Monday, July 8, 2013

Banana Bread Version 3.0:
Gluten-Free, Nut-Free & Vegan

I shared a banana bread-inspired recipe for peanut butter banana cupcakes nearly two years ago that discussed my history with banana bread.  It was the very first thing I ever attempted to bake:  numero uno.  And luckily for us, it turned out deliciously, and banana bread soon became a firm staple in my growing culinary repertoire.  Mind you, that was at a time when I was neither gluten-free nor vegan, so wheat, milk, and eggs were all involved.  Version 1.0.

Fast forward to about six years ago.  After discovering how much better my life could be on a gluten-free diet, and having grown confident with eating and cooking gluten-free, I began to dabble in gluten-free baking.  Naturally, banana bread was one of the first recipes I attempted to adapt, and after a few experiments with different flour and starch combinations using Version 1.0 as a template, I conceived of a gluten-free and dairy-free recipe for banana bread that checked all the boxes.  Version 2.0.

A phalanx of banana peanut butter cupcakes.

Now, fast forward to the Summer of 2012.  I had received a request for a gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and vegan banana bread recipe from a close friend and reader of the blog.  I had the first two down for sure, so I figured that avoiding nut flours and eggs and finding suitable substitutes for both would be fairly easy.  

Um, not so much.

Making gluten-free, nut-free, vegan banana bread was easy, sure.  But it was making gluten-free, nut-free, vegan banana bread that I would want to share that was the hard part.  Using Version 2.0 as a jumping off point, I tried different egg substitutes, from ground flax to pureed fruit to rehydrated garbanzo flour, and whether it was too gummy, too "beany," not banana-y enough, or just plain not good, I was having a really tough time.  My goal is making allergen friendly food that doesn't taste like a compromise or something you "settle for," and there I was, making one unsatisfactory banana bread after another like a broken record.  I did that for months.

And sometimes it's that tunnel-vision "make it work" frustration that finally exhausts you enough to look around at other options.  Other doors to walk through.  And that's when I started looking to other recipes from fellow bloggers that I trust and admire for ideas to get me out of my rut.  Fellow bloggers like Iris Higgins from The Daily Dietribe.   Her banana bread recipe calls for ground chia powder, which I did not have on hand.  But doing some research on chia powder, multiple resources said that it could be switched out for whole psyllium husks in equal proportions, which I did have on hand.  And that's when the record finally stopped skipping.

Using psyllium as an egg substitute is not a new thing for me; many of my recipes call for it.  But it was the amount of psyllium that I was being asked to use that surprised me.  I was accustomed to thinking of egg subs, regardless of what they were, in increments of one or two tablespoons at the most.  So three and four tablespoons just seemed like a recipe for disaster.  But putting my faith in Iris's recipe, figuring that it couldn't hurt if another banana bread didn't turn out right, I bit the bullet. [cue harp flourish in the key of "revelation"]

Success. [cue proud papa dance]

And now, after nearly an entire year, I proudly present today's recipe for gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, and vegan banana bread.  Version 3.0.

Banana Bread with a Candied Sunflower Seed Crust

Active Prep Time:  10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  none
Baking Time:  40-50 minutes
Yield:  One 9"x5" loaf 

1/2 c (2 oz) teff flour
1/2 c (2 oz) sorghum flour
3 tablespoons (1/2 oz) coconut flour
3 tablespoons (1/2 oz) quinoa flakes
1/2 c + 2 tablespoons (2 oz) tapioca starch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 medium ripe bananas (300g)
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 fl. oz) oil (e.g., coconut, sunflower)
1/2 c (60g) coconut palm sugar
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 fl. oz) unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons (18 g) whole psyllium husks

1/2 teaspoon oil for greasing pan

For candied sunflower seed topping:
1/4 c raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1-2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon warm water
1/2 teaspoon oil
pinch salt

What you'll need:  Two medium mixing bowls, one small bowl, whisk, potato masher, spatula, 9"x5" loaf pan

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease your loaf pan.
2.  Combine all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until well incorporated.
3.  In the other mixing bowl, mash the bananas until broken down into a thick, "goopy" consistency.  Add oil and mix briskly (one could use a hand mixer at this point, but I prefer to do it by hand with a spatula or the potato masher).
4.  Fold in remaining wet ingredients, adding whole psyllium husks last.  The psyllium will begin hydrating and expanding, creating a somewhat gelatinous nature to the wet mixture.  Over several baking trials, I have discovered that allowing the psyllium to hydrate longer than 15 minutes adversely affects the resulting texture of the bread, making it more gummy and dense instead of light, spongy, and moist.  So take that into account when prepping and preheating your oven.
5.  Before combining wet and dry mixtures, make the sunflower seed topping by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing well.  In addition to the cinnamon, a few pinches of cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, or clove would also work nicely.
6.  Fold wet mixture into the dry mixture until well combined.  Scoop into prepared loaf pan, smooth the top, and then evenly spread the sunflower seed topping over it, tapping it into the surface of the dough.
7.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the banana bread has nearly doubled in height and is dark golden brown in color.  It should have a slight spring to the touch.
8.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan.  When cool, release from pan, slice, and enjoy.

Overripe bananas doing their thang.

Sweet and spicy sunflower seeds.

Tap the sunflower seeds until they're securely in the dough.

Behold beautiful banana bread.  Wish this was scratch n' sniff.

As tempting as it was to give up at times, I am so glad that I didn't.  From all my missteps and nearly inedible baking trials, I gained a lot of experience that will undoubtedly serve me in the future.  And from all the disappointment and wounded pride along the way (Yes, baked goods can do that to you), the success of this recipe was all the sweeter.  And speaking of sweetness, it's definitely there with this banana bread, but politely refrains from hitting you over the head with it.  And the contrast of texture and flavor from the crunchy candied sunflower seeds, my sticky bun homage, is truly a delight.  

Big Thanks to Iris Higgins, for her constant generosity with knowledge and compassion, and being that helping hand to help me to the top of the summit.  I can only hope that today's post may do the same for someone else banging their head against the wall in baking trial limbo.  And remember that if you're close enough to bang your head against a wall, you may be too close.  

Step back and you may be surprised by what you see.


  1. Kuya,I like the addition of the candied sunflower seeds on top of the loaf. It reminds me of how we used to buy those paper cones of freshly roasted cinnamon almonds at the fair. My vegan and gluten free banana bread was a staple for my lunch club before and it's funny how many times people would say 'Yeah, I want a piece of your banana nut bread, too.' I remember correcting some people saying, 'Actually there are no nuts in the bread....' , but I don't think half of them paid attention anyway. When you first posted a photo of this bread, I told you that I could imagine us having merienda with Lola and her smiling and maybe 'sawsaw-ing,' it in her drink. Making banana bread is one of those go-to recipes because you know that it never fails to please. It's so easy to put together and just pour into a pan and bake. I think that with just a few modifications you could use these to make cake cookies, too.

    1. Yes, the candied sunflower seeds were a direct inspiration from those paper cones we would buy at the amusement park. Bringing two things that I love to eat together - now that's what I call multi-tasking. :) The cake cookies are a great idea, Jess - I will add that to the recipe queue.

  2. I just love your recipes and admire your imagination and creativity.
    I am so glad I discovered this site!
    I have an Apple tree and just love apples anyway. Is there as TON of lovely, freezable recipes for them?
    I do not eat meat or fish, I suffer eggs a little and have mostly recovered from the awful childhood sickness (literally) that were pinned down to them. I can tolerate one per cake or with a traybake but feel queasy even thinking about them as a food source.
    I am sure that you will have your magician-like talent of having something up your sleeve..........


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