Thursday, March 15, 2007
My roommate Carol has a copy of The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, published in 1992 (there has since been many revisions, with the most recent one published in 2002, featuring revised recipes and colour photos.) As a new cook, Carol's "goal" for the year is to make all the soup recipes in the book (it's funny because she makes them to the letter, which usually results in 6-8 servings, and she's just cooking for herself!) But since then, she has moved on to some other recipes, like chapatis, naan, etc. When her friend Glenna was visiting, more than once I heard her say, "Well Mollie says that..." when they made meals together. I teased her for being on a "first name basis" with the author of her cookbook.
But then I realized I have "my own" Molly, the owner of the beautifully written Orangette and soon-to-be author herself. Not too long ago she shared an eggless banana bread recipe, with coconut and RUM. (I'm not going to post the recipe in my own entry because it is there, and she's a wonderful writer, and you should read her blog if you don't already.)
All right, so I know I already have a banana bread recipe that I love, and I still love it because it is certainly much quicker than this one, and only uses two bananas.
But, this banana bread recipe has lots to rave about. First, (which Molly also raves about) is the use of Demerara sugar, which gives the top crust a sparkly appearance and also an interesting and sweet crunch.
I don't really know why this happens, but I think it might have to do with caramelization, or sugar's water retaining properties? I'm flipping through my Food Fundamentals textbook (Understanding Food by Amy Brown) and I still don't really understand it :S
So anyway, this hard crust gives way to a soft, regular bread (the crust on the sides is like regular bread) which I found to be quite sweet, but not unbearably so (Note that I only came out with 1 cup of bananas, so I replaced the other ½ cup with plain yogurt, which turned out well. I also used sweetened coconut, because that's all I had.) I also felt that the bread had a buttery taste to it, making it seem more rich than my usual banana bread, which is made with oil.
This leads me to my other food science-y rant; the fact that the banana bread does not use eggs. Eggs provide structure because of their protein content, and leavening because beating the eggs incorporates air. In this banana bread, since there's no eggs, baking soda and vinegar are used instead. According to the comments on Orangette, apparently this is a common technique among vegans. I personally think if you're not vegan or don't have an egg allergy, you should keep your eggs in your baked goods because they are an excellent source of complete protein (as in, it has all the essential amino acids)--I'm not lying about it being an excellent source, in fact, in equations that compare whether a food has complete proteins, eggs are used as the standard. Eggs are also a good source of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and some B vitamins.
But how does the baking soda and vinegar thing work? Well if you've ever mixed baking soda and vinegar together as a kid, you know that the mixture bubbles, so in the baking/leavening context, it incorporates air. The reaction is actually intensified by heat. The baking soda (alkaline) and vinegar (acid) are actually neutralizing each other, which causes the reaction, which is also why the banana bread doesn't taste oddly bitter from the baking soda or oddly sour. Usually in most recipes that call for baking soda, there is already some acidic ingredient that will neutralize the baking soda, so vinegar isn't added... In this recipe it's probably there just to add that extra "oomph" so that the bread is leavened even without the egg.
Food science and tasty banana bread... who knew?