If there is one edible indulgence I feel completely lukewarm about, it is frosted cake. Chewing through a mouthful of buttery frosting is just such an unpleasant sensation to me. Instead, true to my eastern European roots, I prefer bready, dense, plain cakes. In fact, this year for my birthday Rene baked me a pound cake as a surprise. When I asked where he got the recipe, he said “Plain dry cake dot com.” Of course he was joking, but it did prove how well he knows me and I was very touched. (The site doesn’t actually exist but I vouch for its creation!)
Along with pound cake, banana bread is one of my favorite sweet treats and something I’ve loved to bake since I was a teenager. It just seems like one of those easy, time-honored recipes everybody enjoys making, right? The recipe I used back then was all white flour, a ton of white sugar, and eggs. Now that I’m on a quest to healthify all my favorite home recipes, the time has come to tackle banana bread, which turned out to be a pretty easy task.
I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (yay for whole grains!), ground flax instead of eggs as the binder, and a modest amount of raw sugar. Banana bread is easier to veganize than other baked goods since the mashed bananas do such a great job of keeping the cake moist (ugh, sorry… is there a synonym for this?). I also decided to add some roasted coconut flakes, which give the cake a tropical, nutty flavor, and chewy, slightly crunchy texture. It’s safe to say I’m never going back to coconut-less banana bread and I invite you to join me.
“Sooo… what’s with the avacado?” is probably what you’re thinking. Well, I first got the idea of putting mashed avocado on a sweet bread from the Hemsley sisters’ cookbook, Good + Simple. In the book, the avocado goes atop a quinoa-zucchini bread. I’ve never actually made that recipe but the idea stuck with me as I was flipping through the book one day. Upon closer inspection of their recipe as I type this, I see their bread is actually a savory recipe – whoopsies! Nevertheless, avocado takes this coconut banana bread from snack to small meal territory, and it is absolutely delicious. It goes especially well with tea or coffee, for those of you who are fans of the whole second breakfast phenomenon like me. If the mixture of sweet and savory freaks you out, the bread is equally good schmeared with nut butter.
If you can’t find ground flax seeds at your store, grind whole seeds in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
- ⅓ cup melted unrefined coconut oil, plus more for the pan
- ½ unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 large very ripe bananas
- ⅓ cup organic raw sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons rolled oats (optional)
- Mashed avocado or all-natural nut butter, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and grease it with coconut oil; set aside.
- Spread the shredded coconut onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- In a small bowl, stir the ground flax with ¼ cup water. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients – the resulting “flax egg” should be thick and slightly gelatinous.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and roasted coconut. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until smooth, and stir in the sugar, coconut oil, milk, vanilla, and the flax egg until combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry (do not over-mix) and transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with oats, if using. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, about 45 minutes. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Cool completely before slicing.
- Serve with mashed avocado and/or nut butter. Leftover banana bread may be covered with plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.