Dessert, Snack, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Black Pepper Balsamic Banana Bread

Banana bread is such a Proustian treat. Who among us eats a slice without tripping back to his childhood kitchen? Surely the best loaf you’ve had is your mother’s, yes? My sister and I still extol the virtues of mom’s banana bread-pungent with fruit, scattered with walnuts and studded with chocolate (almost to the glorious point of structural disintegrity), this is the cake I mimicked for years. 

And then something happened to me. At the risk of being disowned, I type the following:

I wanted a banana bread without chocolate chips.
Sorry mom) 

I don’t know what came over me and there’s little point in struggling to explain the change. I have a well-documented chocolate addiction (currently snacking on a bag of chips at my desk) but when I pondered my next loaf I thought it deserved to be more than a vehicle for transporting glossy, melted choco-bits down my gullet. It was time to highlight its namesake fruit, the shining banana. 

My first batch was rife with errors-oats ruining the texture and bananas unfortunately under-ripe. I captured the texture on my second batch, moist, but not gummy, sturdy enough to hold in one hand and eat, walking down the street. But even though I waited until my bananas were half-zombies, brown all over and soft inside, the cake lacked a fruity punch.

Enter weird ingredients, stage right. 

Player 1: Vinegar.
Acid always plays to fruits’ strength, so I decided to add some balsamic to the batter. True to form, the vinegar amped the fruitiness and added a tiny tart background. Success. 

Player 2: Spice.
While cinnamon is requisite, I hoped for something more interesting. This time the intrigue came not from my supply of baking spices, but rather from the pepper mill on my counter. Playing to bananas’ savory side, the crushed black pepper flecked the cake with appropriate attitude. 

Now, I’m fully aware that the title of this recipe may be too leaden with descriptors to perk your interest (I usually avoid overly ingredient-ed cooking), but do give it a try. This cake lovingly spans the gap between sweet and savory, equally at home on a cheese plate and a dessert platter. And you know me, I say if you can’t straddle genres now and then, why wake up in the morning? 

Make it tonight. Tell me what you think!

  • 110 grams Brown Rice Flour (~3/4 cup)
  • 60 grams Millet Flour (~1/3 cup)
  • 60 grams White Rice Flour (~1/3 cup)
  • 25 grams Tapioca Starch (~1/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ⅔ cup Sugar
  • ⅓ cup Oil (Rice Bran, Coconut, Safflower, Sunflower…)
  • 4 Ugly Brown Bananas
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • ⅓ cup Chopped Walnuts or Pecans
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon Pepper (for topping)

Get Busy

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, measure and mix the dry ingredients (everything through the salt).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil until well blended.
  4. Add the bananas and mash/whisk/puree the mess with a wooden spoon/whisk/electric hand mixer. It doesn’t have to be completely smooth, but you don’t want chunky banana pieces floating around.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time and stir to combine.
  6. Add the vinegar, vanilla, and nuts and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top the the additional sugar/pepper mixture (this makes a lovely crust).
  8. Bake the cake for one hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Kick ass.