Banana bread has been having a moment in the sun. Bananas do not have a long shelf-life for fresh storage, but most home cooks are well aware that the browner the banana, the sweeter the banana bread. If you stocked up on bananas because they were available and couldn’t eat them before they went a bit soft, banana bread is a natural choice. It is not, however, your only option for dealing with aging bananas. Also, bananas are not the only food that quickbreads are good at using up.
Let’s deal with those bananas.
If you don’t need to see banana bread for a while but still have bananas to deal with, here’s what you do: Peel the bananas. Place them in a single layer in a freezer bag and lay flat in the freezer until frozen. Frozen bananas slice relatively easily and can then be used in any kind of smoothie or to make banana “nice” cream.
What’s a quickbread?
A quickbread is any kind of bread that is chemically leavened. Which is to say, it uses an interaction between baking soda and either heat or baking acids (such as baking powder, cream of tartar, or buttermilk) to produce gas to rise the bread. It does not use yeast and therefore doesn’t require time to proof the bread. Hence: it’s quick. Often these breads are cake-like and sweetened, but they don’t need to be.
Tip: Baking powder is actually a combination of alkaline baking soda and acidic cream of tartar. If you run out of baking powder but have the other two on hand, you can make your own using a 1:2 ratio of baking soda to cream of tartar.
Use up your zucchini.
Zucchini is a fun little vegetable that can end up featuring heavily in farmshares or garden hauls. You can stuff it, toss it in a stir fry, toss it in a soup, or even slice it up as a dipping vegetable with hummus. It’s versatile. It also makes for a moist and tender quickbread. Too moist, in some cases: pressing your shredded zucchini in a mesh strainer to remove some of the water is not a bad idea.
Pumpkin bread and muffins are classic. Canned pumpkin is a great pantry staple that can make a wonderful bread. It also plays nicely with herbs to try out a more savory quickbread. If you don’t have canned pumpkin kicking around, you can cook butternut squash (roast, boil, microwave…it’s all good) and use it as a direct replacement. Drier squashes like Hubbard also work, although you need to add a little extra moisture to compensate, and I don’t have a verified ratio to guide you on that. You could probably use any number of veggie purees…sweet potato, carrot, beet…but you will have to experiment without my guidance on those ones. For now.
Make your own buttermilk.
Milk is another item that doesn’t keep very well. Yes, you can freeze it, if you have the freezer space and the container space and if you don’t mind a little textural strangeness, but chances are that a few of you have bought more milk than you are entirely sure what to do with before it goes off. Sour milk is not a good option for cereal or drinking. It is, however, excellent for baking, and because you’re heating it to sufficiently high temperatures, you can push the “best by” dates a little. Toss the milk if it’s chunky or smells bad, but if it smells okay and is just a little past your comfort zone for using it cold, you can mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (bottled is fine) with enough milk to make 1 cup of liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to get a decent approximation of buttermilk for baking.
Aspiring sourdough bakers, make sure to read last week’s post. Next week we’ll be discussing the diverse world of flatbreads.