4.06.2011

rallying again


This thing has taken off with unexpected ferocity.

There were a mere dozen of us on board to launch the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally with pancakes last month, when we urged our readers to think about gluten-free baking from the perspective of ratios, with the understanding that a solid, working ratio gives you infinite room for variability and personalization. Ratios practically guarantee success, giving you the confidence you need to create your own recipes. The feedback was tremendous, and in just a few short weeks, our membership has grown three-fold! Amazing. If this many bloggers are eager to join in our kitchen experiments, then I can only imagine how many of you readers are drawing from our experiences and working on your own recipes, in your own kitchens!

I love it. I love thinking about this community, this web we're creating, of people all over the world who are learning together that gluten-free baking can be as simple, as intuitive, as traditional gluten-full baking. I love feeling like I'm part of a movement.

I also love getting a baking prompt each month. It's completely dorky, I know, but it feels a bit like homework to me. And I was one of those annoying kids who loved homework. School supplies got me all a-flutter. So the collaborative, learning environment that we're all creating through the Ratio Rally feels a bit like a school project to me (we even have spreadsheets!), and I find myself looking forward eagerly to each new 'assignment.'

This month, we're making quick breads and/or muffins, the ratio being essentially the same for each. I love both, but being that I am still in a bread frame of mind, I decided to focus on a quick bread recipe. Plus, quick breads have a sense of refinement, an afternoon-tea-served-on-the-good-china feeling, that I don't get from muffins. That appeals to me.

So the other day, I asked Josh, "If you could have any kind of quick bread in the world, what would it be?"

"Banana," was his immediate reply, and he went back to whatever he was doing. He thought it was a hypothetical question.

A week or so earlier, he'd mentioned not-so-subtly that he'd love for me to create a new dessert for the restaurant that includes pecans. He brought it up again, a day or so later. Then, when I was working at the restaurant one day last week, he strode purposely through the kitchen over to my pastry station, dropped a bag of pecans on my table, opened it, and proceeded to eat a handful, with a running commentary on how much he loves pecans. (He's Southern, if that helps explain things.)

Clearly, the man needed some pecans in his life.

So when it came time for me to decide what to bake for this month's Rally, the answer was practically staring me in the face: Banana Bread with Pecans. Sounds good, right?

Banana bread is wonderful, for so many reasons. But it's main selling point, in almost every recipe I've ever seen, is that it makes great use of the over-ripe, mushy bananas sitting on the counter, the ones that receive a lot of sideways glances, but no takers. No one eats mushy bananas out of hand. Banana bread to the rescue!

So there I stood in the kitchen, in the early stages of the thought process that takes me from the initial idea for a recipe all the way through to a finished product. And I turned to look at the counter behind me, where I knew our last two bananas lay, and saw . . .

. . . two decidedly not over-ripe, mushy bananas. True, they were more soft than firm, but they were still well within the realm of suitable-for-snacking-on. They were not banana bread bananas. At which point it occurred to me that this might be why we rarely have banana bread in this house. Our bananas never hang around long enough to turn uniformly dark brown!


Instead of switching gears and flavors, I decided to stick with the bananas and see what I could do to make them more suitable for bread. And, happily, in the process I discovered my absolute favorite way to make banana bread: cook the bananas first.

Now, I must say that this technique is specifically for bananas that haven't already turned to mush on their own. For the times when you really need some banana bread right now, and patiently waiting several days for your bananas to get with the program is not an option. But when you find yourself in the midst of one of those times, this method is really the way to go.

You basically pretend you're making banana flambe, only you cook the banana/sugar mixture for much longer than usual, which yields you an incredible banana caramel syrup with real depth of flavor. The bananas soften so much during cooking that they've almost dissolved by the end, and this banana syrup gets mixed into your batter. After it bakes, and you take the first bite, you realize . . . it's banana bread. Only it's the banana bread all the other banana breads dream of being. Because the flavor is deeper, and richer. The caramel note is there, plus there's a concentrated, roasted banana flavor that lacks the bordering-on-fermented hint that too-ripe bananas often give off. And, of course, there's the streusel topping. In short, it's perfect.


