Banana Nut Bread

Since I lack any and all self control around baked goods, I figure the least I can do for myself (and my waistline) is to bake healthier. Perhaps you have already noticed this in my recipes. I generally substitute applesauce and plain yogurt for butter and oil (in fact, I haven't used oil for months!). I use whole wheat flour in place of all purpose. And, I even cut down the amount of sugar in my recipes purely in the name of health! (Or, more honestly, because I don't like my foods too sweet).

Using whole wheat flour is definitely the most noticeable change. Whole wheat flour gives baked goods this fantastic texture and more diverse taste. My cakes and breads are also thicker and denser, meaning some of the "lightness" of the baked goods has been sacrificed. Though, I think this is made up in the good feelings I get knowing I'm eating some quality whole grains.

I can't even think of a negative effect by substituting applesauce and plain yogurt for butter and oil. There is not a noticeable loss in taste or texture, as far as I have been able to tell. Often I find my cakes and breads so moist I have to worry about them molding before they get completely devoured (I have shed tears over baked goods taken in their prime more than once). Isn't that the kind of "problem" a good baker should have? Unless I want something to be dark and decadent, making these simple substitutions is perfect for your everyday baking.

This banana nut bread is the healthiest loaf of banana bread ever conceived (or close to it). It is jam packed with bananas and almonds, lacks butter and oil, and uses maple syrup in place of sugar. It is tender and moist and absolutely everything you look for in a good banana bread. And it is good for you. I don't think anyone can argue with that.

Banana Nut Bread
Adapted from Cooking for Seven

Yields 1 loaf

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large, overripe bananas, mashed well
1/2 cup maple syrup (can be substituted with 3/4 cup sugar)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
extra banana for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, almonds, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the mashed bananas, maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, making sure to scrape the bottom with your spatula. Mix until just combined. The batter will be thick, lumpy, and smell delicious.

Pour the batter into the floured pan and garnish with sliced bananas. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Serve the banana bread hot, cold, or room temperature. It tastes wonderful with a butter or cream cheese spread.