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Mar 18, 2006 03:12 PM

Please help me make my banana bread healthy.

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I use the Cook's Illustrated banana bread recipe but want to make it healthier. Here are the ingredients; please let me know your ideas. For example, I thought of replacing the regular all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour, but don't know if it will work. I'd love to add in some oat or wheat bran as well, maybe subbing it for some of the flour?

I'm listing all the ingredients, but don't need subs for the baking soda, salt, bananas, etc. Thanks in advance!

10 oz unbleached AP flour
1 1/4 cups walnuts
3/4 cup white sugar (can I use brown sugar, molasses, or some combination?)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup plain yogurt (can I use nonfat, maybe drained to make it thicker?)
2 large eggs
6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

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  1. In their newest cookbook, The Best Light Recipe, Cook's Illustrated has lightened up this recipe themselves. They go into the usual Cook's Illustrated details about what they tried, and if you're into lightening recipes, the books has a tonne of good information.

    The ingredient list ends up:

    1 1/2 cups AP flour
    1/2 cup cake flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 ounces sugar
    3 very ripe bananas
    1/4 cup low fat yogurt
    1 tsp vanilla
    3 tbsp unsalted butter
    2 large eggs
    1/4 cup walnuts

    This drops the calories from 350 to 240 and the fat from 16g to 4.5g over their original recipe.

    1. I usually take the low-fat recipe I found on EPI and change it even more. Here is my adjusted version:

      2 large eggs
      1/2 cup sugar (white, or a mixture of white and brown)
      3 medium bananas (the riper the better!*), smashed but not too smoothly; little lumps give you gooey pockets of banana in the finished loaf
      1/3 cup buttermilk (or 1/3 cup of milk, poured over two squirts of lemon juice in a bowl, left for five minutes without stirring to get lumpy)
      1 tablespoon melted butter
      1 tablespoon vanilla extract
      1 ¾ cups all purpose flour (I sometimes substitute up to 1/2C wholewheat flour, or 1/4C ground almonds)
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      ½ teaspoon baking soda
      ½ teaspoon salt
      ground cinnamon
      1 small handful chocolate chips

      Preheat your oven to 325F or 160C. Lightly grease and flour a loaf tin.

      Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bow until thick and light; about five minutes. In a smaller bowl, mix the bananas, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Incorporate this into the sugar and eggs, then sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt on top of the mixture. Add several good shakes of ground cinnamon, and beat it all until just blended. Gently stir through the chocolate chips, and pour batter into the loaf tin.

      Bake until the top is golden brown. The recipe says a tester should come out clean, but between the chocolate and banana, there will always be something gooey in the tester! I’d give it 45 min - 1 hour. Turn the bread onto a rack and cool (in reality, I eat half before it reaches ‘cool’). Delish!

      Like most low fat recipes, this won't improve with time; it will tend to dry out due to its low fat content. So eat it preferably the day you make it.

      * if your bananas are not as ripe as you'd like, put one (still in its skin) into the preheating oven for 10-15 minutes. The skin will go black, and the inside will caramelize. Don't do this to all your bananas, or the bread becomes too sweet.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gooseberry

        Gooseberry, this recipe rocks, thank you for posting it! In an effort to make it more healthy and to attempt to make up for nutrients I'm having trouble getting into me right now (morning, heck all day and night, sickness), I healthy-ified this a bit more. Why these are something that make me feel good is beyond my understanding, but aside from a few crackers, spicy-carby ethnic food (go figure), and a multigrain bagel from a local bakery, these are one of the few things I can stomach.

        I used 1/4 c of blackstrap molasses(iron, calcium) and 1/4c of brown sugar for the 1/2 sugar
        For the 1 3/4 c flour, I mixed in: 1/4c freshly ground flax seed meal(Omegas, fiber), 1/2 spelt flour, 1c white whole wheat (next time i might go 1/2 and 1/2 on regular whole wheat and the w.w.w.).
        Also added some cardamom to the cinnamon, but I don't think it's discernable.

        These are moist and really flavorful. They remind me of this muffin that I have adored for years, which I can only get at the Boulder Bakery in Boulder, CO. There, they call it the Peak to Peak muffin and, seriously, it can get you through a tough 2hr trail run at altitude! It's way bigger, definitely is made with canola oil (and no eggs or buttermilk, it's vegan) but it's got the same dark deep taste.

        Anyway, thanks for this recipe!! It's terrific!

      2. You could sub all the flour for whole-wheat pastry flour...I've done it in many recipes and it will be just fine.
        As the eggs here are acting as a binder and not a leavener, you can substitute "egg substitute" or egg whites (just use the conversion on the side of the package).
        You could substitute 2 Tbs. of butter for 2 Tbs. canola oil. You'd still have the butter flavor, but would get a more heart-healthy serving of fat from the canola.
        I've heard that some people have consistency problems when subsituting sugar and honey/molasses, but I might try subbing out 1/4 cup or so.
        Hope this helps...

        1. I made banana bread while baking for a restaurant.
          It was really delicious. I used unbleached white flour. Don't use just WW - too dense. I used brown sugar. Brown sugar is really no healthier than white though. They just add a bit of molasses to white sugar to turn it brown. But it does make for a better flavor. Replace the yolks in the two eggs with the white of a third to make the same volume and cut cholesterol quite a bit. Substitute canola oil for the butter. I think canola oil is suposed to be the healthiest. (I used Wesson oil in mine, way back when). You could certainly drain your yogurt and use non-fat, but measure the yogurt after draining, rather than before. Over-ripe bananas do make the best cake.

          1. Here's something to consider...a recipe that uses buttermilk instead of oil (mostly) for moisture in addition to the 2 or 3 very ripe bananas...this recipe below has very little fat...and yours uses 6 Tablespoons of butter; I've baked this bread oh, maybe 3 times now, and it's always delicious. Now, I have not tried this recipe using any whole wheat flour but I'll bet you that if you use 1/2 unbleached and 1/2 whole wheat, you'll get a great product. And, read the reviews; it is very well-received!