Hands down, the thing I miss most about being able to eat wheat is bread. Glorious, yeasty, doughy, sour, salty, flaky, crunchy, crusty outside, soft inside, however-you-slice-it bread. I was a bread junkie. There were a few years around 5th grade where I would only eat triple-decker raisin-bread-and-butter sandwiches. When I visited my dad, wherever he was stationed with the Air Force, I begged to go to Olive Garden just for the breadsticks. On half days in high school, my girlfriends and I would go down to Bertucci’s in Lexington Center and buy a bag of two dozen rolls and butter for a few bucks and that was lunch on The Depot.
But I’m a cook, not a baker, and the only real way to get bread that by any definition resembles real bread is to bake it yourself — unless you want to, seriously, spend $10+ per loaf on professionally baked and extremely perishable gluten-free bread from a specialty bakery or farmer’s market. Real bread of all kinds has become the ultimate luxury for me. I envy the people who are gluten-free by choice but can go back to eating real bread any time. No, wait, I actually hate your guts. Literally, because they can process gluten.
Which is why I was so psyched when I figured out that I could make banana bread just like my mommas, but sans both the wheat flour and ALL THAT SUGAR that makes it more like a cake than a viable breakfast option, without needing to really know how to bake. The best part? You can use up those “bad” bananas from your pantry normally destined for the compost and make them into a week’s worth of breakfasts, all for less than a few bucks per loaf. This “bread” has become my secret weapon for travel, too, ensuring that I can always find something filling even in a glutarded food desert like an airport or a stretch of Texas highway populated only by fast food joints and gas station convenience stores. (Try asking someone at Whataburger if their fries are gluten-free and see what reaction you get. I dare you.)
I’ve done enough cooking/baking substitutions and hacks over the last 3 years since finding out I was highly gluten intolerant to know how wonderful coconut flour and beet sugar can be, not only adding fiber and lowering highly processed ingredients but adding MUCH-needed moisture — any glutard knows that one of the worst things about packaged wheat-free baked goods is that they’re about as moist as cardboard. I also splurge a bit on organic, non-GMO ingredients because I’ve always felt I’d rather pay the grocer than pay the doctor.
So, by playing around with this classic Martha Stewart banana bread recipe and switching up the ratio of gluten-free flours and other ingredients, testing it about a half dozen times since the beginning of summer, I’m now pretty convinced this is the perfect gluten-free banana bread. And you can mix up the batter in less than the time it takes you to preheat the oven!
If you really want to make it decadent, try serving it with some Texas wildflower honey and cinnamon infused compound butter, as I did at a fall brunch the weekend our friends got married, but I think it’s delicious (and a bit more nutritious) all on its own. Are you dairy free? Just use organic Earth Balance spread as a substitute for butter and applesauce for Greek yogurt — I do that for my sister and mom, who are both lactose intolerant, and it turns out just as well.
PERFECT GLUTEN-FREE BANANA BREAD
Adapted from Martha Stewart
- 1 stick butter or Earth Balance organic spread, softened (reserve wrapper)
- 1 cup beet sugar (or unrefined, raw cane sugar)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 mashed overripe bananas
- 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard glass or metal loaf pan using the remaining butter/spread left on the wrapper; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: the three types of flour (all-purpose gluten-free, coconut, and brown rice), baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the beet sugar and softened butter; cream to combine (on a level 1 or 2 setting). Add eggs and vanilla and incorporate. Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the stand mixer 1/3 at a time and mix until just combined; repeat until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add overripe bananas and Greek yogurt and mix to combine. The batter consistency should be like a light, fluffy smoothie. Pour your batter into your greased loaf pan and stick it in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick or butter knife in the center of the loaf at that point and continuing to bake for an extra 5 minutes at a time until done, depending on your stove.
Once completely baked, immediately turn out onto a cutting board and flip over to cool, which should keep your gluten-free loaf from the dreaded “sunken center” issue so common with gluten-free baked goods.
If you want to save even more money and energy while your loaf is baking, I highly recommend sticking some baking potatoes in there at the same time. My favorite way to bake potatoes at this temperature is to slather each one in a bit of olive oil and sea salt and wrap each one in tin foil. You can then use them for a baked potato bar for a quick weeknight dinner, or slice them (skin on!) and fry them in butter or olive oil in a cast iron pan for 5 minutes each side — my momma’s home fries & my favorite potato treat — served with bacon-wrapped egg cups for brunch. Maybe along with your banana bread for a real Sunday Funday.
Original Recipe: Copyright 2012, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Adapted Recipe & Photos: Copyright 2014, Shoestring LLC & Melissa Massello.