I’m always thinking of ways to simplify a recipe, but not change it so much that it becomes an alien to its original character. It’s usually easy to eliminate or consolidate steps and dial back the number of ingredients and still have it turn out much the same. It may take me a few tries to get it right, but that’s half the fun! I also try to minimize the number of dishes to wash. Most of the time my revised creation is as good, or almost as good, as the original version.
I usually share this fun discovery with my friend Anna. She has a four year old daughter who loves to bake with her mother. One day I had extra bananas so I was inspired to create something that Anna and her daughter could bake together. I modified a banana bread recipe by substituting unsweetened applesauce for the refined sugar and tweaking a few other things. You only use one mixing bowl, some measuring cups and spoons, a spatula or wooden spoon to mix.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
⅓ cup melted butter or oil (I use grapeseed or rice bran oil when I can find it)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Mash the bananas with a fork until most of the lumps have disappeared. Add the applesauce, egg, oil or butter and vanilla, mix well. Add the flour, and then sprinkle the baking soda and salt evenly over the top. Mix well and put into an oiled loaf pan or a muffin tin. The deeper the loaf pan, the longer it will take to bake. Bake at 350⁰ for 30-40 minutes until a knife inserted comes out clean.
If you use frozen bananas, they will soften when thawed and become much easier to mash. Be sure to peel them before freezing. The price of pure vanilla extract has escalated recently, but some of the imitation vanillas are surprisingly good. Vanillin – the name for imitation vanilla – while synthetic, is identical on the molecular level to real vanilla, and so tastes the same. In a recent vanilla tasting contest conducted by Cook’s Illustrated, Baker’s Imitation Vanilla Flavor won at about ⅓ the cost of real vanilla and actually has a bolder vanilla flavor.
If you have a sweet tooth like Anna’s daughter, add raisins or diced figs or prunes or even chocolate chips or chunks and nuts. Make it tasty and yummy to your liking. Taking the time to modify a recipe is FUN! Play a little, mix and match ingredients, and develop a unique to you creation. I like to call this joyful and creative approach to baking and cooking “un-recipes”!