I bake bread every other day, often every day. And I am often asked by my friends where do you start? How do you learn?
In all fairness, I have been around home-baked bread as long as I can remember. My grandfather is an Italian immigrant, and as far as I know, he has never eaten a piece of store-bought bread. He bakes a daily Italian loaf, pronounced “pan-ay.” He always sent loaves home with us when we went to visit.
Time constraints precluded my mother from baking the fresh bread that my grandfather baked; however, she often baked quick breads such as pumpkin, zucchini and, our family favorite, banana bread. I was always allowed to help.
When I was about 8 years old, I made banana bread by myself, following the directions exactly. It was perfect, sweet, golden brown, warm and delicious. From that moment on, I was hooked, baking at every opportunity. Throughout my childhood, I baked quick breads, muffins, cookies, and pastries (all just fancy breads right?). My friends Brenda and Christine, and I even started Home, Baking, Club (HBC, a pretty clever acronym for three 11-year-old girls).
When I first got married, I decided that I wanted to bake all of our bread from scratch. No problem, I just went to the library and checked out a couple of books. I looked in the table of contents — no recipe for Grandpa’s bread. I decided to go directly to the master and ask for the recipe. Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult to follow. It went something like this: You mixa a little flour lika this with-a that-a… The result? A rubber ball! Yes, it bounced. Many descriptions of dough include the word elastic, but I’m quite sure that I did something wrong.
With much trial and error, I’ve baked many a loaf that did not bounce, maybe some almost as good as my grandpa’s. I hope to share with my readers the tricks that I have learned to make bread-baking doable for even the most inexperienced bakers.
Quick breads are a wonderful way to start for the novice baker due to their fast and satisfying results. They lend themselves to experimentation especially in the use of alternative grains and gluten-free varieties, because they do not use yeast, but instead baking soda or powder (more about this in another post) as the leaving (rising) agent.
I have made banana bread hundreds of times and have experimented with proportions and ingredients. My recipe varies a little bit from others I have seen, but my five children all agree that it’s delicious.
When selecting ingredients always use the freshest that you can find (except in this case bananas). Bread is always best when fresh-ground flour is used. If you have a local mill or are able to grind your own grains, you will really notice a difference!
Easy Banana Bread ingredients:
2 Cups Whole-wheat or spelt flour (the taste and texture is nearly identical)
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 stick of melted butter
¼ cup milk
4 very ripe bananas mushed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
½ cup honey
Easy Banana Bread directions:
The first step is to preheat the oven to 375 degrees. The next step is to grease a 9x5 loaf pan and sprinkle it with flour. First sift together the flour and baking powder (sifting is not essential but greatly improves the texture). In a separate bowl, mix all the moist ingredients together. Use a wire whisk and mix the moist ingredients with the dry. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 55 minutes to an hour. Place a knife into the center of the loaf — if it’s clean, then your loaf is done. Remove the loaf from the oven; if it’s not ready, check every 5 minutess until done.
Now for the hard part: Do not cut it open for at least 10 minutes. Don’t worry, it will still be warm. It just stays together so much better if allowed to cool. If you don’t mind eating your bread with a fork, go ahead and cut it open right away!I hope you enjoy and are inspired to try more bread baking. Stay tune for future posts where we’ll try some more challenging bread recipes.