Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PB&J Banana Bread

I'll be honest: there was a moment, as I slid the loaf pan into the oven, when I thought: This is going to be heavy and dry. And possibly inedible. I should really have tried the original recipe first, or at least gone with a more familiar substitution like apple sauce.

I was very relieved to discover how wrong I was!

Welcome back to Lent, when my baking experiments get a little weird. Once I again, I set aside consumption of various things I normally love, including sugar and (at least most of the time) butter, cheese and eggs.

I was trying to explain the reasoning behind this to a friend a few weeks ago, and it didn't go very well—partly because my friend was feeling silly while I was trying to answer seriously, and partly because my usual words were not quite resonating for me. And then, on the first Sunday in Lent, I heard another friend, Rev. Meaghan Kelly of New Church, preach on the subject of giving up coffee—not for Lent, just in general. To paraphrase, she said something like, I realized I needed a cup of coffee to feel like the world is a good place. And if I'm depending on a beverage to feel like the world is a good place, I probably need to stop drinking coffee for awhile. [She may not have said "for awhile." My brain can't fathom the alternative, though, so I'm going to pretend she did.]

And I guess that's what I do when I set aside (I prefer that phrase, rather than "give up") consuming coffee, tea, alcohol, sugar, television, fiction literature ... all things I enjoy and consider to be evidence that the world is a good place. I need to stop escaping and start reconnecting with friends, family and God.

Which probably makes recipes like this one a little beside the point. Because I definitely would have a harder time considering the world a good place if I couldn't have peanut butter. But, six and a half weeks is just a really long time to go without the occasional sensory pleasure. And the flavor and belly-filling heartiness of peanut butter come through really nicely in this modified recipe based on Rebecca Reilly's Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

A couple of notes: I buy my natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt, only) and fruit-sweetened fruit spread (which I call "jelly") at Trader Joe's, but you can find them in a lot of stores. This bread is not at all sweet, but does have nice, subtle flavors that hint mostly at peanuts and banana. I used strawberry fruit spread, but couldn't really taste it in the bread, so any flavor should be fine.

I was really pleased with how fluffy and nicely-browned this turned out!
The concentrated fruit-sugar in the jelly must have been enough to get some nice browning going.

PB&J Banana Bread

1 c. brown rice flour
2/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. sweet rice flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/2 c. natural peanut butter
1/2 c. fruit-sweetened fruit spread
2 ripe bananas, peeled

Preheat over to 350°F. Line a 9"x5" loaf pan with parchment paper.

Combine all dry ingredients (brown rice flour through salt) in a bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to homogenize a little.

Place peanut butter, fruit spread and peeled bananas in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on low, then speed up to medium for a couple of minutes, until bananas have incorporated completely and mixture is starting to lighten. Turn off mixer.

Add dry ingredients, then turn mixer on low speed and mix until just completely incorporated.

Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter into the pan. It will be very stiff and seem a little sticky and dry. This is okay, as it turns out!

Bake 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the pan, and cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Makes about 10 generous slices.

Delicious with a glass of milk, or some herbal tea! [Herbal tea is not made from tea leaves, so I do drink it during Lent. Trader Joe's Ruby Red Chai with milk was a perfect accompaniment, this morning.]