Whole Wheat Sourdough Banana Bread

I love banana bread. My grandfather made the best I’ve ever had, and any recipe I’ve tried pales in comparison to his. Last year, my mom, my sister, and I were going through some of his and my grandmother’s recipe books (think magazine clippings and handwritten gems spanning decades of deliciousness), and we found a recipe he had written down for banana bread. It ended up not being the same as the one that became “his,” but I got so much joy seeing his handwriting again and how he had imitated the chef’s French affirmation of “comme me ça ç’est bon” by writting “co ma me sa se bon.” Honestly, it’s just so sweet that he wanted to include that as a detail in his recipe.

So, needless to say, I have a special affinity for banana bread, and believe me I have tried plenty of recipes, which makes what I’m about to say a big deal: this is my favorite banana bread recipe, second only to Paw-Paw’s. I was using a variation of Dominique Ansel’s recipe for a while (and admittedly, it’s a fantastic recipe), but I naturally gravitate toward any recipe that’s equal parts yummy and sparse on the number of dishes I have to dirty. Seriously, I’m the queen of analyzing recipes to figure out how I can follow the instructions while reusing as many dishes and utensils as possible to keep the number of items in my sink low. And that’s where this recipe comes in. It all happens in the food processor. No more separate bowl this and separate bowl that like most other banana bread recipes.

And sure, I could always adapt other recipes to use a food processor, but there’s another aspect of this recipe I love: it uses sourdough starter as leavening. Sure, there’s some baking soda in there too, but the main leavening agent is the starter. I love using sourdough, something I can go into in depth in the future, but I particularly love it because it’s so good for your stomach. Refer to my post on orecchiette pasta for why I don’t believe bread is the enemy, and that in large part has to do with learning more about sourdough. Now let’s do some science.

When you break down wheat, phosphorus is released as phytic acid, and the presence of this unaccompanied in bread can lead to bloating and an irritated digestive system. But the presence of “wild yeast and lactobacillus in the leaven neutralise the phytic acid as the bread proves through the acidification of the dough.” In other words, the natural bacteria in sourdough (because it’s fermented) cancel out the phytic acid that can make people sick. Another problem a lot of people have with bread (especially white bread) is the spike in blood sugar, since white flour metabolizes as sugar. With sourdough, however, the body is slow to digest the bread, which is overall better for the metabolism and blood sugar. It’s basically the underground superfood, and I’m here to shout it from the rooftops. Here’s more information and links to reputable health studies on sourdough.

But back to the banana bread. Even though this bread doesn’t proof before baking, the presence of the sourdough still helps the bread rise in the oven, and it’s still good for your gut bacteria, and isn’t that why we all eat banana bread in the first place?

This is my current favorite banana bread, adapted from Pinch of Salt’s recipe found here. You’ll notice that they use volume measurements, but in baking and especially in baking bread, I prefer to bake by weight. I also adapted the recipe to be whole wheat, but I have made this using only all-purpose flour with great results.

Yield: 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 64g all purpose flour
  • 128g white whole wheat flour
  • 101g light brown sugar
  • 100g organic coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use regular table salt)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (cold, unfed)
  • 113g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 1/2 medium bananas)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Recipe Card:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×4 inch loaf ban with baking spray (butter/oil + flour). If you need to use a 9×5 loaf pan, reduce the baking time.
  2. Fit the food processor with the standard mixing blad. Add flours, sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices to the bowl and pulse until combined.
  3. Pour sourdough starter over the flour mixture pretty evenly. Disperse pieces of the softened butter over the top of the flour mixture. Break the bananas into pieces as well and add them evenly over the other ingredients. (You can also pre-mash the banana, but the food processor will do that work for you. Add the egg and vanilla. Cover and pulse until well-combined and a dense batter forms. If it seems too grainy, keep pulsing until it smooths out, but be careful not to over mix.
  4. Carefully remove the blade.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle some brown sugar over the top.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes. It should be nicely browned and a cake tester inserted in the thickest part of the loaf (the middle) should come out clean.
  7. Serve warm. Leftovers (if there are any) should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The bread can be warmed up in the toaster oven or the microwave.

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