Gluten-Free Banana Bread
By Dara O’Brien
Creative Director, Lake Isle Press
There are people in my life whose diets are vegetarian, vegan, low-sugar, no-sugar, gluten-free, or various combinations of the above. I, however, fall into none of these categories. But when I was a kid I was a finicky eater and I continue to be one, though thankfully to a much lesser degree. So I can very much relate to my food-restricted friends, and I don’t mind catering to their dietary needs when I cook for them. I appreciate the excuse to eat more creatively and healthfully.
But my spirit of accommodation runs for the hills when it comes to baking. Please do not mess with my all-purpose flour. Don’t ask me to give up my butter and eggs. And step away from my sugar. Baked goods without these things are imposters. Hoaxes. Fake bakes. Without the proper ingredients, the cookie crumbles.
But our collective and individual well-being begs a fresh examination of what we put into our bodies, how often, and when. That’s a lot to unpack, but I’m game to try.
I am beginning my exploration of alternative baking with a focus on gluten-free recipes. I’ve used GF all-purpose flour in pumpkin bread to great success. Flourless brownies and flourless boiled peanut butter cookies both turned out quite well. A lemon pudding cake I baked by substituting cornstarch for the small amount of flour the recipe called for was really wonderful.
It seemed the time had come to venture further. How about baking with other types of flour? I picked up Camilla V. Saulsbury’s “The Chickpea Flour Cookbook” published by Lake Isle Press to find some options. I have read articles that advise combining gluten-free flours rather than baking with just one. I was curious about what this dedicated exploration of one alternative flour would offer.
I decided to try the Brown Sugar Banana Bread. Since as I understand the biggest challenge with gluten-free baking is overcoming a dry texture, starting off with a moisture-rich ingredient like bananas made sense.
I made this bread twice. First I made three mini-loaves. They each had a wonderful texture and delicate taste. I tried the recipe again, this time making one 9" X 5" loaf that the recipe specifies. Once again, it had nice moistness and a subtle banana taste that didn’t overwhelm. With the balance of ingredients providing such a good texture to build on, the next time I might experiment with the flavors — maybe try adding a little extra cinnamon or some lemon zest, or, as the recipe suggests, swap the butter for coconut oil and add ginger and lime.
I don’t know if I’ll ever move fully into gluten-free or vegan baking territory, but I do like the idea of creating dishes that anyone can eat. Plus, sometimes I feel guilty baking something that’s loaded with empty calories or isn’t at all healthful. Why not bake up treats that are tasty, but not an indulgence?
We straddle a food universe of ultra processing and genetic modification. But there’s also a plant-based food movement and escalating environmental activism. I know I’m a long way from a no meat/no dairy/no sugar/no processed food/no wheat lifestyle. But since we are what we eat, the time has come to explore some alternatives.
Brown Sugar Banana Bread
Non-stick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) chickpea flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposing sides. Spray the paper and exposed sides of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, bananas, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until well blended.
4. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
5. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then hold onto the foil overhang to transfer it directly to the rack to cool completely. Remove the paper and serve.
Recipe reprinted from “The Chickpea Flour Cookbook’ by Camilla V. Saulsbury, Lake Isle Press, 2015
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on August 13, 2020.