The Fresh Loaf

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The Banana Bread Puzzle

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CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

The Banana Bread Puzzle

Ok folks this is probably a real simple puzzle for you.  Today I made two loaves of banana bread based on RL Barenbaum's bread bible.  Basically the recipe is the basic white loaf plus a cup of milk and 2 ripe bananas.  So the loaves are fine but there is no taste of banana in them.  Please note that this is banana bread and not banana cake as Floyd has shared with us with baking powder and baking soda. The recipe I used was just regular white bread with AP and the ingredients of bananas and milk added.  My wife, who has taste buds to die for, has tasted it as well as confirms my evaluation that there is no taste of banana.  Am I doing something wrong or is that life and there is no such thing as banana bread but rather just banana cake?  Since I am a novice I have a tendency to believe what is written in the bread books.  Maybe it is a joke? Whatever...thanks, cb.

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Hi CountryBoy, I guess I know what you mean by "banana cake", but everyone I know calls that banana bread.  I have never seen white bread with banana in it, but hey, I haven't seen it all!  I don't have RLB's book--are you saying that she has a white bread recipe with bananas in it?  Or that you used her white bread recipe, then added bananas?

Katie in SC 

Richard L Walker's picture
Richard L Walker

I would recommend making additional batches of this bread, continuing to use 2 more bananas in each batch, until you get the banana flavor you like. You might have to cut back on the liquid since mashed bananas can be quite liquid themselves. Once you get the banana flavor you like, my mailing address is ...

 

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

uses the basic regular white loaf recipe with the difference of adding milk, which I scalded, and a banana to yeasted bread. This is a very different recipe from Floyd's banana cake with baking powder or soda that he lists on this site.  

Richard, you are right about the bananas adding liquid. I did not take that into account when I was mixing but I certainly had to adjust quickly for it mighty quickly!... :-)    

 

 

 

 

  

thanks,

countryboy

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I disagree with your assertion that if it is chemically leavened it is cake. Banana bread, Irish Soda Bread, and any number of other quick breads are referred to by 99.9% of people as breads, not as cakes.

I've never heard of or tried a yeasted banana bread. There is a sourdough banana bread recipe on this site, but most of the leavening is still done chemically.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

I meant no disrespect by calling your recipe a cake. I do apologize.

The fact is I am so new to baking and  don't even know the difference between what is a cake and what is a bread.  You don't use yeast in your recipe and I am frankly so new and ignorant I did not want to start asking questions as to why you did not use yeast; I ask too many questions as it is. I believe that cakes use baking powder or soda and for special reasons. 

On some technical forums I am a member of, people are assigned a designation based on their level of expertise and length of stay.  Maybe people need could use self assigned designations here so we know where from they speak.  Since I am a beginner I would be classified Beginning Student and then on up the hierarchy to people who really have lots of experience and expertise. You, JMonkey, MiniOven, SourdoLady and the very many others could be the Master Bakers.  I mean take Tod from KA who is sharing all his technical expertise. Well, if he knew the questioner was a beginner then he would adjust the answer to that level rather than giving them the broad scope of his expertise. 

Again apologies and thanks for all your hard work and your great web site.

 thanks, countryboy

Floydm's picture
Floydm

No worries... I didn't mean to sound offended.

As we've debated before on terms like "artisan bread" versus "artisanal bread", I tend to go with popular usage whether it is technically accurate or not. Look up banana bread in the vast majority of cook books (at least in North America) and you are going to find something similar to what I posted (which is adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe, as mainstream as you can get). If you walked into a bakery and ask for "banana cake" you'd likely end up with something spongy and frosted; "banana bread" and you'd end up with a quick bread (as kjknits says, that is what everyone I know means by banana bread). A yeasted banana bread would, I think, be a special order, since that is not something one sees everyday (though if you find a good recipe for one, please post it... I'd love to try it).

Exactly what distinguishes a quick bread and cake aside from the shape you bake them in, I'm not certain. Generally speaking, I don't think quick breads are as sweet or rich as cakes, they are typically unfrosted, and one tends to use AP flour for them instead of cake flour. That said, there are definitely recipes that blur the distinction.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

You said:

A yeasted banana bread would, I think, be a special order, since that is not something one sees everyday (though if you find a good recipe for one, please post it... I'd love to try it).