I am not exaggerating when I tell you Josh was ecstatic about this bread. He pledged his love to it on first bite, but I thought he was just being overcome by the pleasure of finally getting his pecan fix. But then he couldn't stop eating it. He got genuinely upset when I made the bread off-limits for an afternoon so I could photograph it. And when he was given permission to indulge again, he devoured it, coming up for air with exclamations of what an amazing, delicious banana bread I had made. I finally had no choice but to believe him.

And I must say, I think he's absolutely right on this one.

Please make a point of visiting all the lovely blogs participating in the Ratio Rally this month. You're sure to leave hungry and inspired, and you'll also probably discover some wonderful new-to-you blogs! And definitely head over to Silvana's Kitchen, who's hosting this month, to read the round-up. If you're on Twitter, you can join in our conversation there, using the hashtag #gfreerally.

~Mrs. R of honey from flinty rocks made Lemon Lavender Muffins with Lavender Sugar
Alisha of gfmostlyvegetarian made Sweet Potato Breakfast Loaf
Amanda of Gluten Free Maui made Classic Banana, Oat, Pecan Bread
Amie of  The Healthy Apple made Gluten-Free Agave Apricot Quick Bread
Britt of GF In The City made Date & Walnut Bread
Brooke of Bell Wookie made Double Chocolate Cherry Muffin
Caleigh of Gluten Free[k] made Cardamom Banana Bread
Caroline of The G Spot Revolution made Orange Spice Bread with a Vanilla Glaze
Claire of Gluten Freedom made Piña Colada Muffins with Coconut-Rum Glaze and Toasted Coconut
Danna of Sweet Dees Gluten Free made Blood Orange Cardamom Muffins
Erin of Mysteries Internal made Strawberry Yogurt Muffins
Erin of The Sensitive Epicure made Chocolate Chip Walnut Muffins with Streusel
Flo of Makanaibio made 2 Recettes de Muffins ou de Gateau Rapides
Gretchen of kumquat made Gingerbread Fig Loaf
Irvin of Eat The Love made Gluten Free Glazed Meyer Lemon Muffins filled with Slow Roasted Balsamic Red Wine Strawberry Jam
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine made Chestnut and Chocolate Quickbread
Karen of Cooking Gluten Free made Muffins
Kate of Kate Alice Cookbook made Raspberry Banana Crumble-Top Muffins
Kate of Gluten Free Gobsmacked made Mocha + Chocolate Chip Muffins/Quickbread
Lauren of Celiac Teen made Cocoa Quickbread
Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen made Almond Cherry Berry Banana Muffins, Gluten Free
Lisa of With Style and Grace made Rosemary Lemon Quick Bread
Marla of Family Fresh Cooking made Strawberry Snack Cakes
Mary of Gluten Free Cooking School made Cranberry Orange Bread with Cream Cheese Icing
Meaghan of The Wicked Good Vegan made Vegan Gluten-Free Apricot-Orange Bread
Melanie of Mindful Food made Almond Joy Muffins
Nannette of Nannette Raw made Chai Muffins
Robyn of Chocswirl made Brown Butter Apple Spice Muffins with Pecan Nut Streusel
Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef made Lemon Poppyseed Bread
Silvana of Silvana's Kitchen made Chocolate-Coated Marshmallow-Topped Vanilla Cupcakes
Wendy of La Phemme Phoodie made Cheesy Apple Butter Bread with Garlic Powder
Winnie of Healthy Green Kitchen made Brown Butter Banana Bread


Caramelized Banana Bread with Pecan Streusel
Yields one 8.5x4.5-inch loaf

The ratio for this recipe is: 
2 parts flour
2 parts liquid
1/2 part egg
1 part fat

For the Streusel
105 grams (1 cup) raw pecans, chopped
53 grams (4 Tbsp) turbinado sugar
1 Tbsp Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
30 grams (about 2 Tbsp) coconut oil

For the Bread
200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar, divided in half
2 ripe bananas, sliced (to yield approximately 225 grams/1 cup)
14 grams (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
113 grams (8 Tbsp/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
213 grams (1 1/2 cups) Tara's gluten-free pastry flour mix
53 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp roasted Saigon cinnamon, or regular cinnamon
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
60 grams (1/4 cup/2 fluid oz) whole milk

Make the streusel
Measure all streusel ingredients into a small bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Set aside.

