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Brown Butter Sourdough Banana Bread from Heirloom by Sarah Owens.
Heirloom by Sarah Owens.
Our cookbook of the week is Heirloom by horticulturist and James Beard Award-winning writer Sarah Owens. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with its author.
The toasty toffee notes of brown butter and tartness of sourdough set Sarah Owens’s banana bread apart. “It’s a very forgiving and versatile recipe, and the nuttiness of the brown butter enhances all of the other flavours. It’s really worth the extra step,” she says.
Einkorn — one of Owens’s favourite whole grains, which she showcases here (as well as in several other recipes in the book, including einkorn cardamom rolls and chocolate einkorn fudge cake with hazelnut streusel) — is a heritage variety of wheat. Soft and tender, it’s beautiful in buns, breads, cookies and muffins.
If you can’t find it (I use Flourist’s whole grain einkorn flour ), she recommends substituting another whole grain flour such as spelt, and keeping an eye on moisture levels: “Other whole grain flours might be a little bit thirstier than einkorn. So at the very end when you’re stirring in the buttermilk or milk, you might just have to add another tablespoon or two.”
BROWN BUTTER SOURDOUGH BANANA BREAD
Unsalted butter for the pan
1 3/4 cups (195 g) whole einkorn flour
3/4 tsp (3 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 mL) kosher salt
4 peeled medium (400 g) bananas
6 tbsp (90 g) Brown Butter (recipe follows), softened
3/4 cup (175 g) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 g) 100 per cent hydration sourdough starter (see note)
2 tbsp (20 g) buttermilk or whole milk
3/4 cup (90 g) toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, or a combination works well)
Prepare the batter:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Prepare a parchment sling to drape over the long sides of a 9 1/2 × 5-inch (23 x 13-cm) loaf pan. Generously butter the parchment and bare sides of the pan and set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Using a fork, measure and mash 290 g of the banana (from 3 bananas) in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the brown butter and brown sugar in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth. Add the vanilla and mashed bananas and mix until well blended. Add the sourdough starter and mix until just incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in several batches, mixing until no dry lumps remain. Add the milk to thin the batter slightly, then stir in the toasted nuts. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Cut the remaining banana lengthwise down the middle and nestle it into the top of the batter.
Bake the bread:
Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake for 65 to 70 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, then use the sling to assist you in carefully removing the loaf onto the rack to cool completely before slicing.
Makes: One 9 1/2 × 5-inch (23 x 13-cm) loaf
Note: This recipe assumes you already have a wheat- or rye-based sourdough starter in your kitchen.
Creating a sourdough starter using just flour and water is fairly easy and requires anywhere from 3 to 7 days depending on the season and the flours you choose. Be aware that flours with low or no gluten and high sugar content, such as rice and sorghum, will ferment very quickly.
Combine equal parts flour and water by weight in a small bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to sit in a warm location for one day, then check to see if any bubbles have broken the surface. This is an indication that fermentation has begun and it is time to feed your starter. If this is not visibly obvious, continue to the next step anyway. Add an additional amount of flour and water in equal parts weight to the weight of your initial mix (a 1:1:1 ratio). Transfer the starter to a lidded glass or ceramic container at this time. Position the lid loosely and allow to sit at room temperature until it shows bubbles and signs of fermentation. Feed your starter again, being aware that it will most likely double in size after this feeding. If you need to make room in your jar to do so, discard or compost enough to allow for this activity. Continue feeding your starter water and flour in equal parts weight to the weight of the starter for the duration of its life (hopefully a long time!), allowing 6 to 12 hours between feedings. This will ensure you are providing enough food to the growing population of microbes.
It will take about a week after it gains full strength to reach a balance of microbial activity, during which time it may smell a bit funky. Give it time and be patient. When you want to test your starter to see if it is ready to leaven bread, you can perform the float test 6 to 12 hours after a feeding: without stirring or disturbing the starter, grab a dollop using a spoon and drop it into a glass of water. If it floats, it has trapped enough carbon dioxide gas as a by-product of yeast activity to be able to leaven your bread. If it sinks, continue performing feedings at 6- to 12-hour intervals.
Once the starter passes the float test, use it immediately, feed it again, or store it in the refrigerator until ready to use. When you wish to make bread, remove it from the refrigerator and refresh it at least once, allowing it to feed for 6 to 12 hours (or until passing the float test once more) before creating leaven for dough.
(See Owens’s video tutorial on food52.com for a primer on the process.)
CLARIFIED BUTTER AND BROWN BUTTER
1 lb (454 g) unsalted butter
Melt the butter in a large, wide saucepan over medium-low heat. As the butter melts and water begins to evaporate, it will separate into three layers: Foam on top, golden clarified butter and milk solids that will settle to the bottom. When you see these distinct layers appear, you have several options, including skimming away the foam and pouring off the clarified butter to use as a high-heat option for cooking or frying foods. Cool and store in a covered container at room temperature for up to 1 month or in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.
Continue cooking, and the milk solids will turn a toasty golden brown and the butter will become fragrant with hints of caramel. At this point, remove the pan from the heat and skim off the top foamy layer. You may then transfer the whole thing to a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Makes: approximately 1 1/2 cups (375 mL)
From Heirloom by Sarah Owens © 2019 by Sarah Owens. Photographs © 2019 by Ngoc Minh Ngo. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019