Sunday, April 25, 2010

Swedish Whole Wheat Banana Bread Recipe

Nearly ten years ago, I spent a few dark winter weeks in Sweden while co-staging CRWDSPCR, a work of Merce Cunningham’s, for the Royal Swedish Ballet. It was detailed, exhausting work, the first time I’d attempted a staging, and mostly, my friend Tom and I worked in a basement dance studio, with only a few tiny portholes near the ceiling to let in a brief amount of the already scarce light. The sun worked fewer hours than we did, and concurrently, so we missed each other daily. I’d wake and eat breakfast in the dark, walk to the theater by the light of the streetlamps, and by the time our work day was finished, the sun had passed cocktail hour, eaten dinner, and was already off to bed.

But even in the winter black, there is plenty in Sweden to be happy about. While there, I ate reindeer with lingonberries, västerbotten cheese tarts, avocado halves filled with löjrom, the mild orange vendace fish caviar, rye flatbreads with pickled herring of every sort (curry, mustard, spiced, creamed, in wine sauce, with juniper berries), gorgeous and tall sandwiches on seeded bread with sprouts, and salmon with potatoes covered in lemony dill sauce. As an aperitif, I drank caraway and cumin aquavit from delicate glasses, and for dessert I tried barely sweetened and cardamon scented cakes and breads, some braided, some with cream fillings.

I’m remembering Sweden because of a recipe. Claudia, who found this recipe in an online Swedish newspaper, was a foreign exchange student to my cousin Sarah long ago, and sent it to me via the only email chain letter I didn’t break, a recipe chain. Claudia has a German father and a Swedish mother, and in the many years since her time in Ohio, has become part of the family. When I was still in high school, I visited Claudia in Hamburg, Germany, where we ate plentiful breakfasts of whole grain breads and cheeses and jams and butter to spread with those quaint Swedish butter and jam paddles I would purchase years later for myself, on that dark trip to Stockholm.

I like the addition of coffee in this recipe, and in the interest of healthy eating, I substituted agave nectar (see note in recipe below) for the sugar, and swapped out one cup of regular flour for whole wheat pastry flour. Even healthier, now, this recipe is easy and delicious. Make it next time you have some extra ripe bananas lying around, or if you’re craving a little sunshine in your kitchen. Thanks, Claudia. Thanks, Sweden.

Swedish Whole Wheat Banana Bread Recipe

5.3 ounces butter
1 1/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup of agave nectar, but you could use up to a cup for a sweeter cake) note: Whoops. I just heard about the myth of healthy agave and will write about it soon.
2 eggs
2 cups flour (I used one cup all-purpose unbleached white with germ, and one cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 medium sized ripe bananas
1/4 cup cold coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Centigrade), and grease a round baking form, round with a hole in the middle, diameter about 11 to 12 inches, or use a non-stick one. (I used a rectangular loaf pan)

Mix butter and sugar with an electric mixer and then add the two eggs and mix again until fluffy.

Mash the bananas with a fork.

Add the flour, baking soda and baking powder, bananas, and coffee to the dough and mix again.

Pour the dough into the cake pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes in the lower part of the oven. After cooling down you may cover the cake with icing or powdered sugar.


Tau-Mu said...

I love banana bread, although I don't normally associate it with Sweden. I remember dark and bitterly cold treks across bridges to meals with lots of pickled fish. Somehow, I like your recollections a lot better HB!

Banu said...

When were you there, Tau-Mu? Yes, it was cold, dark, and sad when I was there, too, and I would love to return in the light of the summer to visit the islands and spend some time on boats, enjoying the long days.

powderate said...

Banana bread, the variations are endless. The agave brings the glycemic levels down and the pastry whole wheat flour even better. I like the texture and the photos do it justice! I visited my relatives in Stockholm one November and it was dreary, but the pre-holidays brightened the mood. My fondness for the Reindeer boots I brought home was just slightly less treasured than the elk steak and lingonberry sauce my Uncle treated at a restaurant overlooking the inner harbour in Gamla Stan.

Banu said...

Ooo...reindeer boots. Elk steaks. Gamla Stan. Thanks, powderate!

Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks said...

Have you ever made without coffee? I'm one of the few folks who doesn't drink it. I'm a bit caffeine sensitive and was wondering if you ever substituted with anything else? Perhaps I could use yogurt?

Tau-Mu said...

It was winter and my hosts assured me that summer was more lively as you say with a midsummer celebration that would induce even a Hungry Bear to dance!

Banu said...

Andrea: I'm sure it would be fine if you left it out and used less flour.

Tau-Mu: yes, I think summer is the time to go!

Michelle J said...

This looks fantastic! And your photo should be on the cover of Bon Appetit! ;)

Banu said...

Thanks, Michelle J!

Anonymous said...

Hi Banu

5.3oz of butter? I'm confused. It looks yummy AND I overbought bananas this week!!
Love to you
Amy Schwartz

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