Banana-Coconut Bread (GF)
The landscape and weather here transforms overnight. Beige and dry for months, cool, even cold, days keep knee-high boots, sweaters and scarves on heavy rotation. Then one morning you wake to view an entirely fresh canvas awash with color, summer-like temperatures and routine rain or thunderstorms. There’s no in-between time.
That’s just springtime in the south.
As an antidote to much warmer days and so much grey sogginess, I’ve been looking to brighter flavors and lighter ingredients. With the recent holiday and memories of family fresh in my mind, something comforting and home-y seemed appropriate. And so, a new recipe for banana bread flowed forth.
My affection for banana bread began early, enjoying thick slices of intensely moist and rich banana bread, still hot from the oven because we couldn’t wait to let it cool. Every family has their own recipe it seems, passed through the generations, and my mom’s is certainly up there with the best. It is created with love, and, as most are, lots of butter and lots of sugar.
I’ve made hers many times and, more recently, created this healthier, lighter and still very delicious version of my own.
I continue to work on my gluten-free baking game, and thus feature a variety of gluten-free flours here, some homemade. Into that goes a combination of coconut milk and yogurt to stand in for typical butter and its saturated fats, and mashed banana to increase moisture and act as a natural source of sweetness, in place of refined white or brown sugar.
What’s in it for me?
Bananas of course are a terrific source of potassium, important for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function, also providing vitamin B6, manganese and the antioxidant properties of vitamin C. A prebiotic food, bananas — in conjunction with the probiotic yogurt — help create and support friendly gut bacteria for improved immunity.
A source of monounsaturated and some omega-3 fats, almond and macadamia nut flours promote heart, immune and brain health. Naturally low in carbohydrates, these are fair sources of magnesium and good sources of both manganese and fiber for further cardiac protection, improved digestive function, bone health and blood sugar control. They both offer a bit of protein, and the almond flour adds vitamin E.
To keep the recipe gluten-free, a balance of starchy sweet white rice flour and higher protein and fiber millet flour round out the bulk of the dry ingredients.
If you can get your paws on unrefined, wild honey* sourced from local bees, take some home. You not only support hives and growers in your area, but benefit from better flavor and an abundance of antioxidants with antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that promote digestive and immune health, among other things.
Coconut milk is naturally high in fat, predominantly saturated. However, it contains no cholesterol, and the form most of the saturated fat is found in — medium chain saturated fatty acids — is more rapidly used for energy by the body, meaning it’s less likely to be stored as fat and may affect cholesterol levels differently than saturated fats from animal sources. Coconut milk also offers a good bit of fiber, and is a surprisingly good source of essential minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and selenium. Ultimately moderation is best, which is why I kept the amount here to 1/2 cup.
A warm slice is nice on its own or topped with smashed berry jam and lemon juice or a little yogurt and honey. I imagine toasting and swiping on a dab of butter would be nice as well.
Balanced in protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrates from the variety of GF flours and yogurt, this could even pass as a breakfast alongside your coffee or tea. That balance, with the easily-digested sugars and potassium in the banana, make it an option for a post-cardio workout snack as well.
I’ll continue to bake our family’s recipe (fret not, Mum) — it is still, in my eyes, the quintessential banana bread. But this makes a nice, slightly more virtuous, alternative to the norm. Perfect for springtime entertaining or any rainy day to recall happy childhood memories and chase away the clouds!
Tell me… Does your family have a tried and true recipe for banana bread? What makes it stand out for you?
- 1 cup homemade almond flour (see HGN Notes)
- 1/2 cup homemade macadamia nut flour, or more almond flour (see HGN Notes)
- 6 Tbsp sweet white rice flour
- 2 Tbsp millet flour
- 3 tsp (GF) baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 medium, very ripe fresh (or frozen) bananas (see HGN Notes)
- 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 2 large eggs
- 3 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt (or strained regular yogurt)
- 2 tsp high-quality pure honey, local if possible (my favorites are sourwood and buckwheat)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350° F with a rack in the middle. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf tin with a bit of olive oil, butter or melted coconut oil. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, use a fork to smash 1 1/2 of the bananas. Thinly slice the remaining 1/2 banana, and arrange as you wish in the bottom of your greased loaf tin. Set both aside.
- Sift the dry ingredients (nut flours through salt) together into a large bowl. Pour coconut milk into a large liquid measuring cup, and add eggs, yogurt, honey and vanilla. Whisk or stir with a fork to combine, then stir in the mashed banana to incorporate.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and fold through with a rubber scraper until ingredients are just combined. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, and bake until the top is browned and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow the loaf to cool before turning out onto a rack. Will keep in the refrigerator, covered, up to 1 week. Freezes well also.
Whenever there are too many bananas to use, I pop extras (peeled) onto a sheet tray to freeze separately and then move them into a zip-top bag for storage. These are especially good for baking, as they become super mushy when thawed (in the refrigerator overnight or a couple hours). If you do use frozen bananas here, slice the portion you need and place in the greased tin before thawing.
This makes a flatter loaf (1 to 1 1/2" tall). If you prefer a thicker loaf, try an 8 1/2x4 1/2-inch tin. I would recommend keeping the oven temperature the same, and increasing the baking time by 5 to 10 minutes, beginning to check for doneness at 50 minutes. (FYI: I have not tested this size; using common baking recommendations.)
+ To make it vegan: Use melted coconut oil or olive oil to grease the pan + replace eggs with chia or flax eggs + sub maple syrup or agave for the honey.
+ Use any nut/seed flours you have on hand in place of the almond or macadamia.
+ Substitute another heavier-weight GF flour, like buckwheat or quinoa, for the millet; or go a level up with a medium-weight GF flour, like sorghum, brown rice, or certified-GF oat flours.
+ Amp up the coconut by adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut into the bread itself, and/or top with 2 to 3 T before baking.
+ Dial down the coconut by replacing some or all of the coconut milk with more yogurt, or another 1/2 mashed banana.
+ Fold in 1/2 cup toasted and chopped almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts or pecans (or any other nut/seed!) for some crunch.
Recipe adapted from Chew Town.
*Note: It’s becoming easier to find unrefined, wild honeys these days, especially at farmers markets, co-ops, and even major grocery chains that source local products. If you can’t, though, be sure “honey” is the only ingredient on the label.
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