Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Perfect Banana Bread with Orange Glaze

Whenever bananas began to turn just slightly over-ripe at my house growing up, everyone would try to resist eating them so that they would turn black and fragrant, encouraging my mother to make banana bread.  A while back she ran across a recipe in Southern Living magazine for 'Cream Cheese Banana Bread' with an orange pecan glaze.  This quickly replaced her traditional recipe and has become a family favorite.  

I took that recipe to college and loved baking up two big loaves for my roommates and I, or I'd bake a bunch of mini-loaves to give as gifts.  When I moved to England I began baking this banana bread for my new roommates and now in-laws, who call it 'banana cake'.  I haven't yet found someone who doesn't immediately love it, even if they claim that they don't like bananas. 

Over the years I have reduced the amount of sugar and salt from the original Southern Living version, used wheat flour as part of the flour, added some cinnamon, and I've replaced some of the butter with vegetable oil.  I usually bake the bread without pecans, which are harder to find and more expensive than they are back home.  If you have ready access to pecans, do add them.  I have also successfully made this recipe with gluten-free flour, adding a tablespoon of xanthum gum.  The orange glaze isn't necessary, but it really sets this recipe apart.

This makes two delicious, tall loaves of banana bread.  If you can't finish them up within 4-5 days, freeze one of the loaves up to 3 months for later use.  To thaw, bring to room temperature and defrost for about 4-5 hours.  The bread is also wonderful sliced, toasted under the broiler or grill, and served with low-fat cream cheese.  

Perfect Banana Bread with Orange Glaze 
makes two large loaves

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (8oz or 230g) package low-fat cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour (or a gluten-free flour blend + 1 tblsp xanthum gum)
1 cup whole wheat flour (or a gluten-free flour blend)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 bananas)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F/ 175C, and grease and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.

Cream butter, oil, and cream cheese until well blended.  Add sugar and mix well.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  

In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Slowly stir into the sugar mixture, stirring only until just combined.  Stir in the bananas, vanilla, and, if desired, pecans.  

Spoon into two greased and floured 8x4 inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350F/ 175C for one hour, until a wooden pick stuck into the middle of the loaf comes out with just a few crumbs on it and no dough.  

Set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Loosen sides of pan with a knife and flip the bread out.  While the bread is still warm, top with the orange glaze (see recipe below).  If freezing, allow the bread to cool completely and the glaze to set before wrapping in foil to store.  

Orange Glaze
makes 1 cup glaze

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange rind

Mix ingredients together.  Pour evenly over banana bread while the bread is still warm.  

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