Sunday, February 3, 2008

Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

Which of the following is the most frequently consumed fruit in the world?

A. bananas
B. mangoes
C. strawberries
D. apples
E. All of the above

If you picked "E," don't feel bad. Just pour yourself another cup of coffee and try again.

I always thought it was bananas, but it's actually mangoes. If you chose "bananas," I'll give you half credit since they're the most consumed fruit in the United States.

Since bananas are only 19 cents each at Trader Joe's, I always have a huge, happy yellow bunch in my fruit bowl. Since they're only 19 cents each, I also have a lot of brown, speckled bananas in my fruit bowl.

What's not to love about bananas? They're fast, easy, non-messy energy food. At only 100 calories per fruit and no fat, they're also a great source of potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber.

The greatest thing about bananas though is that you never have to throw one away. If it's too ripe to eat out of hand, you can toss it in a smoothie, freeze it for a snack, or, best of all, make banana bread.

Banana bread surfaced in American kitchens in the 1930's, at the same time that baking soda and baking powder were becoming popular leavening agents (instead of yeast) for quick breads. By the 1960's, banana bread's popularity burgeoned, and cookbooks commonly listed multiple recipes for it.

Apparently, we have the Australians to thank for introducing chocolate into banana bread -- I always thought my mom invented that on a particularly inspired baking day in the '80's.

Banana bread is so popular, it even has its own Wiki page. (How else would I have gotten all of this information?)

Even though the blogosphere is teeming with banana bread recipes, this one's too good not to share. Made with aromatic toasted coconut, crunchy almonds, and creamy coconut milk, it's one unforgettably moist, delicious banana bread. So I'm submitting it to the lovely Gretchen Noelle of Canela and Comino, who has selected quick breads for this month's Homegrown Gourmet.

What's your favorite way to make banana bread?

This recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Lots-of-Ways-Banana Cake, in her cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Note: You can lighten both calories and cholesterol in this bread by substituting Smart Balance for butter, Egg Beaters for eggs, and light coconut milk for regular. I have made it both ways, and they're both delicious.

Banana Coconut Almond Bread
Print recipe only here.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9 X 2-inch round cake pans, or five 6-by-2 3/4-inch mini-loaf pans with cooking spray.

To toast the coconut, place in a dry skillet over medium heat, and gently stir until aromatic and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Keep your eye on it since it burns quite quickly! Remove from heat and set aside.

To toast the almonds, place in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 5-7 minutes.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes. Add eggs, and beat well. Add the vanilla and coconut milk, and beat until batter is silky. Lower the speed, add the bananas, and beat briefly.

Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the coconut and almonds. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. You'll know they're done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temperature right side up.

You might also like:
Chestnut Pancakes with Pancetta and Creme Fraiche
Coconut Lemonquat Tea Cake
Heart Healthy Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones
Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Lemon

Some other delicious banana breads:
Banana Maple Pecan Bread from Marisa of Slashfood
Banana and Nutella Cake from Bleeding Espresso
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar from Tinned Tomatoes
Banana Chocolate Walnut Bread from The Wednesday Chef

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