While skimming through the TV channels one night, procrastinating from something more important no doubt, I found Alan Alda in the Scientific American Frontiers series on PBS talking to one of the original Biosphere 2 project participants Roy Walford. He spoke of eating less, packing in nutrients in less calories, and the benefits of such a diet — living longer.
Curious, but not so curious that I’ve adapted this caloric crusade 100% (I do need to have some caloric frivolity here and there, you know, like Treat “Old Fashion” [sic] Ice Cream), I bought the Biosphere 2 cookbook. It was only after my brother borrowed the book to make a vegan dessert for a vegan friend’s potluck to be visited by numerous vegan-flavored types that I decided to try this recipe for Banana Bread Pudding. After rave reviews from his friend and her potluckers, I delved into this recipe with high hopes already met.
I decided although moist and flavorful with the bananas and raisins or other dried fruit, the addition of walnuts gives the bread another layer of flavor and crunch. Even though touted as a bread pudding, this is more like an eggless dense, pudding-like cake to me.
Although I followed the recipe for the two-pan division for the photos you see, I have baked the entire recipe in one 9 x 9 inch pan for a moister, thicker cake countless times. I’ve also added cinnamon and nutmeg because they just seem to be a perfect fit for these bananas. Plus, if you aren’t vegan and like cream cheese frosting, this recipe can’t be missed. It’s a less decadent cream cheese frosting like the typical butter and cream cheese combo we see atop carrot cake. It is, however, absolutely worth the effort to make, if not more delicious.
Author: story of a kitchen (adapted from Eating In: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2)
Recipe type: dessert
32 squares (from two 9 x 9-inch pans)
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups whole-wheat flour
6 large ripe bananas, pureed
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
½ cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Cream cheese frosting (recipe follows in Notes section)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put yeast in the warm water, stir well, and leave for five minutes until it starts to foam.
Put pureed banana in a bowl and add yeast mixture to it. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.
Stir in the flour, orange (or lemon) zest, raisins, and walnuts.
Pour the mixture into two 10-inch round lightly oiled cake pans and leave to rise for 15 minutes. (I used square 9 x 9-inch pans.)
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. A knife will come out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Note: Don't overbake or the consistency will become less pudding-like and more tough.
Cream cheese frosting
minimally adapted from Eating In: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2
½ cup orange or lemon juice
8 ounces cream cheese*
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest
Mix all ingredients in blender and chill until thick and spreadable. If making two cake pans of banana bread pudding and planning to frost as a cake, make a double recipe of frosting. Lick the spoon, numerous times.
* This could be made with vegan cream cheese, so the entire dessert is actually vegan. I haven't tried it, so you'll have to experiment with your favorite brand.