Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rethinking Banana Bread

It's easy to see how people get locked into their habits. What starts out as "this is the way I do it" becomes "this is the right way to do it" which ossifies into "this is the only way to do it."

When I was the new mother of an infant, a lot of the advice that my mother and mother-in-law gave me drove me nuts. They thought they knew the best way to parent because they'd been parents. But what did they know about the best way to put the baby in the car seat? They didn't even have car seats when they were new mothers. Or seat belts!

Why would I need advice on how to heat a bottle at night? Or that helpful tip about putting bourbon in the bottle to help the baby sleep at night? Well, since I was nursing, the bottle question didn't apply. And putting bourbon in the mommy would help mommy sleep, but feeding it to a baby? Really???

While babies and their needs stay the same, ideas, technology, and invention change the way some things are done. It wasn't until after my second child was out of the car seat that someone saw that babies fall asleep in the car and invented a car seat that could easily come out of the car, letting the baby stay asleep. Genius!

I try to keep this paradigm of change in mind as I watch my daughter parent. And she is doing things differently than I did. Bucking the standard "wisdom" that you should start a baby on rice cereal at 6 months (you shouldn't), she's doing baby-led weaning. She puts her daughter (now 10 months old) in the Bumpo chair (another brilliant invention) at the dinner table, puts on her eating apron, and sets a variety of food on the tray in front of her. Real food. Stalks of cooked asparagus, sauteed onions, and strawberries are some of her favorites. This method is perfect for someone as strong-willed as my granddaughter. She's in control of what she eats and she gets to pick from a healthy array of choices. She's much happier than if someone tried to shovel pureed ick into her mouth with a spoon.

I know that I get in ruts in the kitchen of doing things the same way because that's the way I've always done it, baking things with the same recipe because that's what I'm familiar and comfortable with. But it's good to try new things because life does change.

Recently King Arthur Flour featured this banana bread recipe on their website, touting it as a customer favorite. I have a banana bread recipe that I love. I've used it about as long as I've been baking. So why try something new? Because you never know what you might be missing. And if you passed on this banana bread, you would be missing indeed. It's got whole grains, but it's so moist you don't feel like you're eating a healthy brick. My son was sad when the last piece was gone and requested it again almost immediately. That's change I can live with!

Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread
- adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon banana flavor, optional
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium to large bananas, cut into chunks
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 -7/8 cups King Arthur 100% white whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp flax meal
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 - Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" or 9" x 5" loaf pan. The larger pan will give a somewhat flatter loaf.

2 - In a small bowl, mash the bananas.

3 - In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla, baking soda, salt, and mashed bananas, beating until well combined.

4 - Beat in the honey and eggs.

5 - Add the flour and flax meal, then the walnuts, stirring until smooth.

6 - Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Don't skip the rest period!

7 - Bake the bread for 50 minutes, then gently lay a piece of aluminum foil across the top, to prevent over-browning. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, then remove the bread from the oven; a long toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.

8 - Allow the loaf to cool for 10 minutes; then remove it from the pan, and set it on a rack to cool completely.


Unknown said...

When I eventually have a baby, I'm going to be glad for all those advice givers. I'd be totally lost :P

The bread looks delicious, heard a lot about this recipe. Can't wait to try it!

Fallon said...

I can see why this is a favorite recipe, it definitely is made a little differently and sounds a lot more dense. I look forward to try it out!

Barbara said...

Every generation does things differently. We started solid food like cereal at 3 months! (Mainly because someone told us that it helped them sleep through the night) Despite this, my three all grew up healthy. :)

I don't experiment with my banana bread recipe much, so I guess I'm in a rut. Think I should try yours as it looks delish!

Unknown said...

I like your way of thinking, I also happen to need a slice of this bread.

Shannon Riley said...

Looks so delicious! :D

Debbie said...

I love trying different recipes for banana bread. This one sounds like a winner!

Elle said...

I love hearing about strong willed babies. My daughter was one and what a fun and interesting person she has become. Our mixed up world will likely benefit from having young women (and young men) who have gotten used to making choices and learning from those choices. Yay for your daughter Lynn!
The banana bread sure does sound good. I might have to hide a few bananas so there are enough to make this bread.

grace said...

you're talking to the queen of routine and habitual practices--i live in a rut and i like it! ah, but we should all be open to change, and if said change involves enhancing some banana bread, i'm there. :)

The Blonde Duck said...

I bet you're an awesome grandma.