Herein is a recipe, and not necessarily one that I would suggest trying, but is nevertheless the one I tried recently.

RL Beranbaum's bread bible has a recipe for Banana Feather Loaf, pg 271-74.The recipe is roughly as follows and you can make adjustments you think appropriate.

Yield: 1 Loaf

Time Sched
Sponge: min. 1 hr, max. 24 hr.
Min. Rising Time: about 4 hrs.
Oven Temp: 425 degrees, then 375 degrees
Baking Time: 25-30 minutes

Sponge
1/2 cup+ 1 TBspn....Unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup..................liquid cup of water, at room temp
1 Tbspn.................honey
1/4........................tsp of instant yeast

The Flour Mixture and Dough
1 1/2 cup....Unbleached AP flour
3/4 tsp.......Instant yeast
2 Tbspns.....Dry Milk, pref. nonfat
4 tsps.........unsalted butter
1 ..............very ripe banana, lightly mashed
1 tspn........salt
1/2 Tbspn...melted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 475 and then bake for 5 mins at that temp and then for 15 mins at 375 and then at 350 for 10 mins. 

She suggests less butter than in the Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf because the banana enriches it with moisture and flavor.

FWIW, cb

 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I'll have to give that a shot.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Richard, you are right about the bananas adding liquid. I did not take that into account when I was mixing but I certainly had to adjust quickly for it mighty quickly!

 

CountryBoy, this is just a stab in the dark, but how did you make that adjustment? If you found the dough quite too wet and added a lot of extra flour, for example, that may have changed the ratio between flour and banana enough to mask the already-subtle (per RLB's description) flavor of the banana.

 

Susanfnp

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

You could be right when you said

If you found the dough quite too wet and added a lot of extra flour, for example, that may have changed the ratio between flour and banana enough to mask the already-subtle (per RLB's description) flavor of the banana.

I had not thought of that.

 thanks, countryboy

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

If you think that could be part of it, here's something you might want to try for next time:

Make the sponge with only 5 tablespoons of water instead of the specified 7. This should still be enough to hydrate the sponge very well. Then, when mixing the final dough, see how the consistency is; it may seem to dry, in which case go ahead and add back that water (a little at a time) until you get the consistency you're looking for; depending on how thirsty the flour is, you may not need any of the reserved water or you may need to even add a little more than the 2T. Normally I would say to withhold about 10-15% of the water in the final dough and add it back if needed, but in the case of this recipe there is no water added at final mixing time, that's why I recommend to take it out of the sponge.

The idea is that you're using water, not flour, to adjust the dough consistency. That way you always have the same amount of flour in relation to the other ingredients, only the water changes. This is the way I was taught to make bread and it works really well for me, although I know a lot of people do use flour as the control and I won't argue with success!

Hope this makes sense,

Susanfnp

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

Many thanks; that sounds wonderfully specific and useful.

countryboy

RFMonaco's picture
RFMonaco

The bananas probably have to be dead soft, almost spoiling to get good taste.Could also try some Banana extract.
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070529222348AAQstvG
http://cookiedoc.blogspot.com/2007/03/punys-banana-breadnot-puny.html
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Or try these Googled:
Puny's Banana Bread...not puny! Puny's Banana Bread
Puny's Banana Bread

This bread was nice and soft with a sweet and clearly banana taste. I think having three bananas instead of my normal two was the key to actually tasting the fruit. I recommend this highly. Puny's Banana Bread

1 1/4 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup brown sugar)*1/3 cup oil2 eggs, beaten3 ripe bananas, mashed1 1/2 cups AP (white lily if you have it) flour1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1/3 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a loaf pan by spraying it with cooking spray. Beat sugar and oil together until fluffy. Add eggs and mix. Mix in mashed bananas. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, soda, and salt. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to the banana mixture. Stir until just combined. Mix in HALF of the buttermilk. Add the remaining flour and buttermilk and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour (I DEFINITELY needed an hour!), or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.-------- THE RECIPE : BANANA MAPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKEThe mystery of the lost bananas - see note below From Bills Open Kitchen (page 100) Banana Maple Upside Down CakeBanana Maple Upside Down Cake
50g unsalted butter plus 100g unsalted butter, softened, extra
55g brown sugar
60ml maple syrup
3-4 bananas, sliced in half lengthways
230g caster sugar
4 eggs (fanny : use only 3 if they're large)
1 tsp vanilla extract
155g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder pinch of salt Preheat the oven to 180°C. To make the topping, place the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a small sauce pan. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the sugar melts and the syrup is rich and golden. Pour the syrup into a 23cm geased or non-stick springform cake tin (fanny : i lined my tin with a double layer of foil and a layer of non-stick baking parchment) and arrange the sliced bananas, cut-side down, over the base of the tin. To make the cake, place the extra butter and caster sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one a t a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt and gently fold through the mixture. Spoon the batter evently over the bananas and caramel and smooth the top with a spatula. Place the cake in the oven on a baking tray to catch any escaping caramel and bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Transfer to a large serving plate. Serve warm with vanilla icecream if desired. Note on "the mystery of the lost bananas" : as you can see ("can't see" would be more appropriated though) on the picture, the bananas have disappeared. First i though they had melted but then I thought... Bill says to "spoon the batter over the bananas", but my batter was to liquid to spoon. Actually the eggs i used were too large so the batter was thinner and the bananas were "swallowed by the batter". The mystery was resolved. Elementary my dear Watson !!!
tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

I have been thinking about your situation a bit and was wondering.

Yeast feeds off of sugar.  In a straight dough (one which conatins just flour,water,salt,yeast) Yeast breaks down the sugars in the flour to feed.  But what if in your bread, the yeast is feeding off of the sugars from the banana's as well.  If the yeast consume the majority of the sugars from the banana's this would greatly reduce the ending flavor of banana in the bread, would it not?

I dont know for sure, but I would agree with Richard Walkers idea of adding additional banana's until you begin to get your flavor desired.  Eventually the amount of sugar from the bananas would outweigh the amount being lost to feeding yeasties, and leave you with what is left, your sweet flavor.

Again this is just my opinion, may be wrong, but it makes sense to me.

TT

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The dried ones, by the time the yeast discoveres they are there, they've been baked already.  I would eliminate all sugar from the bread recipe.  If you want a Banana Cake recipe to taste more nutty and less banana (to fool the banana bread haters), add 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg.  --Mini Oven

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

more bananas and maybe add the last ones toward the end of the bulk fermentation cycle? Also, you might want to add a bit of sugar to the main bulk of your ingredients? If I'm reading this right the only sugar in the recipe is from the tablespoon of honey in the sponge.

Most banana bread quick bread recipes call for anywhere from 1/2-1 cup of sugar. But being so inexperienced I have no idea what would happen to yeast in that sweet of an environment! :eek: Maybe total chaos?! How exciting! Note to self: must see what happens to yeast in super sugar environment! :D Good times!

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have only made Floyds BB and it was great! I suggest you try that one and wait until the fruit is black before you put it together. I used 3 large bananas in a single batch and it was really flavorful. Skip the yeast for this one.

Eric

browndog's picture
browndog

CountryBoy, quick breads usually have a lower sugar/fat/egg content than cake, usually mixed differently (dry+wet vs creamed sugar/butter etc) and the mixing tolerances can be different as well, that is a quick bread batter wants a very light cursory mixing just to combine ingredients whereas a cake batter expects a bit of a beating. Quick bread is usually denser and coarser than a cake, though hopefully not unpleasantly so, and as in many, many things these broad generalizations could be contradicted in a heartbeat. There are some mighty cakey breads out there.The difference is sometimes so obscure as to be practically a philosophical question, I think, your confusion is understandable.

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

and that is when do I use baking soda and when do I use baking powder? And why use them together? I realize everyone knows the answer on this but this banana cake vs. bread question is forcing me to finally ask it.

Thank goodness I am a novice on this and so don't have to pretend I know all the answers.

cb

Richard L Walker's picture
Richard L Walker

Alton Brown (I have to blame somebody) said that baking powder increased the "OUT" and baking soda increased the "UP," so it depends on whether you want more out, up or out and up. 

kjknits's picture
kjknits

Oftentimes I have heard that you use soda when you have an acid in the recipe (such as buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt) because they react to each other and cause lift.  Well, and the sodo english muffin recipe I just made yesterday also made mention of the soda reacting with the sodo starter to give lift to the muffins.

