CHARLESTON, W.Va. - No matter how hard I try to resist, I just can't pass up a good bargain.
So when I saw the bags of deeply speckled bananas at the store with a deeply discounted price, I just had to buy some. And I couldn't just buy just one bag; the deal was so good I bought two bags.
Once I got them home I was confronted with the stark reality of just how many bananas I had to use. My freezer is so packed that it's hazardous to even open the door, so the easy solution of freezing them for later was out of the question. I didn't have a lot of time to try new or complicated recipes, so I turned to the old standby, banana bread.
I have never been a big fan of banana bread. Most recipes I've tried are greasy and gooey or dry and bland.
Since I love the somewhat nutty taste of oats, I decided to find a way to incorporate those into the banana bread for added flavor. Toasting whole oats adds a lot to the underlying nutty flavor (try it sometime when making oatmeal), so I hopped on the Internet to look for oat-banana bread recipes.
However, I found that most banana bread recipes with oats sounded like they would resemble banana-flavored cardboard in both taste and texture. Since I would need to develop my own recipe, I enlisted my husband's co-workers to help me with a taste test. Making several loaves also helped to achieve my goal of using 10 pounds of bananas.
Many loaves later I found a good balance between dense, greasy bread and light and fluffy loaves that resembled cake more than a quick bread. I found that leaving the oats whole did not work; they never baked completely and left odd-looking, chewy white specks throughout the bread. Therefore, after toasting the oats I pulverized them in a food processor until they resembled very coarse flour.
Determining the proper amounts of liquid and leavening agents was the next challenge.
Many banana bread recipes produce a batter that is extremely wet, which results in a long baking time to make sure the center isn't a gooey mess. The extra baking time can make the outer edges as tough as the afore-mentioned cardboard.
Not using enough leavening also results in loaves with dense, gooey centers and over-baked exteriors. I added a little orange juice as acid to interact with the baking soda, resulting in a better rise.
Although I generally bake with butter, not oil, I wanted to make these loaves with oil so those with lactose-intolerance could also enjoy the bread. Also, using oil lets the banana flavor shine a bit brighter because butter can sometimes mask delicate flavors. If you wanted to be decadent, you could replace the vegetable oil with nut oil (walnut oil would be excellent). Doing that does offset the value of using cheap bananas, though.
Adding some spice to the batter rounded out the flavors and made this a good afternoon snack or, toasted and with a little butter smeared across it, a great breakfast treat.
Toasted Oat Banana Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 2/3 cups whole oats
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar