By Rose McAvoy
This winter I have been changing up the flavor of our breakfast foods by using molasses in place of other forms of sugar. I used to keep a bottle of the thick dark syrup in the back of the cabinet (where it always seems sticky) for the very occasional batch of gingerbread. Now in the front of the pantry this viscous, robust sugar alternative regularly ramps up the flavor of pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal.
In contrast to the bright, sharp quick sweetness of honey or sugar, molasses makes me want to slow down and savor each aromatic bite. The molasses tastes like the rumbling purr of a panther sleeping confidently on a jungle tree limb. The very definition of viscous, molasses flows on its own schedule, moving sedately from the bottle to a waiting measuring spoon. When watching the pungent liquid make lazy progress I am glad a little goes a long way. Truly, molasses has a sensuality that appeals to multiple senses.
I have come to grab the bottle for its flavor but I initially reached way back into the cabinet for health reasons. From a nutritional perspective molasses has some notable benefits compared to sugar. Molasses falls much lower on the Glycemic Index (a measure of how quickly food effects blood glucose, aka blood sugar) than refined sugar or honey.* Depending on the context, molasses may be a useful alternative to sugar for individuals needing to manage their blood sugar levels (please consult a nutritionist for your specific needs). According to Wikipedia: “[Blackstrap molasses] contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20 percent of the daily value of those nutrients. Blackstrap has long been sold as a health supplement.”
Nursing a baby takes a lot out of a mom, so I want to make sure I take extra care to put good things back into my body. This banana bread has a lot of those good things. In those moments when I am suddenly ravenous half of slice of this nutrient packed bread makes a satisfying pick-me-up. I also like to start my day with a whole slice and a fruit topped scoop of yogurt. To further boost the nutritional punch for me and the baby I have added a couple scoops of Brewer’s Yeast to a few loaves. If you want to try yours with Brewer’s Yeast be aware it tastes a bit funky but the molasses helps balance yeast’s tang.
If you haven’t used molasses in a recipe lately, go grab the bottle in the back of you pantry and give this Banana-Oat Bread a try. You may find yourself reaching for the ebony syrup more often — but I’ll warn you, the bottle will still be sticky.
Molasses Banana Bread
Using molasses gives this banana bread a sticky sweetness that perfectly compliments the super ripe bananas. The finished bread is fragrantly spiced with a deeper sweetness and hearty texture than most quick breads. Enjoy a slice with some fruit and yogurt for a wholesome snack or quick meal on the go.
Prep time: 20 minutes, Bake time: 1 hour; Yields: 12 slices
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed (approximately 1 1/4 cups after mashing)
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup (4 oz.) 2 percent plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter (or use non-stick spray) a 9×5 loaf pan.
2) In a large mixing bowl: use a fork to blend the butter, sugar, and eggs. Once fully blended use a large spoon to mix in the bananas, molasses, yogurt, and vanilla.
3) Begin incorporating the dry ingredients. Sprinkle the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix well. Add the flour 1/2 a cup at a time and mix just enough to incorporate it evenly into the batter. Finish by mixing in the oats.
4) Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes remove the foil and continue baking an additional 20 minutes. The banana bread is finished when a toothpick can be inserted and removed clean.
5) Let the loaf cool on a wrack in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely on the wrack for a couple of hours.
Approximate nutrition per serving: 207 calories, 7 g fat, 34 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 4 g protein
*From: Healthy Sugar Alternatives – Understanding both healthy ¬ so healthy sugars with their Glycemic Index &Load, Organic Lifestyle Magazine.com, June 12, 2007