Last week I decided to shake up my usual banana bread game with a rye flour banana bread.
My Zerocery produce box from a couple of weeks ago came with four bananas, and I knew immediately that I wanted to turn them into some kind of baked goods. Whenever I get bananas, my first thought is to use them in a recipe, rather than eat them fresh. I guess it’s because bananas are so versatile and used in so many ways, it almost seems boring to peel and eat ’em. You hardly ever see recipes for, say, persimmons (been there, done that).
Another reason: these bananas were yellow and ripe when they arrived, and I really hate eating ripe bananas! I like bananas best when they still have a tinge of green. Whereas I enjoy the sweetness of many ripe fruits, a ripe banana tastes… too banana-y for me. How many of you know what I’m talking about??
Anyway, I decided to make a banana bread, since it’s something Kevin and I both like (plus I’ve been looking for excuses to use my loaf pan more often).
King Arthur Flour has a recipe for banana bread using rye flour, which intrigued me. There was a pound of rye flour in my pantry that I’d bought for making Boston brown bread, and I was interested to see if using rye would make a noticeable difference in taste and texture.
Does Rye Flour Banana Bread Taste Any Different from Regular Banana Bread?
If you served me a rye flour banana bread along with one made from all purpose flour, I doubt I could tell the difference. This recipe uses a solid helping of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, and the spices probably overpowered whatever hint of rye was in there. That said, this bread was definitely my most successful banana bread yet! But whether that’s due to the flour, or the other ingredients in the recipe, or just me being a better baker in general since the last time I baked banana bread, I can’t say.
I used my Pullman pan, which I prefer because it gives a narrower and higher shape to the loaf, so each slice has more surface area on which to spread creams and toppings. Also, it has a non-stick coating so I don’t have to grease or line the pan.
If you have some leftover banana like me, you can slice them thin lengthwise and press them firmly into the top of the batter. You know. To make it pretty.
Cream Cheese & Banana Bread: Name a More Iconic Duo
While the bread was baking, I remembered a banana bread I used to buy from my high school cafeteria. It was sold in little saran-wrapped bundles with cream cheese frosting sandwiched tightly between two slices. (In fact, it’s still my favourite banana bread ever! Not sure if that’s because it was one of the first banana breads I remember tasting, and I’m suffering some kind of first-time syndrome, or because it was that delicious… actually, I’m leaning more towards the theory that it just has a ton of sugar.) Anyway, I decided to make my own cream cheese frosting to emulate that good old taste of nostalgia.
Cream cheese frosting is super basic. It’s one of the easiest frostings you can make imo. You don’t have to worry about it splitting or the sugar not dissolving properly, it doesn’t get hard and gritty in the fridge, and it takes less than five minutes to whip up with an electric mixer.
Since I’ve never really paid attention to the particulars of cream cheese frosting, I decided to take this chance to do a mini taste test.
Cream Cheese Frosting Taste Test
I started by mixing up a batch of frosting with just three ingredients: cream cheese, butter, and icing sugar, and spread it on one slice of the banana bread. Then I added a splash of vanilla extract, and spread it on a second slice. For the third slice, I mixed in half a tsp of cardamom powder with the icing.
Frosting #1: Pretty good. Together with the banana bread, it almost transported me back to my high school days.
Frosting #2: I immediately noticed the difference made by the vanilla extract. Even though frosting #1 tasted great before I tasted the second frosting, it now tasted flat and just plain sugary, with not much depth beyond that.
Frosting #3: Couldn’t taste a difference between #2 and #3. I tried hard to see if I could make out the extra kick of cardamom, but I couldn’t. The banana bread was probably already so heavily spiced that the extra cardamom just blended into the background.
I didn’t do a comparison between just the frostings themselves because sorry, I can’t bring myself to eat straight up sugar and fat unless it’s an Oreo.
Then I fed all three slices to Kevin for a truly blind taste test, and the results were anticlimactic. All three slices tasted the same to him. He thought Frosting #3 tasted a little less sour (so maybe the cardamom and vanilla flavours toned down the tanginess of the cream cheese), but overall couldn’t tell them apart.
He did like all three, though, which is enough for me. When I first mentioned pairing cream cheese and banana bread together, he was super grossed out. But after tasting it for himself, he admits that it’s a yummy combination!
Recipe for Rye Flour Banana Bread
I used the recipe from King Arthur Flour, with the only changes being reducing the sweetness and adding a cream cheese frosting. (Kevin said he would’ve preferred it to be sweeter, so if you too like a sweet banana bread I would use the original recipe.) Here’s my adapted recipe, which makes 1 loaf:
- 8 tablespoons butter (113 g) original recipe calls for unsalted, but I used salted and it worked just fine
- 1⁄2 cup brown sugar (100 g)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1⁄2 cups mashed ripe banana (340 g) for me, this was 2 1⁄2 bananas; I reserved the last 1⁄2 for decorating the top of the bread
- 3 tbsp honey (65 g)
- 2 large eggs (110 g)
- 3 cups rye flour (318 g) you can get this at a specialty store or Bulk Barn in Canada
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1⁄4 cup butter (55 g)
- 1⁄2 package cream cheese (4 oz or 110 g)
- 1 cup icing sugar (110 g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract optional
- In a medium bowl, microwave the butter and brown sugar together until melted (about 1 minute); some small chunks of butter are okay.
- Pour the butter-sugar mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the vanilla, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low speed until smooth.
- Mash the banana in the bowl previously used to heat the butter and sugar.
- Add the mashed banana, honey, and eggs to the large bowl; mix on medium speed until combined.
- Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.
- Spoon the batter into a loaf pan.
- Bake the bread uncovered at 325 °F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a long toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few wet crumbs clinging to it.
- Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Turn the bread out of the pan, and cool for at least an hour on a rack.
- Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Let cream cheese and butter sit out at room temperature for at least half an hour to soften.
- Mix cream cheese and butter together, starting on low speed and gradually speeding up, for about a minute.
- Add icing sugar and mix for another minute.
- Add vanilla extract and mix for another minute, or until it’s lookin’ pretty smooth.
Apple Banana Tea!
It’s best to cool bread completely before slicing, but quick breads don’t suffer as much if you cut into them sooner. As for us, we waited a little over an hour; the bread was still warm, but it was getting late at night and I didn’t want to have to wait until morning to try the bread. Nothing better than tasting a loaf still warm from the oven! Then I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and left it on the counter.
The next morning, the quality didn’t seem to be affected by the fact that I sliced the bread warm. It was still moist (but not soggy), soft (but not gummy), and had a great flavour! The cream cheese gets better the next day. It firmed up in the fridge and seemed to get smoother, and was easy to spread.