Whole Banana Sourdough Bread #BBB

I'm sure there were a few raised eyebrows when the recipe reveal for this month included the use of an entire banana, peel and all.  Add to that a wild yeast version and this looked to be a real challenge.  Of course we Babes are always allowed to tweak as we see fit.  Not everybody is a banana person even.  Here in the US we generally only have Cavendish bananas available. I had heard this before, and it's quite an interesting story about the source of artificial banana flavor being different than what we get in the grocery store.  That's because banana flavoring was allegedly based off a different variety of banana!  (That was the Gros Michel, or the Big Mike, and I am one of those that adores artificial banana flavor, especially banana popsicles).  It may or may not be true, but certain varieties have indeed been wiped out here by fungus and so we have just the Cavendish typically.  And other varieties of imported bananas are necessarily shipped green for keeping and therefore not truly comparable to the freshly harvested ones available regionally.  I still remember the insanely flavorful and sweet little red finger bananas we got off the canoe in our overwater bungalow breakfast delivery in Tahiti, 24 YEARS ago.

Now for this recipe, don't worry about the compost bin as the entire banana is used, peel and all.  Excepting the stem and blossom ends!  To facilitate this process, the banana is frozen and the peel pureed with liquid.  I do recommend a decent portion of the liquid so you get the finest particles of peel possible.  I had thought the peel contained resistant starch, but I think it is mostly just good old fiber.  It is green bananas that have a large amount of resistant starch.  Both are good for you.  For my tweaks, I made my dough sweeter and added a touch of yeast to compensate, and more flour to offset the sugar, which is technically a liquid ingredient.  And in the interest of greater banana flavor, I added a peeled banana to my filling mixture, reducing the butter a little.  That was a tasty choice.  There was a little flour added as well to stiffen up the filling a bit.  And for shaping, I decided on  both the butterfly buns and a babka style loaf.  This is a fairly slack dough, so a little challenging to maneuver, but it all came out pretty well!  The buns are delightful as a breakfast pastry, heated and topped with a little butter.  What a treat.  The babka is soft and subtle and I want to try it as french toast, though it is sublime toasted with butter.  Yes, I am a toast freak.

Thanks Elizabeth for this very distinctive recipe!  We would love to have you try out this unique bread with us this month and share how it turned out!  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.  If you would like to post your results with a Buddy badge on a blog, let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page.

Wild Banana (peel and all) Cinnamon Bread (or Buns)
based on a recipe in the "Tassajara Bread Book" by Edward Espe Brown, with notes about the recipe from "Bread Alone" by Judith Ryan Hendricks, and the method for using ALL of the banana in the Washington Post's recipe for "Don't Peel Your Banana Bread" (quickbread)

    1 ripe banana, washed thoroughly, and frozen


    50 g (98 ml) whole wheat flour (I just used AP)
    50 g (50 ml) water
    spoonful (~15 g) wild yeast starter from the fridge


    410 g (3 + 1⁄3 c) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted (I used about 490g)
    10 g (1 Tbsp) buckwheat flour
    12 g (24 ml) wheat germ (I used golden flax meal)
    30 g (30 ml) plain yogurt (I had grainy sour cream to use up)
    170 g (170 ml) water
    2 Tbsp (27 grams) vegetable oil
    all of the leavener from above (I added ½ tsp instant yeast to support the extra sugar)
    banana from above, thawed
    14 g (1 Tbsp) brown sugar (I increased to 6 tbsp)
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    8 g (generous 1 tsp) sea salt + 10 g (10ml) water

Filling (I would probably make more next time, even with the addition of the banana)

    60 g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted (I reduced to 2 tbsp and added one peeled banana plus a
                                                                  couple tbsp flour)

    28 g (2-3 Tbsp) brown sugar
    25 g (2 Tbsp) white sugar
    ground cinnamon (or a mixture of ginger and cinnamon), to taste
    pinch of salt, to taste
    handful or two of pepitas and/or raisins, optional

Glaze (optional)

~1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk

    prepare the banana: Two days before baking the bread, thoroughly wash a well ripe bananas (nicely spotted).  Dry the banana, then cut the stem and bottom edge off (discard or compost), and place the banana in a freezer bag to freeze. The next morning on the day before you plane to bake the bread, take the banana out of the freezer and put it (still in its freezer bag) into the fridge to thaw.

starter: The night before baking: mix leavener ingredients in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave overnight in the oven with only the light turned on if it's cool at night, (or with the light turned off if it's warm in the kitchen).
dough: On the morning of baking:

test the leavener: see if a small spoonful floats in a bowl of cool water. It probably will.  If the leavener has fallen, sprinkle in a little more whole wheat flour and the same amount by weight of water. Stir, cover and let rest for about 30 minutes to check again.  When it floats, proceed with making the dough.

dry ingredients and starter: Sift the all-purpose flour into a mixer.  Add the buckwheat flour and wheat germ. Add yogurt, ripe starter, brown sugar, egg, 70 grams of the water, vegetable oil, and salt to the bowl.  Knead to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter while preparing the banana.

        banana: The Washington Post's "Don't Peel Your Banana Bread" recipe is based on the recipe for Zingerman's Bakehouse Banana Bread. That recipe has the best explanation for how to prepare the bananas for the dough itself:

        1. Prepare the bananas. [...] Defrost. As the bananas freeze and defrost they will turn black. They do not need to be black prior to freezing. [...] Puree until they are a smooth paste. You may see tiny dark specks of the peel. This is fine.

