweets. The end result was a deliciously semidulce loaf that kept my sugar monster at bay and even Hub enjoyed it. We toasted slices with olive oil butter for dessert and I ate some at breakfast, combining it with proteins like scrambled eggs or with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Inspired by Ina's Back to Basics, I decided to play around and tape my own little video. You can actually hear her in the background, haha. I feel a bit nervous, but I thought I'd share a little clip. It's funny how self-critical we can be of ourselves and this was a wonderful way to overcome my inhibitions.  

Some helpful reads for this recipe:
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