Monday, May 11, 2009

the things she baked (or what adele did with that five-pound bag of flour)

Finals are over.

I can't quite convey the monumental sigh of relief that should follow that statement, but it's definitely there. No more exams. No more waking up in a panic thinking that I've slept through any exams. No more dreams about forgetting to take exams. And my brain can go back to pondering what it ponders best: food and the myriad ways of preparing it.

I haven't resumed my regular cooking schedule yet - I'm still in the stage of giving my kitchen a much-needed cleaning. (The stove has been sadly neglected, and some of the forgotten items in the fridge managed to reach a rather alarming state.) But I can finally write about the baking that got me through finals with my sanity (mostly) intact.

You've already heard about the jamprint cookies. They were followed by mini-loaves of chocolate chip banana bread. Vegan chocolate chip banana bread, no less.

Banana bread isn't something I usually bake, because I usually don't have bananas on hand. However, a chance encounter with some red bananas at Haymarket the other week had left a few overripe specimens on my kitchen counter, and banana bread seemed like an appropriate solution.*

I opted for a vegan recipe because Virgin has been wrestling lately with the idea of returning to veganism, and she needed something to mitigate the misery of studying for Criminal Procedure. Banana bread is a baked good that is unusually well-suited to vegan-izing: most recipes use vegetable oil rather than butter, and mashed bananas are sticky enough that a batter will hold together without the addition of eggs. I cobbled together my own recipe after deciding that the version in Joy of Cooking looked too involved, with surprisingly good results.

A baking-powder batter in which the liquid component consists only of mashed bananas and oil bakes up into a bread that is moist without being gummy in the middle. It's denser than banana bread made with eggs, but I think it's actually better that way. And unless you tell, non-vegans will never guess that they're eating a vegan baked good.

"Vegan in the Volcano" Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Vegan dark chocolate chips don't contain milk solids. Double-check your labels.

(Makes four mini-loaves.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a big bowl, whisk together one-and-a-half cups flour, two teaspoons baking powder, one-third of a cup of sugar, a scant half-teaspoon of salt, and a quarter-teaspoon of ground nutmeg.

In another bowl, mash up one large ripe banana, or two smallish ones, enough for roughly a cup-and-a-third of mashed banana pulp. Stir in one-third of a cup of olive oil and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. It will look like way too much oil, but keep stirring, and it will incorporate into the banana.

Once the banana mixture is smooth, add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until you have a stiff batter that's almost thick enough to be dough. (If it seems on the dry side, add another teaspoon or two of oil, but don't overdo it.) Fold in half a cup of dark chocolate chips.

Glop the batter into mini-loaf pans, filling them almost all the way. Set them on a baking tray and move to the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife stuck in comes out with nothing more than melted chocolate on it.

Turn the loaves out on a wire rack to cool. Serve with coffee.

Note: For lighter (non-vegan) results, use a quarter-cup of olive oil and one well-beaten egg. If you do this, grease your tins very, very well, because they'll stick like crazy, and only fill your tins two-thirds of the way, because the mixture will rise more. (You'll probably get five mini-loaves out of this recipe, rather than four.)

*For the record, red bananas taste just like regular bananas.


Virgin In The Volcano said...

Vegan in the Volcano Bread rocks! Definitely the best vegan dessert I've ever had, and even a solid entry among the world of eggs and butter. You know, you could make a fortune off of making this for some yuppie/health/vegetarian/eco-friendly blah-blah store.

Joh said...

Fun fact: I hate bananas. Hate. But.... I love banana bread. It's the first thing I ever baked from scratch, when I was 20.
Chocolate chip banana bread sounds like joy. I'm going to try this.

adele said...

Virgin - But bananas aren't locally grown! And the practices used in farming them are appalling! What kind of socially conscious consumer are you?! :P

Joh - I can see how that makes sense. They're not all that appealing on their own.

Anali said...

Congratulations on getting through finals! Hopefully your wisdom tooth removal went well and you're feeling better. You sure had a lot to deal with lately!

The banana bread looks great. I have several bananas sitting in the kitchen that are getting bread ready. : )

adele said...

Anali - It went pretty smoothly. I'm almost feeling well enough to cook! :)

~~louise~~ said...

Kudos to you Adele! I'm so glad your finals went well and you are back on the cooking track. I'm leaving for Idaho in a couple of days (limited puter access) but I will be following you on twitter...

Red bananas...hmmm...

adele said...

Louise - I'm glad they're over, too. :)

Red bananas look interesting, but they honestly do taste about the same as the regular ones.

Cakelaw said...

Congrats on finishing your exams! Hope you enjoy a well earned rest. These mini loaves look fabulous.

adele said...

Cakelaw - Thank you!