I spend a lot of my time looking at recipes. Not necessarily looking for recipes, but looking at recipes. You know, just to check things out, plan out a future dinner party, perhaps make a last minute dessert, and because I just really, really like to. Sigh, my life is not that sad, I promise.
Because I spend so much time looking at recipes, I feel like I have a good grasp of everything that is out there. I know the recipes that are trending on all of the food blogs (pie in the form of other desserts were all the rage last year), I know the new ways people are approaching food (hello, cake pops!), and I know that the classics are always well…classic.
Well, there I was, on a Sunday night, doing my usual Sunday night activity, looking at food blogs, and poring through my cookbooks. I was looking for something specific this time: I had bought about 12 bananas that were really not ripe at all. But you know what happens with unripened bananas. They all turn black at the same time! Anyway, I digress. When I was doing my search, I came across a yeasted banana bread recipe! This was new! I had never seen anything like this before! And I was intrigued.
Even with my aversion (or my determination to overcome this aversion) to yeast, this may be my new go-to banana bread! First off, because it’s January and everyone has resolutions, unlike a regular quick banana bread, this bread has no butter or oil (!). It still uses 3 whole bananas that you may need to use quickly. And to top the whole thing off, it has this cream cheesy, streusel-y filling that makes it just indulgent enough. So delicious. It’s light and fluffy and just barely sweet and banana-y, and a totally new discovery with the same ingredients. A Sunday night winning discovery in anyone’s book, I’d say.
Braided Banana Bread (slightly adapted from Forbidden Rice)
For the bread:
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar in the raw, Turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 medium very ripe bananas, mashed well (about 1 cup, mashed)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose, or white wheat flour
For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar in the raw, Turbinado sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 very ripe banana, mashed
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
For the egg wash:
1 egg, beaten
2-3 tbsp. milk
In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the sugar into your warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast, giving it a good mix. Allow the mixture to sit for 5-7 minutes, until it’s frothy and bubbly. With the paddle attachment, blend in salt, cinnamon, mashed bananas, egg, and vanilla and mix until everything is well incorporated (1-2 minutes). Switch to the dough hook to your stand mixer, and add the flour, about one cup at a time, mixing well until the dough comes together into a soft, slightly sticky ball of dough. Mix on low speed for about 3-4 minutes to knead. If the dough is not coming together into a ball, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out to a lightly floured surface. Fold over 10-15 times, then place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
In a bowl, stir together the sugar, pecans and cinnamon. In a separate small bowl, with a fork, mash together the softened cream cheese and bananas. Put both aside until dough has risen.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle that is about 18″ X 12″. Carefully place the dough to your prepared baking sheet. With the side of your hand, lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread 2/3 of the sugar/nut mixture on top of the cream cheese mixture. Cut out the four corners of the bread so it looks like this:
Fold the top two flaps over the filling. With a pizza cutter, on one side of the bread, slice the dough down the middle until it reaches the filling. Cut each half in half, and again, so you have eight strips on one side. Repeat on the other side of the dough so the strips are even.
To braid the bread, starting on one side, fold one strip diagonally down the filling, repeating with its match on the other side. Keep folding with each of the strips until all the strips are folded over the bread and the filling is completely enclosed. The strips will look like this:
Whisk together egg and milk for the egg wash. Brush on top of the entire surface of the bread. Sprinkle the bread with the remaining 1/3 of the sugar mixture. Cover bread loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. Bake bread for about 30 minutes until it reaches a deep golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely before cutting to make sure that the filling does not seep out.