But then some recipes (like my favorite buttermilk pancakes) use both soda and powder.  Maybe there is a food scientist here who can help explain (or maybe I'll go check with Shirley Corriher, I have her wonderful book, Cookwise.) 

One thing I'll say about baking powder is that I only like the aluminum-free type, such as Rumford. The others can have a strangely bitter, metallic taste in the finished product.

Katie in SC 

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a base that reacts with acids in the recipe to cause a chemical reaction. Think of the old baking soda / vinegar volcano trick. That is basically what is happening inside of your loaf.

Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate as well as other agents. Mine contains corn starch and calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate is an acid, so in the mixing and baking process when the acids and bases combine, you get a reaction. But as kjknits observes, if your recipe already has enough acid in it adding more is unnecessary or even excessive.

I assume the corn starch is in there to help the bread solidify.

If this kind of stuff interests you, you should order a copy Bread Science. A great book.

browndog's picture
browndog

baking soda starts reacting and leavening your product as soon as it gets wet, besides prefering an acidic base, so usually you want to get that baby, whatever it is, in the oven pretty promptly to take advantage of the situation. Baking powder reacts to heat as well as moisture, so you get a 'grace' period if your batter has to sit any length of time, there will still be leavening power when it hits the oven, and it doesn't require acid to wake up. I'd say that's why they are sometimes combined. Hope you're not stifling a really huge yawn...and fortunately a trustworthy recipe has done the chemistry for you, CountryBoy, and you just follow the directions. Otherwise all I'd ever cook would be pasta! :D I doubt everyone knows this but you--not all of us are baking ephemera geeks, after all, some of us just want to get our hands in the flour and never mind the whys and wherefores, as long as we get results!

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

me! I'm a geek! I AM A BLUE GEEK! lol. I love the whys and wherefores. :D I always thought that the reason baking powder and baking soda are often combined in a recipe is because of this:

baking powder prefers a slightly acidic environment and needs it to work optimally.

baking soda is bicarbonate of soda. It is a weak acid or has a negative valence which has a negative electron charge and in a chemical reaction will lower the pH if there is enough of it. So you add soda to make the powder work better...

Or at least that's what I was taught. It could just be urban legend though. I think my granma taught me why you use them together but she didn't bring in the chemistry part. lol. She just said the soda makes an acid.

Floydm's picture
Floydm

The PH of baking soda is around 8, so it is a mild base.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

Sodium Bicarbonate is actually baking soda is a base and has a positive valence of 1 coming from the extra positive sodium ion. So it is slightly alkaline and is a weak base. DOH! I was thinking bicarbonate or HCO3 (-1) was baking soday forgetting completely about the sodium ion! Bicarbonate is a weak acid, having a valence of negative one...I always used to get Bicarbonate and Sodium Bicarbonate confused!!!

 So where the heck did the acidic part come in? I swear my granma used to tell  me that b. powder worked together with the baking soda?

Ok, so just reading here she got it exactly backwards! So I've been thinking backwards for years rofl! Baking soda and baking powder are sometimes added together to neutralize an acidic environment in addition to adding some leavening as well as tenderness:

http://home.howstuffworks.com/framed.htm?parent=question57.htm&url=http://www.joyofbaking.com/bakingsoda.html

 

(btw, thanks for your link browndog. Love that site!  (CB sorry for threadjacking!)

browndog's picture
browndog

be gentle with me--I was an art major! (I understood the granma part...:D) Well you forced me to actually fact-check a little, and if anyone's curious here's another take. Apologies to you, CountryBoy, if we've painfully hijacked your thread.

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

somewhat irrelevant to the op's original post. Not meaning to be short here but why does it matter if someone calls it a quick bread and someone else calls it a cake? A cake can often refer to a family of texture as well as to a baked good, ie cake doughnuts (they certainly aren't cakes). It seems we've digressed on a tangent due to a perceived offense instead of working out the problem with this recipe.

