Originally published in The Taos News
No dry yeast? No problem!
One of the first items to disappear from grocery stores was active dry yeast, along with cleaning supplies and toilet paper. The latter have returned, albeit still rationed in some places, but dry yeast hasn’t.
I have tried to find it at our local Albertsons with no luck. It’s out of stock online as well, except for Amazon, where you can find it but highly overpriced: 14 dollars for a strip of three packets (0.75 ounces each). There were also some reviews about close expiration date so I decided not to take a risk.
But I still needed to bake. I have been making my own bread for years and wasn’t about to stop now, when everybody else—it seems—has begun to do so. Ah, nothing like the aroma of warm freshly baked bread around the house! Thankfully, I had enough flour stored. No worries, though; after a brief shortage, there is now plenty of flour in stores.
Then I remembered a recipe for banana bread that has been a favorite at home and requires no dry yeast, only baking powder and baking soda, which are available in most supermarkets. My recipe has been adapted from one that appears on Food Network. I used brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar—I like the richer flavor that molasses provide, and the sweetness level is pretty much the same. I also added blueberries, raisins and sunflower seeds for texture. Pecans and walnuts can be good additions as well.
Another twist was that instead of two cups of all-purpose flour, I used one and a half, and the remaining half came from a mix called Trilogy (flax, hemp and chia seeds). There’s something deliciously crunchy in multi-seed bread, and it is also healthier. On that note, if a whole stick of butter makes you concerned about cholesterol levels, try substituting it for one cup of coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil. I have done it and the coconut flavor complements the bananas in a nice, fruity sort of way.
This banana bread has wonderfully soft crumb and can be eaten as a sweet treat with honey or jam. Or, like any other bread, with butter. I like it with olive oil and salt—the sweet and salty combination makes it even more savory.
Have fun and don’t stress! As my friend Bonnie Lee Black told me the first time I attempted to make bread in her kitchen: “bread is very forgiving.” Don’t be afraid of making messes or mistakes… and enjoy the process.
I’d like to close with verses from La casa (The House) by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral:
y al centro el Pan que casi habla.
Oro más lindo que oro del Pan
no está ni en fruta ni en retama,
y da su olor de espiga y horno
una dicha que nunca sacia.
(Here is salt, here is oil,
and in the middle Bread, almost speaking.
Gold prettier than the gold from Bread
is found in neither fruit nor tree,
and its aroma of wheat and oven
delivers everlasting joy.)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup of Trilogy mix (flax, hemp and chia seeds)
1 cup white granulated sugar or brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 or 4 ripe, or overripe, bananas
1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Butter a loaf pan.
In a big bowl, mix the sugar and butter until light and fluffy, then add eggs slowly, one at a time, making sure they blend well with the other ingredients.
In another bowl, mash the bananas and mix with the milk, vanilla, blueberries and cinnamon. If you are into gadgets, you can use an electric mixer but a fork does the job and is easier to clean.
In a third bowl, mix flour, Trilogy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the banana mixture to the sugar, egg and butter and stir until well blended.
Add dry ingredients and continue mixing until totally blended.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes.