After learning about chocolate chip cookies from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise I found myself wanting to read the rest of her book. So far it's excellent. I'll probably review more fully after I've read it all. There's an awful lot of information in it, particularly about breads and cakes. Today I tried to make banana bread using some of the techniques she writes about.
Unfortunately banana bread isn't something she writes about at all so I had to go it alone using what I'd learned from her sections on bread and cake techniques. Even more unfortunately banana bread isn't exactly cake or exactly bread either. I used the ingredients listed in Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (an excellent basic cook book, by the way; has a recipe for just about everything) but ignored their instructions completely.
According to Shirley mixing the fat (in this case cooking oil) into the flour before mixing in the wet ingredients coats the proteins in the flour help prevent a lot of gluten from forming (gluten is what makes bread bready). This should provide a more melt-in-your-mouth texture. I blended all the dry ingredients thoroughly and then mixed in the oil. Since the recipe only called for ¼ Cup this proved to be remarkably difficult - I had to mix it with my hands, basically squishing the oil into the dry mixture until it was evenly mixed throughout. I also beat the egg pretty good, whipping in as much air as I could. Did the same with the banana (I hate having little chunks of banana in my bread) and then whipped them again when they're together. Getting a lot of air into the mixture helps baking soda or baking powder leaven the bread better.
Then I made a mistake - I mixed the two mixtures together using the hand mixer I'd been using. I thought to myself that if I mixed them only a little bit it wouldn't form much gluten and I'd be fine. A hand mixer mixes way too much even in only a few seconds. I should have stirred it with the rubber scraper that I had handy. I could see the gluten forming instantly.
After putting it in the oven I agonized over the 50 minutes the recipe said I should bake it. That really seemed too long. In fact I'm pretty sure 45 minutes would have been enough for this modified recipe. I was delighted, however, when I checked on it at around 20 minutes and it had risen nicely and had a beatiful split crown. I wish I'd thought to take a picture of it, I really do.
The end product was a little too bready I think but was otherwise almost perfect. There are only a few things I'd do differently. First I might use a little more oil, maybe as much as ½ Cup. Using more oil would prevent gluten formation and would make the end product a more moist. Second I'd use a pan with a silver finish rather than a black finish. Mostly I'm just curious about the difference that might make. And third I'd mix the wet and dry mixtures with a spoon or rubber spatula as I mentioned above.
I'm pretty excited to learn how to control the results of my baking. Expect to read more later about something else, perhaps biscuits again, or if I'm really brave: brioche.