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Banana squares for breakfast and an important recipe update
Unfussy, uncomplicated, but oh so scrumptious
This recipe, which I love (you know that I wouldn’t send it to you if I didn’t), comes from the first chapter of BAKING WITH DORIE, “Breakfast, Great Starts to Every Day.” It was one of the recipes that I worked on during the earliest days of the pandemic and I’m convinced that even though the times were singular, this recipe’s origin story is probably the same as every other recipe for anything baked with bananas: I created the recipe because I had overripe bananas. Every time I’d pass them in the kitchen, I’d tell myself that I had to do something with them and finally I did. Then, because we reached for them every morning, I dubbed them “breakfast squares,” thereby giving everyone (unneeded and unasked-for) permission to have cake in the morning.
HOW PLAIN CAN YOU GET?
Once I got the recipe in shape and was certain that I was going to include it in the book, I began to wonder if I should (had to) decorate it. I knew that it wasn’t going to win any beauty contests if I didn’t. But I also knew that it didn’t need frosting to be good. What it didn’t have in looks, it had in taste and texture, and so I trusted bakers to find its virtues. And they did! They also found an error on page 84: There’s no indication of when you should add the 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract listed in ingredients – the vanilla goes in after the eggs. Thanks to all you sharp-eyed readers.
The texture of the squares is unexpectedly light – I got that lightness by using oil along with butter and by adding oats to the batter. It’s got a little chew and a little crunch. I got that texture – and a heap of flavor – with dried fruit, chopped nuts and flax seeds. The add-ins are perfect blend-ins with the batter’s most flavorful ingredients: bananas, of course, whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, buttermilk and a bit of espresso powder. If comforting or soothing or satisfying were flavors, you’d get them by using these ingredients.
TO EACH HIS OWN
While I nixed the idea of a frosting, I watched as my family nibbled their way through the squares and noticed that they’d sometimes pair the squares with a go-along and I did, too. Michael spread butter on his. Joshua grabbed peanut butter. Linling had hers with yogurt. And me? I usually had a square straight up … unless there was great jam in the house, and then my layer of jam was as thick as Michael’s swirls of butter.
I hope you’ll make these plain-Janes and enjoy them for breakfast, lunch or anytime. Also, they’re good travelers – they’ll go to the beach or to the top of the mountain with you.
Happy baking! I’ll see you back here on Friday.
Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I might earn a little flour-and-sugar money if you make a qualifying purchase after clicking on a link, which I promise to use while creating more stories like this. Thanks for your support.
BANANA BREAKFAST SQUARES
GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START
Bananas: You want them to be overripe. They should be a little mushy. When I catch the whiff of the bananas on the counter before I see them, I know it’s time to make theses squares.
Oil: I usually have a neutral oil in the cupboard – these days it’s avocado oil – and it’s what I’ll grab for baking. But because of the mix of flavors here, coconut oil is a good choice, too.
Dried fruit: Raisins – I know there are loathers out there – are my go-to. I love them and am never without them, but if they’re not your faves, use cranberries (or craisins) or bits of dates or figs, both so good with banana. Whatever you choose (and you can omit the fruit, if you want), just make sure it’s moist when it goes into the batter: Dried fruit won’t get softer in the oven.
Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are tiny and retain much of their crunch when they’re baked. I find them beautiful and I love how they speckle a cake or bread. I think of them the way I think of whole-wheat flour – wholesome and earthy.
Makes 16 squares
2 1/4 cups (306 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (90 grams) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant espresso or ground coffee (optional but good)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3/4 cup (150 grams) packed brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (120 ml) flavorless oil, such as grapeseed, avocado, or coconut oil (nice with banana) – see above
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large or 4 medium mushy, overripe bananas, cut into chunks (see above)
2/3 cup (160 ml) buttermilk (well shaken before measuring) or sour cream
3/4 cup (60 grams) oats (not instant)
1/2 cup (60 grams) finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/3 cup (50 grams) moist, plump raisins or an equal amount of chopped or diced soft dates or figs (see above)
1/4 cup (40 grams) flaxseeds (see above)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan, preferably one with 2-inch-high sides, and dust it with flour, or use baker’s spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Whisk both flours, the coffee, if you’re using it, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat both sugars and the butter together at medium speed for about 2 minutes; you’ll have a pasty mixture. Pour in the oil and beat for another 2 minutes, or until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed.
One by one, add the eggs, beating for a minute after each goes in. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on medium, drop in the pieces of banana, beating until they are blended into the batter. You’ll have a very light, almost fluffy mixture; if you still have chunklets of banana here and there, that’s fine.
Turn off the mixer, add half of the flour mixture and pulse to begin the blending. Then mix on low speed only until most of the flour disappears. Pour in the buttermilk or sour cream and mix until it’s almost all in, then turn off the mixer, add the remaining flour mixture and pulse and mix only until the flour is almost incorporated.
One by one — still on low speed — add the oats, nuts, if using, raisins or other fruit and flax. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand, if using, and finish the blending by hand with a flexible spatula. Scrape the batter into the pan, smoothing the top.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is deeply golden brown (if you think it is getting too dark, tent it loosely with foil or parchment) and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan; a tester inserted into the center should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let sit for 5 minutes, then run a table knife around the edges of the pan, if needed, to loosen the cake. Turn it out onto the rack, peel away the paper and turn it right side up. Let cool until just warm or at room temperature.
Cut the cake into 16 squares and serve as is or with some or all of the suggested go-alongs.
STORING: Wrapped well, the cake will keep for about 4 days at room temperature or for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it in its wrapper.
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