Blackberry Gluten-Free Banana Bread

So you are staring at a pile of bananas on your counter that is well beyond the point of being appetizing. If you are like me you hate throwing out food, it is offensive. The compost heap is an option, but making banana bread is the culinary equivalent of turning a pigs ear into a silk purse.

In my journey to remake traditional recipes in a gluten-free manner, I tried many variations of flour blends and techniques recommended by GF blogs. There are two problems with many of the approaches, the result is too dry or too wet.

Flour adds structure to baked goods, it’s the scaffolding that everything hangs on and the flour absorbs moisture to deliver the goodness that we love baked goods for. Not all flour absorbs moisture at the same rate or level, and compounding that problem is that many GF flours are brittle because they don’t achieve the molecular crosslinking that gluten enables. This is what makes many GF goods dry and crumbly.

The solution for dryness is not to add more moisture. The liquid in any baked good needs to be absorbed or evaporated, there isn’t any other option. The problem with excess moisture that has to evaporate is that the outside will be perfectly done while a forked piercing the center will come out wet and gooey. ¬†Striking the balance between dry and crumbly, and wet and heavy is the extistential challenge in baking.

I like this banana bread because it combines the differences in textures between flour and oats with the fantastic flavor or bananas and vanilla. It’s moist enough to melt in your mouth but structured enough to break off a chunk and have it remain intact. The best part is that it’s a 1 hour and 15-minute process that uses one bowl for easy cleanup. A word about oats, which are gluten-free but not always labeled as GF because they often get milled and packaged in facilities that are not exclusively GF. If you are Celiac you would do well to purchase GF oats but if you are simply cutting out gluten, regular oats will accomplish your goal.

3 very ripe bananas, about 1 1/2 cups total
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3 tbs. melted butter
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tbs. honey
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cup almond meal
1 1/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup oats
Fresh blackberries, enough to cover the pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×5″ loaf pan¬†or line with parchment paper. Baking spray is my preferred approach and the Bak-Klene brand is phenomenal. It comes in a gluten-free formula that does not use wheat starch.

In a stand mixer, mash the bananas to a paste. Add all of the ingredients through the almond meal and whisk vigorously. Reduce mixer speed and blend in almond meal, flour and oats. Let rest for 10 minutes.

A word about the fresh fruit in this recipe. I’ve have had problems fruit in baked goods burning on the bottom of the baking pan or distributing unequally through the batter. My solution for this is to not put the fruit in the batter. I pour the batter into the baking pan to cover approximately 1/2″ from the bottom. I then lay in the blackberries (or blueberries or raspberries) in a single layer being careful to not allow blackberries to touch the edge of the pan. Pour remaining batter into the pan and sprinkle a few pinches of turbinado sugar on the top.

If you wish to skip the fruit in this bread, simply add 3/4 cup of milk (or almond milk if you are dairy-free) to the batter as an additional ingredient before you add the flours. Fresh fruit, especially berries, will add moisture to baked goods as they heat, the compensation for this is to reduce the liquid you are adding to the batter. If you eliminate the berries, simply add more liquid to the batter.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, but start checking at the 1-hour mark. Let rest for 1 hour before serving, and this last step is critically important because if you serve right out of the oven I can guarantee your banana bread will be a hot mess on the plate. The resting phase allows the banana bread to tighten up and hold its structure while remaining moist and flavorful.