Wait! Beforeyouthrowstones! Low fat baking is not heresy. No matter what certain haughty French pastry chefs tell you…if you’re in the practice of speaking to haughty French pastry chefs. Yes. Fat does a whole host of spiffy things to baked goods, it’s easy to come by (in any mode that tickles your fancy) and always results in baked awesome. But the universe demands balance. Or God just has an awful sense of humor. Fat causes death. True story. Okay, obviously there’s a lot more involved, and that was a blanket statement. But politicians do it all the time, and aren’t pummeled with lemons.
The point is, that though handy, the addition of fat is not necessary in all baked goods. However. You do have to be clever with your substitutions and alterations. Lucky you: I’m a very clever girl. Most of the time.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the cool stuff fat does (Hey. Quiet. It’s better than organic chemistry class, and actually has an immediate practical use in life: banana bread)
1. Prevents gluten from developing by preventing the absorption of water into some of the flour particles, keeping the product off the ice rink. (i.e. not a hockey puck.)
2. In the case of butter, helps leavening via air bubbles when you cream it, and the evaporation of moisture creating pockets (like in pie crusts)
3. Provides structure by holding the air bubbles provided by leveners
4. Carries flavor (ever made your own flavored oil? Same concept. Fat is a conductor of flavor like water is a conductor of electricity.)
5. Helps with the liquid-to-dry-ingredient balance by creating little water-proof pockets that hold in the moisture you do add, so you don’t need to add extra moisture that would throw off the balance, and make a gummy product.
So. Fat’s the daddy whose expectations we have to live up to. Tender, moist, structure, okay. We got this. Although more sugar kind of defeats the whole “healthy” thing, it does help tenderize and moisturize…like your favorite Russian massage therapist. It competes with the gluten for moisture and helps separate the flour particles to prevent gluten formation. Yogurt offers structure via its protein content and tenderness through its acidity (denatures proteins) and body. Fruit purees offer moisture and body; and liquid sugars offer moisture.
What about eggs? They bind. Like the ties. Egg whites are actually a drying agent, and can toughen batters if the proteins are left in tact. Whipping them up helps lessen the toughness, but adds to the dryness. Whipping whites also adds lightness. It’s like a teenage girl. (I was one, so I can say it without seeming belligerent. ) Yolks are nature’s emulsifiers. They add a creamy-bindy-type texture. Since we’re not looking for a creamy, anxty bread, lots of eggs aren’t necessary. Biscuits don’t need eggs, and they turned out fine. I tell people that about myself all the time. They look at me weird.
All of this is why I think vegan bakers are brilliant.
Anywho. The banana bread.
Makes 1 9″ x 5″ loaf
1 3/4 cups Whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons Canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Buttermilk
1 cup Mashed banana (about 3)
2 tablespoons Honey
3 tablespoons Brown sugar
1/4 cup Water
1. Spray a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with non-stick spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all dry ingredients and whisk to break up any lumps.
3. Combine all wet ingredients and whisk to incorporate.
4. Bring wet and dry together like the Red Sea after Moses.
5. Fold, people. Fold. Or else it’ll toughen up like a beaten foster child.
6. Turn into the greased pan and bake until browned and it passes the toothpick test-about 45-50 minutes.