Thursday, September 24, 2015

Banana Oatmeal Bread with Nutella Smile


It is officially autumn but it sure is still hot in Southern California. Yesterday it was mid-80 degrees Fahrenheit and the news says that it will be hotter these next few days. It will be nice when the cool fall weather kicks in.

Southern California Sunset

In its fourth year of drought, California has been cutting back on water, making various efforts to reduce water loss and waste, and has successfully reduced water use by more than 30%, which is about 5% above what the government was hoping for. Despite almonds getting a bad rap for water use in California, California still manages to churn out a good deal of produce.

Luckily, just last week, there was some torrential downpour which broke the drought but caused some damaging flooding in various areas. There was some hope that there was going to be rainfall earlier this week, but the clouds ended up just passing by my area with no rainfall.

Although it's been hot lately, I still want to bake and that requires turning on the oven. It's a small price to pay, though, when the reward is something scrumptious! My mom and I have been buying lots of bananas because my sister and her boyfriend take so many when they go surfing. We buy a bushel and then half are gone by the end of the week! This time, we bought too many, and boy-oh-boy was I happy. Because you know what brown bananas mean?

Banana bread!

I had this recipe I used before that merged America's Test Kitchen's banana bread recipe with Giada's recipe. I made it twice but they were too moist and lacked structure. Although adding more bananas increases sweetness and moistness of the final product, too much made it mushy. Therefore, I sought to make a better banana bread. Serious Eats has become one of my top go-to sites for food recipes. I trust their recipes because of the expertise and creativity of its contributors. When I found this Banana Oatmeal Bread recipe on their site and read that a pastry chef, Anna Markow, created it, I knew it must be a good recipe. As a healthy baker, I could tell that although this was a dessert, the ingredients were not so bad for you and I could feel good making and eating a lot of this.

In place of the rolled oats, I used Coach's Oats Steel-Cut Oats that I pulverized in my spice/coffee grinder. Also, I had some Nutella leftover and I wanted to use it up because it has been in my pantry for so long, so I mixed it with a small portion of batter and added that to the middle of the pan. On top, I put sliced bananas and some mini chocolate chips for presentation value. The final result was spectacular. My sister and her boyfriend really enjoyed it. I had to stop myself from eating too many slices myself so that I could share with my family!

Hope you try this recipe as it is a slight change on the classic banana bread recipe with a few improvements that make it nearly irresistible.

Banana Oatmeal Bread with Nutella Smile (adapted from Serious Eats)
makes 1 9" by 5" loaf 
1 cup white whole wheat flour (recommend Ultragrain(R))
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, slightly packed into the cup
1/2 cup rolled oats (or steel cut oats pulverized into almost flour texture)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 medium, ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/3 cup of buttermilk (or a little less than 1/3 cup of whole milk with 1-2 Tbs fresh lime or lemon juice, set aside to curdle for 5 minutes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs Nutella
For topping (optional):
1/2 banana sliced in thin rounds
A few chocolate chips

1) Sift the white whole wheat flour, the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the white sugar, brown sugar, and rolled oats.
2) In a blender, blend the bananas, eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until well-mixed, but do not over-blend or you will incorporate too much air.
3) Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Fold/mix together until just combined.
4) Prepare a 9x5" loaf pan by lightly greasing and flouring. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (if you oven tends to output higher temperature or tends to brown things too quickly, try reducing the temperature to 325-340 degrees Fahrenheit).
5) In a small bow, mix 2 Tbs Nutella with about 1/2 cup of the batter.
6) Pour half of the original batter into the pan, then spread the Nutella batter in the center. Pour the remaining original batter and spread evenly in the pan.
7) Place the banana slices and chocolate chips as desired on top of the bread.
8) Bake in the preheated oven for 28 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake for another 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Make sure to watch it in the last 10 minutes because mine browned quick a bit and I had to remove it after about 46-48 minutes of baking.
9) Immediately remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack for about 30-60 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: Loaf lasts at least 4 days without refrigeration in Southern California summer weather. If you live in a humid, hot area, I suggest refrigerating by the 3rd or 4th day.

Smile! Happiness can come from food! :D