Desi, my hubby, has a sweet tooth. A very, very sweet tooth. Although he’s usually careful about what he eats and pays close attention to what’s healthy and what’s not, all his good intentions simply evaporate when faced with a cookie or a cake or even a donut.
So one of the challenges I constantly face, as the primary cook of the household, is to make sweets that are healthy and nutritious without sacrificing even the tiniest bit on the taste factor.
One of the first cakes– or “breads”– that I ever made was a banana nut bread. It was in my pre-vegan days and I followed the recipe in the Joy of Cooking to the letter. It turned out great, and Desi was hooked.
Later, as a vegan, making a banana nut bread that was as good, but without the eggs and the butter the recipe called for, seemed a little daunting. However, substituting the eggs with a mixture of powdered flax seeds and water, and the butter with canola oil, as well as adding applesauce to the recipe, produced a moist, extremely flavorful bread that tastes as good as, if not better than, the original.
Flax seed powder is a great substitute for eggs in most recipes. Eggs usually serve as a binding agent in baked goods, and flax powder, when mixed with water, acquires a texture similar to that of beaten eggs and helps bring the ingredients together beautifully.
As I usually do with most baked goods that call for all-purpose flour, I used whole wheat pastry flour instead, further upping the nutrition value. I also used vegan sugar (Whole Foods has a great free-trade brand on its shelves) but you can also use regular or turbinado sugar. I add a tablespoon of molasses in my recipe because it gives the bread an even richer flavor and a great brown color, but you can leave it out if you don’t want to use it or don’t have any on hand.
I also toast the nuts lightly before I put them in the batter because I believe that extra step really enhances their flavor.
1 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
5 1/3 tbsp canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp molasses (optional)
2 tbsp powdered flax seeds mixed well with 6 tbsp water
1/4 cup applesauce
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted, then chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a 8 1/2-inch by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl.
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the oil and the sugar on high speed for about 2-3 minutes.
Beat in the flour until the mixture resembles brown sugar
Beat in the flax-water mixture and applesauce
Fold in the mashed bananas and chopped pecans.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Bake about 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes and then unmold and let cool completely on a rack.