20 May, 2011

No Nuts Banana Bread, Gluten-free

Yesterday happened to be a Sunday, a day that in my grandmother's lifetime was traditionally marked by an after-church "lunch" of pie, cake or other sweets.  The Baptist church proscribed work on that day and I think that was stretched to include housework, including cooking. We kids were okay with that. Sunday was the one day that the most you would have to do was wash a few dishes, or maybe get water and a fire going. The catch was that Saturday was baking day, a day sweating in the kitchen to turn out the family’s weekly supply of pies, cakes, sweet bread or doughnuts, all made from scratch and baked in a wood stove.

Many of those confections were ambitious -- like chocolate pies piled with whipped cream, strawberry-rhubarb two-crusters dripping juice, or lemon with sky-high meringues -- but occasionally there would be something simple like banana bread, lush with butter and usually served with a cup of tea for the grown-ups or fresh milk for the kids.

In the Gluten-free world sometimes something simple is anything but. Those of us who have continued to bake and try to produce the delicious things we remember often find that the things we once knew how to do with our hands tied behind our backs are seldom that easy now. It's usually the texture that disappoints as GF baked goodies tend toward crumbly, collapsing, or just plain disagreeably mealy. But I, and maybe you, have been getting a lot of help from people in the blogging community that have taken up the cause and experimenting and generously posted what they have learned so the rest of us can become better bakers.

I've found help from Shauna and The Chef at Gluten-free Girl. Their recipe for a Gluten free all-purpose flour is a gift to us all. One flour that takes the place of regular all-purpose flour means that you can mix up a big batch and not have to stop and mix flours each time you want to bake. Baking this way is almost as easy as what we we used to, and means you can save money on the pricy ready-made mixes and maybe bake more often, too. They are now experimenting with whole grain flour and no-gum recipes, too -- so much inspiration and creativity always on offer over there.

Karina at Gluten Free Goddess alerted me to the value of buckwheat flour, and because she has a number of allergies, showed me how creative thinking can make delicious silk purses out of sow's ears ingredients.She has a lot of great recipes and I highly recommend her Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I credit the late great Betty Hagman for getting us all started on the path to better GF baking. Her experiments in the kitchen made us see the wisdom of combining flours with different properties and I still use her book The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread as the basis for some great baking. Like all of us now, I tweak and change to try new ideas or personalize for me and my family.

For this recipe I began with the Favourite Banana Bread, added some spices just because I like them, and changed the flour mixture to use what I had on hand. We didn't have nuts so I left them out and added some ground flax for texture. This makes it great for you if you have allergies. It turned out close enough to the original to please us more than a little. Even if you can have gluten, I don't think you'll be kicking it out of bed for eating crackers. And even if that doesn't make a lick of sense, I think you know what I mean. Try it.

GF flour mixture (enough for this bread and something else.)

Combine :

1 and 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 and 1/2 cups millet flour
1 cup potato flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed (easily done in a food processor)

No Nuts Banana Bread

In a medium to large bowl mash 3 large ripe bananas with a fork


1/4 cup melted margarine (I use original Earth Balance)
2 large eggs, well-beaten
1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 Tb water
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup packed brown sugar

Mix together in a medium-sized bowl:

2 cups flour (mixture)
pinch of cloves
1/2 tsp ( or to taste) ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp ground cinnamon

Add the dry ingredients to the liquid mixture and stir with a fork just until they are combined. Pour or spoon into a prepared loaf pan ( I used a 9 x 5 ) which has been oiled and floured with a bit of the mixture. Bake at 350 F/190 C degrees for about 45 minutes or until brown and it tests dry in the middle.

Note:  While this bread is better the next day, it goes stale quickly after that. I recommend slicing and freezing it for longer keeping.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora VJ,
Hope you are well, and I was glad after a wee break to find your familar place still here. Interesting now that both my father and mother in law have been diagnosed as gluten intolerant we were talking about baking and cooking the other day.
I am undertaking to learn baking bread in my camp oven, so that I can try to produce some over a wood fire in the mountains. Wish me luck:) Kia kaha e hoa.

vegetablej said...

Hi Robb:

I do wish you luck with baking bread in a camp oven -- quite a challenge as it's usually tough to control the temperature. If it were me I might try GF drop biscuits, or flatbreads cooked in a cast iron frying pan.

I've been having a lot of trouble with allergies lately so am off yeast. Yesterday I tried making simple flatbreads in the frying pan. I mixed about a cup or so of brown rice flour with a pinch of salt and water to make a softish dough that would hold together but be moist enough to pat out with fingers into a thin round (Take a look at the chapati recipe for technique.) I fried/cooked it in a bit of vegetable oil on both sides until done, shaking a bit of salt and pepper on both sides. It was rather nice, a bit like a savoury rice cracker only softer and could be used to hold peanut butter or jam (hold the black pepper),or sidle up to scrmabled eggs or a nice curry. The main advantage is that it is quick and you can have fresh bread in a matter of minutes.

Anyway, have a great time camping and cooking!


A handful and a pinch said...

I'm enjoying your blog - I'm a Cape Breton foodie with lots of food intolerences. Just a note - you don't need Xanthan or guar gums in baking (e.g.:cakes and cookies) THe less ingredients the better.

"A Gluten Free Day" blog http://glutenfreeday.com/?p=85 has the best flat bread going, providing you can tolerate psyllium. We make it with brown rice flour almost daily!

vegetablej said...

Hi A handful and a pinch:

Thanks for your comment. I originally thought that it was only dairy and wheat (and being a vegetarian) that restricted my diet but recently I've got the eczema back that was clear for 4 years so I've been tring to sleuth out the cause. I'm hoping it's seasonal but have been researching the histamine intolerance diet -- a big challenge.

I took a look at A Gluten Free Day, which is a beautiful blog, and the recpe you mentioned. Except for the psyllium, it's the same as the one I described to Robb in my previous comment. I'll try the psyllium as soon as I can get a hold of some. Flax seed seems to work the same way, I think.

Flat breads and yeast breads obviously don't need guar/xanthan/kantan to improve the texture and you can get away without them, I'm sure, but they do keep sweet breads and muffins from crumbling so much and they don't seem to bother me, so I sometimes use them. I guess when it comes to inventing and adapting new recipes for intolerant diets, we all follow our own "star", but it's mighty nice to get hints and suggestions along the way.