So here’s the situation: I had an unexpected two days off of work due to Tropical Storm Fay and a few overripe bananas sitting atop my refrigerator. Normally, overripe bananas get turned into banana “bread.” I chose quotations there because it’s really more like a cake even though it is technically a quick-bread. Sweet, sometimes spiced, sometimes with nuts — old-fashioned banana bread is equally at home on the breakfast table as it is for dessert.
But I didn’t want something sweet. Couple this with the fact that I had some time on my hands and I thought to incorporate bananas into a yeast-raised recipe. I consulted my cookbooks and wouldn’t you know it, Rose Levy Berenbaum already had a recipe for just such a thing.
I love RLB’s recipes — every bread turns out great. But often times she kills you with multiple rises and long pre-ferments. I had time, but not that much! But there was a note at the end of her recipe that mentioned that banana and boiled potato have almost the same water content and can be substituted similarly in bread recipes. That brought me to the White Bread recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. It calls for potato flakes or flour, but I used RLB’s tip and subbed mashed banana and a little less water.
The bread turns out soft and feathery, with just a hint of banana aroma and flavor. I was happy to eat it straight up, but it was really good when I used it for a peanut butter and banana sandwich!
3 cups (12 3/4 oz.) unbleached AP flour
2 tsp. instant yeast (or a shade less than 1 packet)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
3 TB sugar (1 1/4 oz. by weight)
4 TB butter, softened (2 oz.)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (1 1/4 oz.)
1 ripe banana, slightly mashed (approx 4 oz. by weight)
3/4 cup lukewarm water (6 oz.)
Combine all the ingredients and knead them (by hand or machine) until you’ve made a smooth, soft dough. It should be barely tacky. Don’t add a lot of extra flour — you’ll end up with a dry loaf. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours until almost doubled in bulk.
You can now either shape the dough into a loaf or cut it into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Either way, place it into a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan and cover again. Preheat the oven to 350 while the bread proofs, about an hour. The dough should rise above the rim of the loaf pan by about 1/2 inch. Once you get there, uncover and bake for 35-40 minutes. If it seems to be getting too brown toward the end of cooking, you can tent with foil.
When it’s done, take it out of the pan and cool on a wire rack for at least an hour to cool completely. Then slice (or pull apart if you went with the dough balls) and enjoy!