Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tweaking Martha

I really want to like Martha Stewart. She's smart, capable, has good hair, likes to eat, and is confident picking paint colors. I like that she did hard time. I like to imagine her in the Clink, teaching the sisters how to embroider their initials on to pillow cases. I'm convinced that her biggest obstacle to likability is using too much starch in her button down shirts. And I think she might even have a sense of humor, underneath all the shellac that prevents her from having real facial expressions. 

But I'm not that crazy about her banana bread recipe. I'm like everyone else in that I'm always looking for a better banana bread recipe. For a while, I used Gale Gand's recipe. She's a pastry chef here in Chicago, and besides being very talented, she's also very nice, which makes her banana bread taste even better. But her recipe uses two sticks of butter. That's a half a pound, which is like adding 20 cholesterol points to your next round of blood work. So unless she makes Lipitor part of the recipe (2 cups of flour, 2 sticks butter, 40 mg. Lipitor....), I need to find another option. 

I tried Martha's recipe, but it's pretty uninspired. With a little tweaking, I think I've made it into the recipe it was meant to be. It's not a complete makeover, just a little nip and tuck to make the original more palatable. Too bad I can't do this with Martha herself. 

Tweaked Banana Bread

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup minus 1 Tbs. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Whole Foods has this)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 - 2 Tbs. ground flaxseed, optional
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a standard loaf pan with cooking spray. 
In a food processor, combine the bananas, sour cream and vanilla, and puree. It will be quite liquid (this helps the bread stay moist throughout). 
With an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until well combined. Add the eggs, and beat until combined. 
Sift the dry ingredients (minus the flaxseed) together and add to the butter. Beat just until incorporated. Stir in the banana mixture, and then the optional flaxseed and nuts. You can use a spatula or wooden spoon to do this. 
Pour into the loaf pan. As always, place the loaf pan on a sheet pan and bake on the middle rack, turning once mid-bake, for about an hour. When it's done, the banana bread will feel lightly springy to the touch. This is the best way to check for doneness. Let cool.

The original recipe had 1 cup of sugar, and I thought it was far too sweet. If the above amount is still too sweet for your taste, reduce it by another tablespoon, and see how that works for you. If you can't find whole wheat pastry flour, use plain old whole wheat flour, which you can find at Jewel or Dominick's. The bread won't be as fine-textured. Not a big deal. 


  1. You always make me laugh. I completely comply with your Martha dilemma. And I think your recipes sounds dynamite. But the two sticks of butter one sounds divine, too.

  2. Gale Gand's recipe is good. I replaced one stick of the butter with canola oil, and it worked well. The recipe above is simpler, so that always wins out in the end - as long as it also tastes good, which it does.

  3. Your tweaked bb recipe looks great but I have 2 questions. Have you every used brown sugar instead of some of the reg. sugar and/or buttermilk to replace the sour cream? Also, have you ever added choco chips to bb and, if so, did you reduce the sugar?

  4. I have used honey in place of some of the sugar, but I think brown sugar would work fine. Try substituting an equal amount and see what you think. My experience is that white sugar is a little sweeter than brown, but see what you think.

    As for the buttermilk substitution, I have not tried this, but of course I encourage you to try anything that doesn't sound too crazy. Then report back! Because I use low-fat sour cream, and not regular, it could work fine (buttermilk is low-fat as well).