Sunday, May 30, 2010

grain-free banana almond butter bread

Taking a departure from my usual Sunday morning whole-grain muffin baking, today I felt the urge to try a grain-free, refined-sugar-free, nut-butter-based quick bread. Hmm, no flour, no sugar. Sounds like fun, eh? Stay with me, the results are actually delicious!

Plugging "almond butter bread" into google, I came upon a basic recipe on the blog Grain-Free Foodies. Their bread is based on almond butter, eggs, and honey, with baking soda (activated with vinegar or lemon juice) for leavening. Intrigued, and also somewhat skeptical -- I've never tried baking without some sort of grain product, since even our gluten-free classes in culinary school involved corn flour, oat flour, rolled oats, or the like -- I decided to give it a try.

I made a number of changes to the original recipe: used a couple of mashed ripe bananas in place of the honey (I'm a banana bread fanatic), reduced the number of eggs from 3 to 2, added a couple of tablespoons of freshly ground flax seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, and shards of dark chocolate (roughly chopped from a bar of Endangered Species 72% dark I had in the cupboard). A light sprinkling of date sugar gives a little extra sweetness and crunch on top (date sugar is simply dried dates that are finely ground into a powder. It's a great unrefined sweetener for baking.)

And I was astonished with the results -- the loaf rose beautifully in the oven, emerging tall and golden brown, slid easily out of the pan after cooling for about 15 minutes, and held together perfectly when sliced. The flavor is very banana-y and subtly sweet, with nice hints of complex bitterness from the dark chocolate shards. It has a moist, tender, and light texture and a fine crumb. I've got to admit, I don't exactly understand how this came out so well without any flour. But I'm going with it.

The chocolate is the only source of refined sugar in this recipe; since we're using a small amount of a high-cacao dark chocolate, I don't consider it a big deal. But feel free to leave it out if you prefer -- an equal amount of chopped walnuts, pecans, or unsweeteened coconut flakes would be good in its place.

grain-free banana almond butter bread
Adapted from Grain-Free Foodies

butter or oil for greasing loaf pan
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
1 cup unsalted almond butter (I used chunky)
2 Tbsp freshly ground flax seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of fine grained sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/3 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp date sugar (to sprinkle on top)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine bananas, eggs, almond butter, flax seeds, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Blend for a few minutes (I used my electric mixer) until mixture is smooth. 
  3. Add baking soda and vinegar and mix for about 15 seconds more. Stir in chocolate pieces.
  4. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan, and sprinkle date sugar evenly over top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing.