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High Country Baking: The perfectly moist banana bread recipe for comfort and relaxation

By Vera Dawson
Special to the Daily

High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful. 

Comfort food: That’s what I want right now. The recipe requests I’m getting suggest I’m not alone. Many bakers are looking for food that consoles and soothes us in these difficult times.

Wholesome, old fashioned banana bread does just that. Baking it can make the day seem a little brighter and, fortunately, the required ingredients and equipment are readily available. 

This recipe is my current favorite at high elevations, where dryness often reduces the appeal of baked goods. The low baking temperature, a dollop of yogurt, and using canola oil instead of butter results in a very moist bread –a pleasant surprise in our arid climate. Its success depends on using really ripe bananas (covered with brown spots and streaks and soft to the touch) and mashing rather than pureeing them, beating the egg and sugar with patience, adding the oil very slowly, and baking until fully done. 

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Mountain Banana Bread

Adjusted for elevations of 7,800 feet and above

Make in a 4×8 inch (4-cup capacity) shiny metal loaf pan

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour (spoon and level)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

A little less than ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s

1 large egg

¼ cup canola oil

2/3 cup mashed, very ripe bananas 

1 generous tablespoon plain yogurt or sour cream

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the pan with a strip of nonstick or regular aluminum foil, covering the bottom and long sides of the pan and extending it beyond the pan’s sides to use as handles when removing the baked bread. Grease any unlined parts of the pan, or, if using regular foil, grease the entire pan, foil and all. 

2.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and whisk to mix and aerate well. Set aside.

3. Add the sugar and egg to another mixing bowl and beat, with an electric mixer on medium speed, for 4-8 minutes (depending on your mixer’s power), until it’s pale in color, doubles in volume, thickens, and briefly holds the marks made by the beaters. Reduce your mixer’s speed to low, and very slowly, drizzle in the canola oil, a few drops at a time. You don’t want the oil to deflate the air in the batter. Take about 2 minutes to do this. Add the mashed bananas, yogurt and vanilla and mix on low speed only until blended.

4. Use a silicone or rubber spatula to gently fold in the flour mixture and the nuts, stopping as soon as the dry ingredients have been absorbed into the wet ones and the nuts are distributed evenly. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, filling it no more than an inch from the top. Smooth and level the batter.

5. Bake until the top is a deep golden and the center springs back when lightly pressed, 55-65 minutes. If the top is set, but indents even slightly when pressed, it isn’t done yet. The top of the bread remains fairly flat; don’t expect it to dome up. Cool on a rack for about half an hour and then use the foil handles to remove each loaf from the pan to cool completely on the rack. Wrap well and store for several days in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature or freeze for three weeks. 

This is a variation of a recipe published by Joanne Chang.

Dr. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). She became a full-time Frisco resident in 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com


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