Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dessert Challenge: Pure Vs. Processed

Pure food cooking does not neglect the sweet side.  In fact, if you’ve been tempted a bit too much in recent years by sugar-laden processed cakes and cookies with mystery ingredients, one sure fire way to cure yourself of the habit is to start eating real baked goods made from pure ingredients.  This is a good example of retraining your taste buds.  Limit yourself to a few well-made desserts and sweets per week and the packaged cookies high in sweeteners and black-listed fats won’t hold as much appeal. 

This recipe for Autumn Pear-Banana Bread is perfect for fall, using pears and bananas to replace some of the sugar and fat and yogurt for a nice dose of dairy.  If you have wanted to try baking with honey, you’ll find this is an easy primer.  The original recipe used some brown sugar and to get that deeper flavor a small amount of molasses is included with the honey.

This is a quick bread, mixed together and baked into a sliceable loaf that tastes good warmed up or at room temperature.  It is also a very forgiving kid-friendly recipe. Make it really easy by taking the butter out of the refrigerator early in the day so it is soft and easy to work with.  My husband thought there was chocolate in the recipe due to a hint of a cocoa flavor.  The dark satisfying taste actually comes from the molasses and a combination of spices including cinnamon and a very small pinch of ground clove.  If you’ve been buying “pumpkin pie spice” instead of the individual spices you’ll find the elements of the blend in nice proportion here.

Autumn Pear Banana Bread
1/4 cup unsalted butter (4oz) at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or whole wheat white flour*) 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 t powdered ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves (a pinch is just shy of 1/8 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 cups total over-ripened banana and pears (2 bananas, 2 pears)

Preheat oven to 325˚.  Grease a loaf pan with vegetable oil. 

With a electric beater on low or a fork, beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Mix in honey and molasses.  Add vanilla, egg and yogurt.  Make sure ingredients are completely blended.  In a separate bowl combine flour with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt and baking soda.  In a third bowl, mix together chopped pears and mashed bananas.  Add flour mixture to butter-honey mixture and combine with a spatula. Add pear-banana mixture by hand with spatula.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  Bake at 325˚ for 55-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.   Allow quick bread to cool in the loaf pan to retain maximum moisture.

Slice and serve.  
Also good as a breakfast bread with peanut butter.

*King Arthur has a flour blend called white whole wheat flour which is 100% whole wheat but may be more easily substituted for unbleached all-purpose flour than regular whole wheat flour.  This flour can also be found under the name whole wheat pastry flour at natural food stores.  

More fulfilling (not just filling) desserts and snacks promised in future posts as the “dessert challenge” progresses.