Make the bread
In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan set over medium-high heat, cook 100 grams (1/2 cup) of the sugar until it melts. Add the banana slices and 14 grams (1 Tbsp) butter and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the caramel is a rich, dark brown and syrupy-thick, and the banana slices are almost completely broken down. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. This banana caramel mixture will be the bulk of the liquid portion of the ratio.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour (with gluten-free flour, obviously) an 8.5x4.5-inch loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the 113 grams (8 Tbsp) butter with the remaining 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free pastry flour, almond flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.

Add the egg and vanilla to the creamed butter and mix on high speed. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients to thoroughly blend. Add bananas (along with all the caramel sauce) and milk, and mix to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spread evenly, and sprinkle generously with pecan streusel. You won't need all the streusel, so freeze the rest to have on hand for your next batch of muffins or quick bread!

Now here's where your baking instincts really come into play. You need to bake the bread until it's done. This means a tester inserted near the center comes out clean, and the streusel is browned but nowhere near burned. At my house, with my crazy oven that barely knows what it's doing anymore, this took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Really. I had to cover the loaf with foil after an hour to prevent the streusel from burning. Now, I can't imagine that this recipe would really need to cook that long, in a functioning oven. That just seems crazy. Most quick breads bake for about an hour, so let's just assume that this one is no different, okay? But still, keep an eye on it, and don't worry that you've done something wrong if it feels like it's taking a long time to cook through. Be patient, knowing that you'll be rewarded with a banana bread that is truly worthy of breaking out your best china.

Allow the bread to cool fully in the pan, on a rack. Banana bread keeps, wrapped airtight at cool room temperature, for up to three days, or can be frozen for up to three months.

29 comments:

  1. I love how your "assignment" incorporates the pecan dessert request and your ingenuity in cooking the bananas. I had the same not yet ripe enough bananas on the counter and can't wait to try this to get that lovely banana caramel syrup. I also want to incorporate your pastry flour mix into my baking. I started reading the rally here and am very glad that I did, Thank you!

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  2. Caramelized! *sigh* I HAVE to try this! I'm so excited to get involved with this ratio rally - it's a new concept to me but I'm loving it! :)

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  3. Seriously swooning. I do like banana bread, but I never thought about a process like this that cooks the bananas...in butter...like flambe without the pesky flame (I'd burn down my kitchen). I love this! Caramel syrup! Yay.

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  4. I love i! I've roasted not super ripe bananas before to make banana bread, but I LOVE the idea of carmelizing them on top of the stove to make a syrup. And, of course, the addition of the pecans sounds fantastic. Will you be serving it at the restaurant?

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  5. Karen - Thank you so much! If you start using my pastry flour mix, please let me know how you like it!

    Caneel - I know, right? Put 'caramelized' before pretty much anything, and it's 10 times better. ;)

    Lisa - Haha, yes, no need to keep the fire extinguisher close by with this one!

    Irvin - I bet roasting the bananas adds its own wonderful flavor to banana bread. We like to make Banana Boats: roast bananas, in their peel and wrapped in foil, in the coals of campfires. Slip some chocolate and marshmallow under the peel so it all melts together . . . YUM. And no, this bread will not be making an appearance at the restaurant - not refined (or Italian) enough. But at least it got me thinking seriously about pecans, since I was gently avoiding Josh's pleas up until now!

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  6. Oh this is wonderful Tara!! Caramelizing the bananas was ingenious. I can only imagine how this tastes... no wait I need to bake it myself and experience it first hand - such a great addition to the rally :)

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  7. Jenn - Thank you! Yes, you should definitely try caramelizing the bananas - even if you're not making bread. I can imagine lots of other delicious uses for it! ;)

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  8. Just beautiful. I have some over ripe bananas so this is perfect. Thanks for listing all the participants in the rally. I am so glad you all are doing the rally. It makes baking even more fun.

