Banana Bread - Good anytime!

What's in your Banana Bread?
Organic vs Conventional grown bananas - which to buy?
Organic ones may be a little more expensive, but well worth it. The major difference between the two are that conventional bananas are grown with synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides to protect the crops from mold, bugs, and disease. After harvest, the conventional bananas are floated in tanks of sodium hydrochlorate solution to dissolve the drips of latex sap that can discolor the fruit. Experiments have shown that fungicide-treated bananas can develop off-flavors. Yet “hands” of bananas (the small bunches we see in markets) are conventionally treated with fungicides by being placed in polyethylene bags with blocks of vermiculite treated with potassium permanganate to absorb the ethylene ripening gas that bananas give off. This allows the bananas to be stored and shipped over a month’s time before they start ripening.

On the other side, organic farmers use natural fertilizers such as manure and seaweed, insect predators and barriers to prevent pests, and they weed by hand or mulch in order to prevent weeds.

You may be thinking that all those chemicals used to grow conventional bananas are no big deal because you peel the fruit. But the chemicals are not just on the outside of the banana — they leach into the soil that is used to grow the produce. So even if you peel your banana, it doesn't prevent you from ingesting small amounts of those chemicals. Although you may feel better knowing some experts maintain that the amount you ingest poses little threat to your health. If you're concerned about the nutritional value of your food, there are ongoing studies exploring the connection between pesticides and nutrients in foods; so far it looks like organic is healthier. Organic produce is also better for the planet since chemical pesticides make their way into the soil and run off into water sources.

The point is that organic bananas are well worth seeking out because their production avoids a host of toxic chemicals that affect everything from the health of the plantation soils and surrounding ecosystems, to the health of the workers who grow and handle them, to the health of those of us who eat them.

With that being said, Banana Bread has stood the test of time. You can tell a favorite recipe by how often it is used, and this recipe which I have tweaked to perfection is one I return to again and again. In fact I often buy bananas expressly for making this bread, impatiently waiting for their skin to turn brown and their flesh to become soft and sweet. Banana bread falls in the category of ‘Quick Breads' which means it is leavened with either baking powder and/or soda and is made by combining the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.

Perfect banana bread starts with a thick sweet batter that is full of mashed bananas, ground cinnamon and toasted pecans. When you pull it from the oven the golden brown crust is delightfully crisp and although the crust softens once the bread is covered and stored, its wonderful moist texture and sweet flavor remain intact.

Bananas are picked while still green which means its flesh will be hard with little flavor. As time passes and the banana ripens its skin begins to turn yellow and with that its flesh softens and flavor sweetens. Further aging causes the skin to brown and its flesh to become very soft and sweet. At this stage some people throw these bananas in the garbage thinking they have gone bad, not realizing how delicious they will be when mashed and baked in a bread or cake.

If you are like me almost every time I buy bananas a few (not enough though to make this bread) will turn brown before I get around to eating them. Instead of throwing them away simply slip them into a bag and place them into the freezer until you have enough for baking. Whole unpeeled bananas are easy to freeze and will last at least 6 months in the freezer. Banana bread is something most of us have eaten and loved. Hope you enjoy this delicious bread for breakfast, lunch or a snack.

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

2 cups organic unbleached pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped pecans (lightly toasted)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup organic unbleached sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside
2. Toast the Pecans – Pre-heat oven to 225°. Place pecans in a pie plate or on a baking sheet and spread out so that they are not touching. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted and golden. Remove from oven and let cool. Coarsely chop and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 350°.

3. Make the Toasted Pecan Cinnamon Swirl - Combine 2 tablespoons butter with cooled toasted pecans, brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla; mix with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

4. Cream together remaining butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

5. Combine eggs with bananas, yogurt or sour cream and remaining vanilla; blend into creamed mixture.

6. Gradually blend in flour mixture just until moistened.

7. Fill two greased 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. or five 5-in. x 2-1/2-in. loaf pans about one-third full.

8. Sprinkle the Cinnamon swirl mixture on top of the batter.

9. Top with the remaining batter, spreading smooth.

10. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the batter.
11. Bake in preheated 350 oven 50 min., or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

12. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 min; remove from pan and cool completely.
Serve warm, or at room temperature.