When I first discovered the joys of using dates as a sweetener, I immediately thought of banana bread. If I could figure out a recipe using only dates as a sweetener, I could eat it any time I wanted, and I thought that along with the bananas, it would probably work out pretty well. It took a couple tries, but I finally got it!
It’s mildly sweet – not as sweet as the sugary recipe I used to use – but still sweet enough! It’s good on its own…but even better lightly toasted with some pasture butter.
And better yet with both pasture butter AND homemade chocolate peanut butter.
We’re talking serious Yum here, folks! Add a glass of milk from grass-fed cows (which has become my new addiction) and it’s pure heaven. Truly.
I’ve been eating this every day for breakfast, and just today made two more loaves because, between me and my son (who also loves it), we’ve been going through it really quickly! And, the best thing is that since there are NO added sweeteners and NO wheat, it’s perfectly fine to have as much as I want of it!
That’s my kind of recipe.
One of the things that gives this bread great flavor is the browned butter. It deepens it and gives a slight toffee smell and taste that’s wonderful! I was going to write how to do it, but since we all know I’m not any sort of food photographer I figured I’d link you to a post that has excellent pictures to let you understand it better. So, if you’ve never browned butter before, read Jessica’s excellent explanation and you’ll know all you need about the process!
So, now that you know how to brown butter, on with the bread!
First, set 10 oz. of pitted dates to soak in hot water and leave them there for 15 minutes. If they’ve been in the refrigerator they’ll be hard and you might have to refill with fresh hot water and let it sit for another 15 minutes, but if they’re room temperature, 15 minutes will probably be fine.
While they’re soaking, start browning your butter. It’ll only take about 5 minutes. After you have your beautiful brown butter, pour it into a heat-safe bowl and put it in the refrigerator to solidify. You don’t want it to be hard – just solidified to the consistency of softened butter. You can speed up the process by putting it in the freezer instead, but you’ll have to stir it every 3 or 4 minutes to keep the sides from freezing. By the time the dates are ready, the butter should be almost ready too.
This batch of butter wasn’t browned as much as I usually do, so when you do it the color will be much darker, but this is the consistency you want!
The 10 ounces of dates should equal 2 cups. Scoop them out of the water with your hands and put them in a measuring cup to make sure. It’s okay if you end up with a bit of water too.
Dump the dates along with 6 very ripe bananas into a food processor.
And when I say “very ripe,” I mean VERY ripe. We’re talking almost rotten. The farther gone they are, the sweeter and more flavorful they are, so don’t be afraid of a black peel!
Process the dates and bananas together until mostly smooth.
and then add 1/2 cup of coconut oil, the congealed brown butter, vanilla, almond extract, and cinnamon. It doesn’t matter if it’s refined or unrefined coconut oil, but I used unrefined because I thought the slight coconut flavor of unrefined oil would be nice.
Process them until combined.
And then remember that you forgot to put the eggs in and put them in. Alternately, you could not forget this step and put them in with the butter et.al., but that’s up to you.
Process it all together until fully combined.
I tried several different flours in prior attempts at this recipe, but spelt is hands down the best. The almond flour (besides being super expensive) didn’t rise well and ended up super moist to the point of being wet. The sprouted whole wheat rose well, but the whole wheat flavor was overwhelming and heavy. The buckwheat also didn’t rise well, and had a sort of grainy texture. The spelt, however, was perfect! Light texture, subtle flavor, moist but not wet, rose nicely…it was the clear winner! Truly delicious.
Spelt is an ancient grain – meaning that it is still a grain like wheat, but is in pretty much the same state as it was thousands of years ago. The gluten content hasn’t been manipulated in it as it has been in wheat, and many wheat/gluten sensitive people find they can tolerate spelt fine. I have absolutely no problems with it, so it’s quickly becoming my favorite flour. I get it in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for a better price than the pre-packaged stuff. After you buy it, just be sure to store it in the freezer to keep it fresh.
So, in a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, salt, and baking soda…
and then pour the wet ingredients into the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry and wet ingredients together until no dry pockets are left. Doing it this way instead of just stirring it together aggressively makes the finished bread more tender!
After it’s combined you’ll have a moderately thick batter.
Grease two large loaf pans with butter or coconut oil, and divide the batter equally between them.
Bake at 350 for 65 minutes, or until browned and the centers spring back when you press them with your finger. A knife inserted in the middle should come out clean and feel hot to the touch.
It smells GREAT!!!
Now, as I said, this bread isn’t as overwhelmingly sweet as banana bread that has sugar in it, but it is definitely sweet enough. Or at least it is for me (especially with the chocolate peanut butter on top!) If you want it sweeter, you can always substitute palm sugar for some of the dates (like 1 1/2 cups of dates instead of 2, and 1/2 cup of palm sugar) but then you won’t be able to eat it as liberally. I love the fact that I can eat as much of this as I want, so I’m fine with the mild sweetness of it for that reason!
Enjoy as breakfast, a snack, or even – with some whipped cream or fruit – dessert!
Browned Butter Banana Bread
- 2 cups (10 oz.) dates, soaked in hot water
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 6 very ripe bananas
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp real almond extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 1/2 cups whole grain spelt flour or whole wheat flour (Almond flour/meal can be substituted for up to half of the spelt flour)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 2 loaf pans with butter or coconut oil.
Soak the dates for 15 – 30 minutes in hot water. While they are soaking, brown the butter. Slice it up, and put it in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the solids separate from the liquid and start to brown. It should smell nutty and fragrant. Watch constantly, as it can turn from “brown” to “burned” easily. After the butter is browned, pour it into a heat-safe bowl and chill until the consistency of softened butter.
In a food processor, combine the soaked dates with the bananas and process until mostly smooth. Put in the congealed brown butter, coconut oil, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extract and process until completely combined. In a large bowl combine the spelt flour, salt, and baking soda. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and fold them together gently until no pockets of flour are left.
Pour the batter evenly into the two loaf pans and bake for 65 minutes, or until browned and the center springs back when you press it with your finger. A knife inserted in the center comes out clean and is hot to the touch. Let cool for half an hour before removing from the pans.