When life hands you a bushel of bananas...

I lied to you, you mysterious internet peruse-ers out there. I told you back in the days of Passover 2010 that I would update within the following week with my delicious, innovative Strawberry Mango Crisp dessert. And then, as things tend to go at school, my mind strayed to less interesting yet clearly more pertinent to my eventual graduation things, and now here we are, still twiddling our thumbs until my recipe decides to show its sorry face.
I'm not posting it tonight, either.

You see, I did this 5k Walk for Hunger over the weekend, and halfway through they handed us all big bushels of bananas - seriously, seven bananas per person. I'm not sure why, since none of us were hungry in the serious or long-term sense of the word, nor could any of us eat a whopping seven bananas over the course of the roughly 1.5 remaining miles. Maybe they didn't think the 5k was challenging enough, and so they added several pounds of banana weights to our loads. Regardless, I came home 7 bananas richer than I left, and by the next day, they were all a beautiful brown, begging for banana bread. Two loaves worth, in fact.

I have this killer recipe that everyone who tastes falls in love with. It's nothing more than a simple Food Network steal, but it turns out perfectly every time, so who's to argue? Still, there was this other recipe that has been calling to me, intriguing me, for months, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it up against the tried and true recipe. I bookmark thousands of recipes (you think I'm exaggerating), yet I am constantly thinking about this one saved recipe: naturally sweetened banana bread - whole wheat flour, applesauce instead of butter, bringing the sugar of the bananas out in place of any added sweeteners. Curious, aren't you?

How curious do you become when I tell you that it rose beautifully, baked perfectly, and made me a very proud baker when I pulled it out of the oven?

Maybe you don't share my enthusiasm, but if that's the case, I will now tell you that upon tasting it, my enthusiasm dwindled. Severely. And then my family tried it - and deflated my ego down into negative values. Rubbery. Bland. Dry. My grandmother pointed to the piece on her plate with just one bite taken from it, and told me the rest was going in the trash.

I didn't think it was that bad. The banana flavor definitely did not come through, and I can't figure out why. Does applesauce cancel out banana flavors? Does added sugar enhance it? Anyone? Help!?

I haven't given up on it, though. We all agreed that a combination of the two recipes might be in order - an experiment that I will tackle over the summer, perhaps. You see, "my" original recipe is pretty perfect, but the temptation to slim it down a little bit (I know, I know, some things need to be full-fat and beautiful as the world intended them to be) is too much to bear. I am all for high calorie, decadent chocolate cakes, but banana bread with its masquerade as breakfast food? It could use a few fewer slabs of butter and heaps of sugar. It is pretty darn sweet, after all, and I think a slight modification in that department might not hurt, at the very least.

Anyway, I would appreciate any input any of you ghost readers out there may have. Have you experienced this before? Do you have a favorite banana bread recipe?

While you ponder these thought-provoking questions, I leave you with the recipes:

Banana (Walnut) Bread, courtesy of foodnetwork.com
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (Note: I have successfully swapped in all whole-wheat flour several times)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt (of course, omitted, thanks to mama's salted butter)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 C sugar
3 very ripe bananas (the ones I had were enormous, so I just used two)
1/2 C toasted walnut pieces (I wish I could bake it with these, but no one in my family will eat nuts in their food, so I have always made it without).


Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup with a spout, set aside. Lightly brush a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter while mixing until incorporated. Add the bananas (the mixture will appear to be curdled, so don't worry), and remove the bowl from the mixer.

With a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn the bread out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack. Wrap in plastic wrap. The banana bread is best if served the next day.

Naturally Sweetened Banana Bread


3 Mashed Bananas

1/3 C vegetable oil, butter, or applesauce

2 eggs

2 C flour (whatever you desire - I didn't have whole wheat on hand so I used all purpose)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 C chopped nuts (again, omitted)

Pinch of Salt (omitted)


Mash bananas in a bowl. Add oil (or butter) and eggs and mix until creamy. Mix in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the nuts.

Oil a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Pour mixture into pan. Bake at 325°F for 45 minutes to an hour. To check if it’s done, insert a knife or toothpick in center and if it comes out clean, it’s cooked.

Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice.

Overall, I'm happy I had the opportunity to do this experiment, but disappointed with the results. I will never continue to serve a lackluster dessert just because it's a healthier version - it's dessert for a reason - but I always hope to get the best of both worlds. I'm not done working with these two recipes, though.

As for that Mango Strawberry Crisp, I'm sure it will grace these pages eventually...and until my withholding a recipe induces a cyber riot, I feel comfortable keeping it in the archives. For a rainy day. Or boredom.

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