Adapted from Joy of Cooking
When Jan had her gall bladder removed while we were in China (a long and scary story), one of the results was that she was not able to digest fat normally. Too much fat in a meal would leave her feeling sick for the rest of the day or give her a very bad night. It has gotten better over the last 25 years, but I still cook with much less fat or oil than the normal American diet.
Over time I developed recipes that allowed me to reduce the amount of oil in many dishes. However, in some recipes the shortening is not the only sourced of oil. Nuts also contain a fair amount and, for Jan, this could be the bit that pushed her over the edge.
Jan really loves banana bread and when our bananas get to that state of over ripeness where no one will eat them it is time to mix up a batch. The questions remained: How do you make banana bread without oil or nuts?
My solution to the first question was to replace the oil with egg whites to act as the binder. For many recipes that call for using oil as a binder, you may replace ¼ cup of oil with 2 egg whites. To make the recipe work you may have to bake the bread a bit longer.
For the second question, I use fat free Grape Nuts in place of the pecans. The trick here is to remember to add the Grape Nuts at just the last minute before baking. If you add the Grape Nusts too early they soak up all of the moisture and get soggy.
I spend much of my cooking time adapting my recipes to other peoples’ food biases, preferences, or dietary restrictions. My friend Tom is on an extremely low salt diet for his blood pressure. When I make this bread, when I know that he is going to eat it, I also leave out the salt.
While salt does plays some chemical role in yeasted breads, by increasing gluten formation by slowing the growth of the yeast. In quick breads, salt is used mainly for the taste. Salt activates your taste buds, so that you taste what is there more fully.
Note: I have included the higher fat alternatives in parenthesis (), for those not needing to reduce their fat intake quite so drastically.
Note: I have always made this bread with dried apricots. but when I got to the fruit, I realized that I had forgotten that was out. I did have some candied ginger and I thought that it would be a good substitute. It worked extremely well with the bananas.
Karl’s Fat Free Banana Bread (and a higher fat option)
1¾ cups flour, all purpose
2¼ tsp. baking power
½ tsp. salt (optional)
4-5 over ripe bananas
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 egg whites (or ¼ cup oil or melted butter, for the high fat version)
1-2 whole eggs
½ cup dried apricots, diced fine (or candied ginger)
¾ cup Grape Nuts (or ½ cup chopped pecans)
1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
Tip: For a salt free version, leave out the salt.
2. Use a fork (or potato masher) to mash the bananas in a large bowl.
3. Stir in the sugar and zest.
4. Add the egg whites and whole eggs and mix well.
Tip: For the higher fat version replace the eggs white with ¼ cup of neutral oil, like canola.
5. Stir in half of the flour at a time and mix just until there is no white showing.
Tip: For a quick bread, you do not want to overwork the dough, because it will make the loaf tough. This is the opposite of yeasted bread, where you are trying to develop the gluten to give it its structure.
6. Preheat oven to 350° F.
7. Fold in the apricots and Grape Nuts until just blended in.
Tip: You can enhance the “nutty” flavor of the Grape Nuts by first toasting them for 4-5 minutes over a medium heat and then letting them cool before adding them to the mix.
8. Divide your batter into 3-4 small loaf pans (3” x 5½” x 2”) and bake for 1 hour until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Tip: You may also use a cupcake pan or mini-cupcake pan. If you use either of these you may have to reduce the cooking time slightly.
Tip: If you are using the fat free recipe, do not use a large loaf pan (4½” x 8½” x 2½”). The egg whites bind more slowly than the oil and the loaf will not cook through before the top starts to burn. If you only have large loaf pans, fill them only 1/3 full.
9. When you bread is done, remove them from the baking pans and cool on a wire rack.