I love banana bread. Always have, always will.
And I'm not alone. Banana bread is a quick bread (a sweet, cake-like bread) that has been a standard feature in American cookbooks since the popularization of baking powder and baking soda in the 1930's. The origin of the very first banana bread is unknown, though I suspect that somewhere along the line a clever lady had one too many overripe bananas in her kitchen and got creative. In the 1960's, bakers got a little wild with their recipes and started adding fruits and nuts to their breads. My feeling on this is that any added fruit is pretty much a crime, but whoever decided to throw in walnuts deserves some sort of kitchen genius award. That's just plain awesome.
So, on to my relationship with banana bread. One of my biggest concerns when becoming a vegan was making sure I could still create my very favorite moist delicious treat (banana bread, duh). Over the course of a few weeks, I tested out veganized versions of old family recipes I already had, as well as versions from vegan cook books and websites. None suited me perfectly, so I decided to wing it. By pulling my favorite aspects from both, I wound up with a delightful version that is bound to please vegans and non-vegans alike. And I'm not kidding with that, the LOST boys (aka the boys who come over and watch LOST weekly) ate an entire loaf during last week's episode. Good job, boys.
A note on the whole-wheat: Over the past few years, we've learned that whole grains are far better for us than the white, bleached variety. While I think both have their place in the world, I think this recipe lends itself well to the use of whole wheat flour. The taste difference is slight, and is a healthy addition to this rather rustic-looking loaf. It's interchangeable, however, so if you're craving banana bread and only have white flour, go for it anyway.
1 cup white vegan sugar
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 cup vegan margarine (I prefer Earth Balance) plus 2 tbsp for topping and more to coat pans
2-3 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup soymilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Sanding sugar (raw turbinado if you have it)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prep a loaf pan (8x4 is a good choice) by coating with extra margarine.
Sift together your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt & spices, set this aside. Next, cream together your margarine, sugar, and maple syrup. The mix should be well blended and smooth, as pictured below:
Next, add your bananas. Because I'm using my super-pretty-begonia-pink Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer, I generally throw in the bananas in halves. She's pretty hard core, and can mix up just about anything you throw at her. However, if you're using a run-of-the-mill hand mixer, it would be a really good idea to mash those bad boys up with a fork first. This way, you won't tire out your mixer (which could lead to fires, bad idea), and will avoid clumpy banana bread. Either way, mix the bananas in to your batter. Measure out your soymilk, and add the apple cider vinegar right in to the measuring cup. Let it sit for a minute til it curdles... like soy buttermilk. Buttersoymilk? Add the soy milk and vanilla to your mixture and blend. Now, instead of having some sort of beautiful smooth mixture, you may be looking at something that is odd and separate-looking. Don't worry, this is normal. The banana and the butter don't seem to get along until the flour is added later. I've included a photo for reference:
Now, add the dry ingredients in sections, until everything is well blended. Now would be the time to add those optional walnuts. You should have a relatively stiff batter, as pictured:
Next, pour the batter into your prepared pan, and spread until even. Heat up that reserved two tablespoons of margarine in the microwave or over the stove (if you're like Rebecca and have an aversion to microwaves) just until it melts. Pour or brush it evenly over the batter, and sprinkle sanding sugar over top. Normally, I would have used Sugar in the Raw here, as it lends to a pretty effect. Sadly, I was out, so I used some more of my white vegan sugar. Either is fine.
As you can see here, I was making a double recipe. Just FYI. A note, the topping looks best if imperfect. It gives the bread a nice rustic look that just screams homemade.
Bake about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, depending on your oven. As with most sweet breads, make sure a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center. Cool on a rack until you can touch it without burning yourself, and serve warm.
This bread is sweet, moist and buttery, and is my favorite way to use up some old bananas. If you are watching your waistline, you can replace half the margarine with applesauce and skip the topping. You'd be surprised how little a difference that makes. It's still delish!