Nutty Banana Bread (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free and still delicious)
I have never been one for special diets. As someone with Crohn’s disease, my whole entire life I have had dietary restrictions of some kind. But I do know that taking the processed grains and sugars out of the equation are a good idea. I mean, why eat crap right? It’s not your usual banana bread; it’s almost like a bread pudding, soft and light. I kept things just sweet enough and with super dark chocolate chips, there’s some bitterness to balance things out. It feels just the right amount of indulgent and healthy. Definitely try toasting a slice in the oven, top it with jam or nut butter and a sprinkle of chopped nuts.
I remember never really liking banana bread. It was either cloyingly sweet or like eating paste with chocolate chips. I did not start out wanting to make banana bread, but bananas are a great substitute for butter. They are high in fiber, potassium and have a rich mouth feel. Bananas go great with nut butter (I prefer peanut butter) and the nut butter provides the fat that you need (yes, fat! It’s your friend!) to get that richness.
Vegan eggs are tricky. I have tried so many different options, but the most reliable and simplest is the flax egg. Just flax meal and water. Added bonus is flax has Omega 3’s and additional fiber.
Oh sugar. Sugar is the tricky thing. As someone who likes to bake simple classics with a twist, the easiest thing to use is cane sugar (never use that unnamed white sugar in a yellow box). Maple syrup is nature’s magic. I have what might border on an obsession with maple syrup. I mean is there any better smell when it bakes? It can be expensive, but it is worth it. You want to make sure that you are buying real maple syrup, not maple flavored syrup (sorry Log Cabin)
Bulk Up (the banana bread)
While bananas and maple syrup make for great banana bread, they are also very wet ingredients and you need to compensate for that moisture. This is where our friend flour comes in. I used almond flour for this recipe. It is not the driest flour, I just like the pudding-like texture it gives to baked goods. You can certainly use a good gluten-free flour blend or oat flour.
Enough talk, here’s the recipe:
Preheat the oven to 350F
2 large (around 5-6inches long), super ripe bananas. Like black peels.
1/3 cup peanut butter (get one that isn’t sweetened)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract*
1/2 tsp flaky salt
1 1/2 cups almond flour (or 1 cup gluten free flour)
3 tbsps powdered nut butter (I used Barney Butter powdered almond butter)
2 tbsps flax meal
5-6 tbsps water
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (Pascha chips are allergen free and yummy)
Make the flax egg: in a small bowl (I use a cereal bowl) combine the 2 tbsps of flax meal with the 6 tbsps of water. Use a fork or small whisk to mix it together to get all the lumps out. Set it aside and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Get out a large mixing bowl, take the peels off those bananas and put them in the bowl. Cover with a paper towel or cling film and microwave for 1 minute. Hot bananas mash a bit easier. Using a whisk, get some frustration out and mash the bananas until mostly mashed but still with small chunks.
Add the peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt to the mashed bananas. Whisk it until it is all combined. Now it is time for the flax eggs. Add the flax, water mixture to the banana-peanut butter mix and whisk until the flax is fully incorporated.
Once all combined, add the almond flour and powdered nut butter, using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, banana mix. Once the dry ingredients are mostly mixed in, add the chocolate chips, holding back a handful to sprinkle on top. Continue folding in the chips until it looks like all the flour is mixed in (there can be dry spots on the bottom of the bowl).
Grease a loaf pan (mine is 8x4x2.5 inches) or you can line it with tin foil, pour the batter in and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips across the top.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating the bread halfway through. It will be pretty dark when it comes out of the oven, but I like a crunchy exterior and the inside will be soft.
Let cool for 1 hour before slicing. After an hour of drooling, slice and enjoy!
* Most vanilla extracts are made with alcohol, which is primarily grain-based. Gluten-free vanilla extract can be made at home with tequila and a vanilla bean. A good recipe is here, just swap tequila for vodka.