Cape Gazette
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Cape Flavors

Go bananas with these recipes

By Denise Clemons | Jun 10, 2013
Photo by: Jack Clemons Banana date oatmeal cookies.

We’ve been overrun with bananas. Without thoroughly considering the consequences, we bought a bunch of ripe bananas to eat in the following few days and another bunch of green ones for later in the week. As you may imagine, we watched the green skins turn speckled brown before the first bunch was gone.

After peeling and freezing several of the bananas for future smoothies, I started searching for recipes that featured bananas. Did you know that if you ask Google for banana bread recipes you’d receive over twenty-one million hits? I didn’t take the time to see if each was unique, but suspect there were several identical recipes each handed down from a different grandmother.

Where do bananas come from? Believed to have been first domesticated in Papua, New Guinea, bananas are grown in tropical climates around the globe and are available throughout the year. Most of the bananas we see in the supermarket are from Latin America and represent almost half of all fruit sold in this country. Depending on their degree of ripeness as well as the specific variety, bananas will vary from starchy to sweet in taste and from firm to mushy in texture.

The most common type of banana you’ll find in the grocery is the Cavendish. These are picked and shipped while still green; as they ripen their skins turn yellow and their flesh softens and sweetens. Plantains are another variety and known as “cooking bananas”. These are also picked when their skins are green, but as this starchier and firmer fruit ripens, their skins become black.

When choosing bananas, look for a bunch that is firm, but not hard. They should be bright in appearance, without any brown spots, bruises or other injuries. Avoid any without stems or with sponginess at their tips. Since size is not a reflection of quality, choose bananas that are small or large enough for your needs.

With their thick skins, bananas may appear to be well protected, however they’re quite fragile and easily damaged. Allow them to ripen at room temperature, avoiding extremely hot or cold conditions. If you place not-quite-ripe bananas in the refrigerator you’ll interrupt the ripening process and they’ll remain underripe. Ripe bananas can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days; although the skin will turn black, the flesh won’t be adversely affected.

Now that I was fully versed in caring for my bananas, it was time to start eating them. Unwilling to create the caloric burden of a banana cream pie or the traditional tea bread, I opted to find some other ways to use the remaining bananas before they turned too mushy for anything but the compost heap.

My first experiment was to bake the cookies in the photo. Because ripe bananas are so sweet, this recipe doesn’t call for any sugar. Since the dough is so dense and replaces flour with rolled oats, no leavening is required. To keep these nuggets an almost-healthy treat, chopped dates substitute for chocolate chips. Vanilla and cinnamon brighten the flavor, while a little bit of melted butter holds everything together. These were definitely a hit, disappearing much more quickly than the bananas themselves.
The next day for breakfast we enjoyed a batch of banana muffins elevated from the ordinary with the addition of a cinnamon streusel topping. With the stragglers from the last bunch of bananas still sitting in the bowl on my counter, I remembered the technique of replacing eggs in chewy baked goods with a mashed banana for each egg in the recipe. For the brownie recipe below, I left one egg in the batter so the chocolate flavor wouldn’t be completely buried in banana. Maybe I should look into plantains next.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

2 or 3 ripe bananas
1 1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 C chopped dates
1 t vanilla
3 T melted butter
1/2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly to combine.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 15 minutes. Drop teaspoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, flattening slightly with the back of the spoon.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. After cooling, store in an airtight container.

Banana Streusel Muffins

muffin batter
3 bananas
1/2 C sugar
1 egg
1/3 C melted butter
1 1/2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
topping
1/3 C brown sugar
1 T butter
1 T flour
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray or insert cupcake liners.

Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and egg; beating until combined. Stir in melted butter; set aside. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, stirring just until blended; do not overmix.

Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender. Sprinkle muffins with topping.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Yield: 12 muffins.

Brownies

1 C mashed bananas
1 1/3 C sugar
1/4 C buttermilk
1/4 C canola oil
1 egg
1 t vanilla
2 C flour
3/4 C cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 C chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bananas, sugar, buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla; set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the banana mixture just until combined; do not overmix.

Add the chocolate chips (if using) and pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool before cutting into squares.

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