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  9. Wow, that looks really yummy. I just started experimenting with gluten free cooking and there is so much to learn!

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  10. This looks crazy good. Banana and pecan is already such a great combination, but with the addition of caramelization.... I think I'm going to have to agree with Lisa on this one: swoon!

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  11. Cathy - Yes, being part of this Rally has been wonderful. It's great to see it growing in leaps and bounds!

    Suzanne - Thank you! Gluten-free baking can seem complicated, but hopefully the Ratio Rally will help to demystify much of it!

    Britt - Thanks! I'm usually not a huge pecan fan, but they are really, really good here!

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  12. Tara, this looks amazing. I agree with the others -- what is it about the word "caramelized" that just makes a recipe (the world) seem better? :) Thanks for sharing ... can't wait to try it!

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  13. OMG this looks so good!! Do you think this would work with green bananas too? My bananas are no where near banana bread bananas, but I have to have this!

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  14. This looks/sounds seriously fabulous! I love that you did banana bread...my mouth is watering thinking about those carmelized bananas. Oooo girl!

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  15. Love the idea of caramelizing the bananas! Looks delicious!

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  16. Caroline - My brother-in-law, whenever someone complains that a food is bordering on burnt, always exclaims, "That's not burnt! It's caramelized!" It's so true - caramelization does make the world better!

    Diane - I think if you used green bananas, as long as you upped the sugar to make up for the lack of sweetness in the bananas, you'd be fine. Cooking them in the syrup should soften them up nicely!

    Danna and chocswirl - Thank you both so much!

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  17. Pecan Streusel; I must try this. Seriously, I love the idea of Pecans on top! Yummy. A fabulous and delicious gluten-free bread that I can't wait to bake. Thank you!

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  18. it has been so inspiring reading all the flavor profiles and fun techniques... caramelizing bananas is definitely a great one! thanks for sharing...

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  19. gretchen - It has been fun touring all the Ratio Rally posts, hasn't it? Thanks for the compliment!

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  20. Banana caramel syrup makes me swoon, seriously. There are way to many breads that I have earmarked for baking, including yours, and I still have to get moving on scones. :)

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  21. brooke - Interestingly, I'm not usually into bananas for dessert, but the banana caramel syrup has changed that. Now I'm dreaming about it over pound cake and custard and ice cream - yum! Good luck with the scones!

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  22. Nice website! Greetings from Glory Foods.

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  23. Glory Foods - Thanks for stopping by!

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  24. I turned to this page this morning and realized that this has been my "go to" gf banana bread for the past year! This is a reliably delicious recipe. I appreciate that when ever I want to bake something, there is confidence the information you provide on your site will lead to a successful baking experience. In over 10 years of having to live gf, I appreciate the quality recipes you share with us. Thank you!

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    1. You're very welcome, Barbara! I love hearing such positive feedback. It's my hope that one day, everyone who needs to bake gluten-free can do so enjoyably, and with confidence. (And with delicious results!) I'm so glad you like the banana bread.

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  25. This bread sounds delish, a very unique concept of cooking the bananas and sugar first. Yum. Wondering if I could sub almond or soy milk for the regular millk as a friend of mine is celiac and lactose intolerant. Would the taste change or would it be ok? Thanks!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, almond or soy milk should be fine here. And the butter could be switched out also - I've had great results baking with Earth Balance Buttery Sticks when I need things to be dairy-free!

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  26. ZOMG!!! I made this today for the first time. I found it a month or so ago when looking for a pumpkin bread. This is so so so so good. I swapped out the gum for flax, and may have used a smidge of malibu in the banana mix (because 1) I was afraid of burning the sugar; and 2) that's how I make banana foster...). You are brilliant. I cannot imagine going back to pre-carmelized banana bread.

    THANK YOU.

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