Happy Summer, Elevenses readers! True to form, I’m writing this post all the way from my home town here in Long Island, New York. These past few months have brought more family-related travel my way than I could have ever anticipated. As Elevenses was born out of the idea that a food blog could help keep a family together as they geographically scattered this way and that, I’ve chosen to share a recipe that makes me feel closer to the kids regardless of the miles that separate us. But first, some parental reflecting….
As I was unpacking some boxes this morning (or moving boxes from one room to another, which my mom generously considers unpacking, bless her heart, but I’m not so sure…), it struck me how, for an aging family, travel tends to occur less and less frequently with us all together. This may seem like a simple thought, but it’s affecting me in the most profound way this morning. While here, I’ve been bombarded with images of family trips; boxes upon boxes of pictures of the kids, Lewis and myself in the early days on our journeys together in Colorado, Canada, back home to NY, etc.
We were always a tight little unit, with the occasional additions of grandparents, uncles and cousins sprinkled in for good measure. Our little clan, however, was always intact. All of a sudden, even though I keep in touch with the adult kids throughout the day thanks to the magic of texting, I’m suddenly feeling as if my right arm is missing. My family has once again morphed into yet another version of itself.
So in being “back home” (how long can I refer to this place that now looks nothing like the home I left decades ago, I’m not quite sure) and helping my parents create a new life in a downsized space, my mothering instincts have kicked into high gear. Don’t let them unpack for too many hours. Get the boxes and all signs of transition out of sight as soon as humanly possible. Keep them well nourished and hydrated, after all, culinaria is my jam… And don’t forget about their food sensitivities.
“So, Mom, what’s the very first thing we should the bake in your new kitchen? Anything at all! I can make anything you want gluten free, just name it!”
Without hesitation, the answer came: “Banana Bread.”
Banana bread? Really? Not something more challenging or… trendy? Of course not, Mama Bear (this is my nickname, but the story of how this came about is for another post!). It took me a few minutes to understand. This request is about fulfilling a craving for something simple, familiar, and comforting. It’s what my mom made for me, many years ago and just a few miles away, when I needed to feel comfort and happiness. It’s also one of the first recipes I made with little Jacqui and Hunter; the mini project they helped me with, standing on kitchen chairs so they could reach the counter and break eggs into the cavernous glass bowl. It’s what they still request of me now when I ask what they are craving. It’s a craving for home.
I get it, Mom. This post is for you.
This recipe is a loose adaptation of a simple recipe from Stephanie Jaworski’s delightful website, joyofbaking.com. I’ve turned to her site many times over the years for inspiration and have never been disappointed with her offerings. In true Elevenses style, we’ve adapted a basic recipe by replacing wheat flour with a gluten free blend, replaced the butter with coconut oil, slightly adjusted the wet ingredients to compensate for the increased rate of liquid absorption of gf flours, and added a few goodies to pay homage to the turtle candy bar. Go hard or go home, right? At any rate, please use the baking time as a guideline, as humidity and various home kitchen ovens can wreak havoc on prescribed cooking times. For those of you with dairy allergies please feel free to replace the toffee and chocolate chip add-ins with those of your own choosing (enjoy life makes great dairy free options), or leave them out altogether. The bread will still be wonderful.
To ensure proper baking; use a toothpick to test for doneness (the pick should emerge from the bread clean), bread should be firm to the touch, lightly brown around the edges of the pan, and if still in doubt grab your trusty digital thermometer and temp your bread to anywhere between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. For those of you who are interested in learning more about temping your quick breads, here’s a great link to a discussion thread on that subject.
PS- You’ll notice I have a kitchen scale in the equipment list. Please consider using one if you don’t already, as measuring your dry ingredients by weight instead of volume yields the most accurate results. The hidden bonus to measuring this way is that weighing your dry ingredients is incredibly quick and easy. All you need to keep in mind is that different flours actually have different weights, so adjust your target weights accordingly. “How will I know how to do that,” you ask? Here’s a handy chart to help clear up the mystery; I use it all the time and it makes measuring a breeze.
Equipment: large loaf pan (9×5 or 8 x 4), kitchen scale, hand mixer if desired
Turtle Banana Bread Recipe
- 1 cup (115 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) gluten free all purpose flour mix (King Arthur works beautifully here)
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar or sweetener of choice
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 large eggs,room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 4 ripe bananas (approximately), mashed well
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup toffee chips
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons coarse turbinado sugar (I use Sugar in the Raw)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position.
- Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. (For added insurance, I place a piece of parchment in the bottom of the pan for easy unmoulding, but it’s only optional) Set aside.
- Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 4 to 8 minutes, until they are lightly brown and smell wonderfully toasty. Let cool and then chop coarsely.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and nuts. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted coconut oil, and vanilla with a large wire whisk or hand mixer.
- Switching to a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, begin combining the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients.
- Once the flour is almost incorporated, add your toffee and chocolate chips. (Please don’t over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth, just give it one or two turns of your spoon after you can no longer see any ribbons of flour. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread, an absolute travesty.)
- Scrape batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top of the batter gently with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. And into the oven she goes!
- Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes or until bread reads 195 to 205 on a digital read thermometer.
- Unmold after ten minutes, and place on a wire rack to cool. If you can. We always tear into it after 20 minutes or so, but perhaps you will have more reserve. This bread can be frozen.