BMB: Coriander-Spiked Banana Braid

Continuing my resolution to bake bread at home more often (BMB: Bake More Bread), today we’re back to a recipe we first tried 12 years before and know we love: a banana yeast bread from the1000 Classic Recipes cookbook. I had never tried a yeast bread flavored with bananas before then — I had always thought of banana bread as a quick bread (made with baking soda, not yeast). But this lovely yeast bread is a nice change of pace for toast, French toast, and even sandwiches. It is moist, chewy, soft and mildly banana-— the banana flavor is noticeable but subtle. And the bread is really not sweet — other than a couple tablespoonsful of molasses or raw sugar, the only sweetness comes from the fruit itself. Hard to resist eating just as it is, but you can imagine how much better a PB&J would be if made with this bread, can’t you? Warm Nutella or squares of dark chocolate are absolutely heaven (Best.Breakfast.Ever.). I also like to use this for grilled cheese sandwiches, especially with an aged cheese. My dear T. has a problem with sweet breads used for savory purposes — he’s surprised that he enjoys the flavor combination, but at the same time feels “repulsed” (his word) by the sweet-savory combination. He recognizes, though, that he has a problem, so that’s the first step, right? *smile*

The original recipe is spiked with cardamom instead of coriander seed, and we do like the original but I just read someone waxing poetic about the combination of bananas and coriander and wanted to see for myself. The coriander is more subtle, but both spices complement bananas well — choose your favorite! Next time I’m going to try the same combination of spices I use for my banana quick bread: cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and allspice.

This loaf came about by pure serendipity. The market where I was shopping last week had a glut of over-ripe bananas that they were selling at 3 lbs. for $1.49. They weren’t bruised or blackened, just speckled. Can you pass that up? I can’t. What isn’t used in a bread, quick bread or oatmeal in the next 2 days will be peeled and frozen for later use. I was thinking of making our usual quick bread at the time I bought the bunch, but the morning I started to bake, I remembered this long unused recipe and went digging through yet-unpacked boxes to find the right cookbook. In 4 hours the kitchen was filled with the faint aroma of yeasty bananas (good name for a rock band?).

Now if only serendipity could help me find my copy of the original Tassajara Bread Book that my SIL gave me… I know it’s around here somewhere but it’s in a box we haven’t unpacked yet.

(Adapted from 1000 Classic Recipes by Hermes House publishing)
Makes one 1lb loaf

3½ cups/1lb (455g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp powdered coriander seed
1¼ tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
â…” cup liquid whey or water, warm to the touch
2 TBL (29ml or 43g) unsulphured molasses
or raw sugar (23g)(used sugar this time)
2 ripe bananas, mashed well
egg wash: 2 TBL beaten egg mixed with 2 TBL water

Combine flour, salt and coriander powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the center of the flour, and add the yeast. Mix together water, molasses/sugar and bananas, then add wet ingredients to the well in the bowl. Attach dough hook to stand mixer, and mix at low speed to incorporate all flour, about 1 minute.

When dough has come together, increase speed to medium high or high for 3-4 minutes, until the dough smoothes out.

Turn dough onto floured table and continue kneading by hand for 6-10 minutes or until dough is elastic and smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes under damp cloth or lightly oiled plastic film.

Divide dough into 3 equal parts. Braid dough and place on baking sheet. Cover again with lightly oiled plastic film and place in a warm spot away from drafts until well-risen, about an hour. Test for doneness by pressing gently but firmly on the top of the dough: if it springs back quickly, the dough needs more time; if the indentation remains, it’s ready to bake.

Pre-heat oven to 425F/220C.

Brush braid with egg wash. Place in middle rack of oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 400F and bake 15 minutes longer, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped (you may want to tent with foil if you prefer a softer, lighter-colored crust). Cool on rack.

Toasted Banana Braid with Dove Dark Chocolate:
Toast bread, place 2 chocolates on bread
and return to toaster oven for 30 seconds.
Smear with knife.
Bite. Smile. Repeat.