Again, not being an experienced baker of yeast breads, I could be totally missing it with this recipe but here's CountryBoy's recipe and what his original question was how come it doesn't taste of banana?! But I am an experienced baker and this recipe doesn't make alot of sense from my baker's viewpoint. Here it is again:

Yield: 1 Loaf

Time Sched
Sponge: min. 1 hr, max. 24 hr.
Min. Rising Time: about 4 hrs.
Oven Temp: 425 degrees, then 375 degrees
Baking Time: 25-30 minutes

Sponge
1/2 cup+ 1 TBspn....Unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup..................liquid cup of water, at room temp
1 Tbspn.................honey
1/4........................tsp of instant yeast

The Flour Mixture and Dough
1 1/2 cup....Unbleached AP flour
3/4 tsp.......Instant yeast
2 Tbspns.....Dry Milk, pref. nonfat
4 tsps.........unsalted butter
1 ..............very ripe banana, lightly mashed
1 tspn........salt
1/2 Tbspn...melted butter (optional)

The quickbread recipes I've reviewed in researching this are for 2 loave quantities and usually ask for anywhere from 2-4 "very ripe" bananas. As Eric said use "black bananas". Also the amount of sweetening agent is only 1 TBSP and in my opinion again that is on the light side. Most of the recipes again have anything from 1/2-1 cup of sweetener. Mostly have brown sugar.

In my opinion there are certain foods that have a symbiotic relationship with sugar and flavor intensity. Some of those things are bananas (if you don't believe this go bite into a raw plantain and then bite in to a very ripe banana. Or bite into a green banana then a ripe one. The difference is the starch breakdown into the constituent sugars). So I would say at the very least the bread needs an extra 1/4 cup of sugar and I would be tempted to add brown sugar or honey instead of granulated. I think just doing those two things will bring out the banana flavor in the bread.

My opinion is that the ratio of flavoring agent to flour/water is not correct in the original recipe unless the original recipe was only using banana as an agent of moisture and not as a flavor element.

BTW that banana upside down cake looks freakin beautiful!!! Love the pattern!

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

I believe you grasp my meaning very clearly. Thank you for your participation. Since you and other Pros like you here are so experienced I truly believe you don't have to bake it to know the problem(s) it raises but can read the recipe and sense the problem areas based on your experience alone.

In this case I baked two loaves and so doubled the recipe:

  1. I did substitute  1/2 cup of honey for sugar in my baking process.
  2. The bananas were dark brown, very soft but not black, I am not sure how black I can allow a banana to become.  I used two good sized bananas or one full cup of bananas.
  3. The banana is as you suggested "an agent of moisture" in this recipe.

 thanks,

countryboy

bluezebra's picture
bluezebra

hahaha! I only have about 10 weeks experience in baking bread so that makes me still crawling and not yet even an amateur!

I have baked sweets for years and even worked in a restaurant doing that very thing but still wouldn't call myself a Pro! But that aside I'm happy to look at things and God knows I always have opinions on things!

At what point did you add the 1/2 cup of honey? And as for dark brown you can let the banana go about one more day from that. I think you ideally on a double recipe where you want "banana as drama" that you would be looking closer to 2 to 2-1/4 cups of very ripe banana. I also think if you are looking for a sweet element that you should be looking at closer to 3/4 - 1 cup of sweetener.

Have you tasted your honey? Have you tasted it in comparison to granulated sugar or brown sugar? I think that with 1/2 cup of honey you are pushing the boundaries of your hydration just from looking at it logically (since honey is a liquid). I would really look at maybe using brown sugar instead of upping your honey. And I would keep the honey in the sponge portion the same but in the body of the dough is where I would add the sugar. Also have you tasted your bananas? Sometimes no matter how hard you work to ripen them, some bananas just aren't that sweet.

However here is where it all becomes a guess for me. Because I lack the baking experience, I don't know at what point you should add the sugar into the body of the dough. Should it be added at the beginning? After an autolyse? After the bulk fermentation? At the very end prior to shaping? Those are variables I just have absolutely no idea about!!

Those are the variables all the true PRO's here at the site would have to figure out for you!

CountryBoy's picture
CountryBoy

  1. I added the honey in the starter the way it asked for in the recipe.
  2. No I did not taste the bananas prior to using them but I believe the honey is fine-not too sweet but just right.

Thanks for the specificity of your listing of variables-most impressive.  Sounds to me as if I really have to go back to the drawing boards on this one. countryboy