Chow Town

Banana bread recipe can be gluten and dairy free — really

Maple-Walnut Banana Bread with Maple Glaze
Maple-Walnut Banana Bread with Maple Glaze Special to The Star

Whether you’re the lead baker in a pastry shop that specializes in scratch-made goodies or a pastry chef, like me, who works in fine dining and meticulously prepares desserts to cap off a wonderful meal, you will almost always find yourself with a surplus of some ingredient that needs to put to good use rather than wasted.

This is often how one-night-only dessert specials or “bakery item of the week” are born.

In my experience at home, it has been that bananas and strawberries are my most abundant food items that often get purchased in bulk but not eaten or used quickly enough. Oddly enough, and although it is strawberry season, I’ve been swimming in bananas in my small-ish midtown apartment.

Rather than add to my ever-growing stash of frozen smoothie components or leave them out so the fruit flies could have an unsupervised party, I decided that a delicious loaf of banana bread was long overdue to fill my kitchen with its sweet, buttery aroma.

I had also recently purchased a rather large container of maple syrup, plus a bag of walnuts, from Costco with the hungry intention of including them in a near-future baking project. Welcome to the near future, Trish.

While I’m fully aware that everyone has a grandmother who probably bakes the best banana bread, I’m quite positive you will add this recipe to your rotation of treats. This bread is so invitingly moist without being soggy or wet, and it doubles as both a quick breakfast and a delicious afternoon tea or coffee accompaniment.

The flavor of the maple syrup pairs perfectly with the savory walnuts and the just-there comfort of the cinnamon … and let’s not forget the butter. I have included both dairy-free and fairly easy gluten-free options to accommodate most major dietary restrictions and allergies. I plan to develop an egg-free version in the future to accommodate my vegan friends and bakers as well.

This beautiful banana bread will keep well on your kitchen counter, covered and sealed, for about three days and for about a week in the refrigerator. Still have too many bananas hanging around? Make a double or even triple batch of bread and freeze the excess.

Maple-Walnut Banana Bread with Maple Glaze

Gluten-free and dairy-free options below

For the bread:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 very ripe bananas

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon maple extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup chopped walnut pieces

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon melted butter

For the bread: Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a bread loaf pan with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients for the bread and set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, mash the bananas and whisk in the sugar, sour cream, butter, eggs and extracts until well combined.

Pour the wet mixture over top of the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until there are no remaining streaks and all ingredients are well incorporated. Fold in the walnut pieces. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out top with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes and then lower the oven’s temperature to 300 degrees. Lightly tent the pan with foil, rotate it and continue baking for another 25 to 30 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pull bread out of oven and place pan on a cooling rack for at least an hour.

For the glaze: Once the banana bread has cooled, remove it from the pan and place back on the cooling rack. Whisk together all the ingredients for the glaze and very slowly pour over the top of the bread. (I like to allow the first half of the glaze to harden a bit before I pour over the remainder.)

Wait for glaze to harden, slice bread, and enjoy!

Chef’s Notes and options:

▪ For a gluten-free version, simply whisk together 1 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour), 1/4 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch, and 1/2 teaspooon xanthan gum*.

▪ For a dairy-free version, replace the melted butter with melted Earth Balance buttery spread (or coconut oil), and replace the sour cream with either a dairy-free sour cream or Greek yogurt.

▪ When using brown rice flour, the two brands I recommend most are Bob’s Red Mill (easily found in most grocery and health food stores) and Authentic Foods (more readily available online, but also available in some places like Hy-Vee). I personally have not had great results with other brands.

*Xanthan gum is a bit expensive, but a little goes a long way. It acts as the “glue” for your baked goods in the absence of gluten.

Trish Minton is the pastry chef and baker for Pierpont’s, located inside Union Station. While she has a passion and love for all things baked and sugary, she particularly loves catering to clients who need and desire desserts in the world of gluten-free and vegan.