My Banana Bread Experiment
The best banana bread in Melbourne (in MY opinion) is sold at Woven in Yarraville. They also do a mad double chocolate milkshake. I could cry just thinking about it... So good. But I'll do a round up of the best milkshakes in Melbourne another day. Today is all about BANANA BREAD. With a big emphasis on the 'bread'.
Since consuming the Woven banana bread, I have been obsessed with trying to replicate it. Like a real health goddess, I used to eat banana bread every single day when I worked in a scripted drama department. It goes very well with coffee. When I returned to Woven about a year after moving jobs, I could not believe that it used to form a staple part of my diet. The bread is super oily (paper bag goes transparent) and the daily consumption probably didn't do wonders for my health nor my skin. But like I said, it really is the best. It has this perfect bread/toast consistency, which I've never found elsewhere.
Unfortunately most of the internet is determined to create the lightest, airiest, moistest banana bread around. Pretty much banana cake if you ask me. So what I have done is researched the properties of different ingredients and the effects of different processes to understand how to bake (replicate) the bread of my dreams. Did you know how important salt was? I didn't realise and my blog is called grain of sea salt! But this is why I am here. Do not worry, all will be revealed.
After years of banana bread baking (always delicious, never quite like Woven), I finally got in contact with the baker extraordinaire herself - the woman behind the ultimate banana bread, Little Miss Butter. Of course, I asked for the recipe. And of course, as a boutique baker, whose recipes are the bread and butter (hehe) of her business, she said no. BUT she did tell me 2 key things, which have (maybe) changed the banana bread making game forever:
1. She uses 7 ingredients
2. It's not about the ingredients but the process
My fears had come true. The secret recipe, it seems, is not a mix-in-one-bowl deal. It requires many steps and precision - basically all the things I dislike about baking. Fears aside, I have revised my recipe to incorporate Little Miss Butter's two tips.
1. Bread flour - This is more glutenous than all purpose flour. Gluten makes products tough which I'm hoping will produce a more Woven-esque bread. It also has leavening so the bread will rise.
2. Sour cream/Milk/Yoghurt/Buttermilk. There are more dairy and non-dairy liquid variations but I couldn't bake them all! Each dairy product brings a different level of acidity and fat to the batter - I just don't know which would produce the perfect bread.
4. Melted butter - I ummed and ahhd on this. Oil or butter oil or butter. But her name is Little Miss Butter so surely that's not a misnomer. Rather than cream solid butter (and risk a cake-y consistency), I opted for a liquid fat.
5. Bananas - I originally - foolishly! - thought it unlikely that a banana bread supplier would take the time to pre-bake the bananas. But then I discovered this bio on Little Miss Butter's page: "I am an at home boutique baker of buttery goodness... I sell my deliciousness to local cafes and busy mums who need a treat for their children's parties." Boutique baker. Probably toasts her sugar too. Ughhhh.
I baked the bananas in the oven at 180 degrees for twenty-ish minutes.
6. Toasted white sugar - Sugar tenderises by preventing gluten from forming. Brown sugar is especially good at this so we will use white sugar. I want gluten! I think. And I toasted* it because that seems like an extravagant thing that a boutique baker might do.
"Unlike switching to brown sugar or turbinado, using toasted sugar won't change the underlying chemistry of the batter. That means no weird surprises when it comes to rise or browning; just a simple boost in flavor to the loaf you already love."
To toast, I poured the sugar on a lined baking tray and put it in the oven at 180 degrees. I think everything is happy at 180 degrees - so wrong. After ten minutes, I was delighted to find the sugar had already begun caramelising! Unfortunately it was also setting fast. After a minute, it had become caramel rock. No amount of melted butter was able to break down the hardened sugar. So I must confess I used ordinary white sugar with a sprinkle of the salvageable toasted sugar.
7. 2 x eggs - Gotta bind the ingredients somehow. I chose 2 because it seemed like a good number.
Prior to settling on bread flour, I read extensively on the varieties of yeast. I was surprised to find people engaging such yeast posts. Like full detailed comments.
I was very jealous. I want comments! Here are some suggested comments for this post (feel free to copy and paste as you desire):
- I love banana bread!
- Finally someone delivers a recipe for banana BREAD. Not stupid banana cake.
- You're really beautiful (I know this isn't about banana bread but I just had to say it).
Maybe I'm just not being niche enough with my post topics to encourage public engagement. Like instead of focusing on bready banana bread, I should be detailing the the use of ethylene gas in the banana supply chain. I know I'm meant to just love creating content and have that alone be enough. The truth is I DO love creating content. These posts take me a long time - there's no way I could publish if I didn't have a passion for it.
But I want to know what YOU think. What you liked or didn't like or wanted to know (or didn't want to know but I told you anyway). Is there a dessert you always wanted someone to re-create? Do you even like banana bread? Tell me!
-- RECIPE --
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 cup bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup "toasted" sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons liquid dairy (eg. sour cream)
Step 1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't want the oven still warming up when the mixture goes in so PRE-HEAT. I always forget this.
Step 2. Grease the loaf tin with butter. Sift or sprinkle a bit of flour on the top. This helps the banana bread form a crunchy outer coating. The crust of my four banana breads were all divine.
Step 3. Mix the melted butter with the sugar.
Step 4. Sift in bread flour.
Step 5. Whisk in the eggs.
Step 6. Add the mashed banana and sour cream. Mix.
Step 7. Add salt. Mix again.
Step 8. Pour the mixture into the pre-prepared loaf tin and place in the oven. When a knife comes out clean (about 30 minutes), take your bread out to cool. Or be like me and consume immediately.
It is very rare that I would find a cake and not think it could be improved with some icing. But this banana bread doesn't need any. Toast a slice and add butter if you like. Icing not necessary.
Of course, if you're an icing obsessive, a cream cheese frosting or chocolate ganache will not hurt.
- - -
I'm pretty sure you're only meant to post about your successes on the internet. But this banana bread experiment was a fail. I made four different types of delicious banana bread. None of them were anything like the dessert I was trying to recreate. All four cakes turned out moist, dense and with perfect crusts. I couldn't really taste a difference between the four types (though I do drink 7/11 coffee). So the good news is, you can use buttermilk or cow's milk or whatever and it'll all pretty much taste the same!
My body needs a temporary break from banana bread. But the quest continues.