I pureed my banana after cutting into chunks, using a blender.  I had added all my water to the initial dough but would recommend saving out 100g to help puree the peel.  An immersion blender in a narrow jar will work as well.  Add puree to the dough that has been resting.

Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and glossy and the gluten is well developed.  It will be a little sticky and slack, but will form up nicely when handled.

filling: melt the butter and allow it to cool to room temperature. Combine with the sugars and spice in a bowl.  Mix in an additional banana and a couple tbsp flour if desired.  Cover and set aside at room temperature.

shaping: when the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured board. Divide into 2 equal pieces.

I picked out any particularly large pieces of peel that I saw.

loaves: Gently shape the dough into flat rectangles that are about 2 centimeters thick. Smear the filling over each rectangle and roll like jelly rolls, from the narrow side, to make 2 loaves. Put the rolls seam side down in parchment paper covered bread tins. Run your hands under water and gently wet the top of the shaped bread. If you're using them, scatter pepitas on top. Cover the tins with a damp clean tea towel and let rise at warm room temperature until almost double. To test if it has risen enough, flour your finger and press gently on the edge - it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.  I chose to turn my jelly roll into a babka shape by cutting the roll in half lengthwise and then crisscrossing the two strands, keeping the cut side up.  This is a slight challenge to transfer to the pan since the dough is quite soft, but it's doable.

instructions for shaping and cutting buns

buns: Using a lightly floured wooden rolling pin, roll one of the pieces, as thinly as you can, into a long rectangle. Evenly slather the top of the rectangle with half the melted butter and half the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll the rectangle up as tightly as you can to form a long tube. Cut diagonally and use a chopstick to press down the centers so that the spiral flares out. Place well apart on parchment covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Cover the shaped buns with a damp tea towel and let sit in a warm, non-drafty spot until they have almost doubled. *

preheat the oven: A half hour before baking, turn the oven to 375ºF for a loaf or 350ºF for buns.

bread: Just before baking, mist or sprinkle the tops of loaves with water. Bake in the center of the oven.

baking: Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the loaves are golden.

buns: Bake the buns in the center of the oven.  You may wish to double up the baking sheets to prevent the bottoms from overbrowning.  Half way through baking, rotate the sheet to turn the buns around.

cooling: For buns,remove them with the parchment paper to a wire rack on the counter to cool completely.  For bread, let sit for 5 minutes in the pan, on its side, then remove it from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  The bread should be 190ºF internal when done, or sound hollow when thumped.  If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

Believe me, those little bits of filling that spilled out were delicious!

Babka is just such a gorgeous loaf!

If you wish, add a thin icing sugar glaze to the buns and drizzle on the loaf.  I just took a couple scoops of powdered sugar in a bowl and just enough milk to make a thin coating and drizzle.

The bread is wonderful thinly sliced and toasted. The buns are an equally wonderful breakfast pastry, warmed and served with extra butter if you want.

Note from host kitchen for those avoiding bananas: Having gone through phases when, under no circumstances, will I even tolerate being in the same room as a banana, let alone eat one, it occurs to me that others will feel the same. Please feel free to use another fruit instead (omitting the cinnamon swirl if it doesn't make sense). For instance, I have made fabulous muffins that include a completely pulverized naval orange (peel and all). Dates and pecans go very well in them.

*It's amazing what you remember from your childhood...  Back in high school, I subscribed to one of those baking recipe binder filling things.  "Great American Home Baking".  They sent out monthly packets of recipes to you.  I got to a full second binder before deciding enough was enough.  But I do still have them, and I knew there were pictures of the bun shaping method in them.  Yup, exactly where I remembered.

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes



  1. Your babka is gorgeous. You are a master dough wrangler!

  2. Wow! Wow! Wow! So THAT'S how it's done. They all look fabulous, Kelly.

    Thank you for extending the experiment by adding the banana to the filling as well! (I'm so envious of your beautiful swirls. Next time, I think I will try adding a few lightly toasted bread crumbs to my cinnamon/butter mixture. Maybe that way, the swirls will show up.)

  3. You absolutely mastered this bread! Gorgeous babka AND buns! The dough really doesn't look that dark but I like that you show both the dough and the banana puree before they are combined, and the dough once it has doubled. Excellent shaping too. With that slack a dough the swirls you got in the babka are amazing - well done!

    1. It would have been amusing to watch, and probably included sound effects. So carefully lifting and crossing that soft dough, then whoopsie scoop, woosh, plop, oops, futz, smoosh, just leave it, that's as good as it gets...

  4. So that's how it's done! I was having a hard time envisioning how to do the swirled buns. Beautiful! Your babka looks fabulous as well.

  5. Both the babka and the rolls look so good! I admire you for using the peel too. I just wasn't adventurous enough. I added banana to my filling too but My filling got a bit gloopy though it was delicious.

  6. Gorgeous - all of them. I think I can smell the cinnamon!


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