I’ve been accused of feeding people tree bark when I offer these. Flavorful tree bark. Chewy tree bark. Like candy tree bark. Tree bark that, well, doesn’t taste like tree bark. Dumpster divers and/or fruit neglectors, get ready: go get your spotty, freckled bananas and bring them to me. I’ve got plans for them. It’s almost unfair that I’m calling this recipe, people. It’s just one ingredient. One! And it’s not even pretty!
Dried bananas are nothing new and most of us may encounter them as banana “chips” sold in the stores. Chips? Wait, doesn’t that need more than one ingredient? Like lots of oil? And they’re sweetened with added sugar? And they’re fried? I’m not discounting my love of fried food, but it’s so not necessary here. Sweetening a ripe banana is like mixing honey into syrup.
If you have ample space, drying racks, and many mouths to feed, make more that just four bananas at one time. These go fast. Trust me. And if you’re feeling really crazy, sprinkle them with cinnamon. Eek. These are great packed in the car for breakfast nibbles or stuffed in a backpack for a mountain hike.
Speaking of mountain hikes, I’ll be taking a jaunt down to Big Sur and Monterey, swinging up to Napa next week for a family vacation. Computer access will be hazy; the skies, bright and sunny. Perfect for dried bananas and hiking. Surely a glass (or two) of wine will find its way to my table at last also. While I’m away, I’ll still post recipes saved up from a recent flurry of activity in my kitchen.
UPDATE July 2013: This recipe has been chosen as one of the 10 best banana recipes by the British newspaper The Guardian ! Check out the Life and Style section on 19 July, 2013 for the shout-out. (Scroll down to the bottom of the article for my recipe.) Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/20/10-best-banana-recipes-cook. I’m not sure how long this link will be active, so I’ll be getting a hard copy for my bragging rights archives.
- ripe bananas (not too mushy or they won't stay on your drying racks)
- drying racks (cooling racks for baked goods are what I use)
- baking sheets (9½ x 13½-inch sheets)
- Peel bananas then cut bananas lengthwise. Then cut each length into two lengths. You will have four long banana pieces. Cut these width-wise into thirds or fourths (depending on size and if your bananas are starting to break on the curves). You will have 12-16 pieces per whole banana.
- Place pieces in single layer without touching onto drying racks with sheet pan underneath. (There might be some stickiness when drying and the pan helps prevent getting it on your oven rack.)
- Set oven to lowest temperature (mine is 170 degrees F) and place banana-filled racks inside.*
- To ensure good air circulation for drying, I keep my oven door cracked with an oven mitt. Allow bananas to bake for 6-12 hours (Again, depends on banana thickness, desired chewiness, and your temperature. See my notes above for 8 hour drying. Check sooner to find what you like.) I checked on these every couple of hours, turning them halfway to unstick them from the drying rack. I find putting them on the skin side of the flesh (not the cut side), they seem to stick less. You may also use a quick spray of non-stick cooking spray on the racks before placing bananas on them.
- Allow to cool completely before eating. These keep for months, that is, if you hide some away in the dark corners of your cupboards and forget about them. UPDATE: I've done a little more research on drying. This information is cobbled together from many sources, and I haven't tried it yet. To decrease any energy consumption involving drying, try drying outside. Fashion a rectangular frame (an old wooden window frame is fine), stretch with thin mesh netting, place bananas on mesh, and cover with mesh to keep insects from taste-testing. You need to turn the bananas 2 to 3 times a day. Drying will be complete in 3 to 6 days.
* Alternatively, you could use a food dehydrator to do the drying. The Excalibur is supposed to be the Cadillac of dehydrators. If I had space, I'd probably have one. A toaster oven might also be useful here, but you won't have enough space to dry a large amount.