It’s not actually possible to say the phrase ‘banana buns’ without developing an attack of the Muppets, really. Seriously, try it. You’ll be humming the Muppet theme before you know it.
Anyway. This recipe, like so many banana recipes, came out of the discovery of a couple of very daggy-looking bananas on my fruit stand. But I wasn’t really in the mood for making banana bread this week – I feel like I’ve been doing cakes all week, when what I really want to play with right now is yeast and sticky buns. And then I was considering my failure to come up with a good vegan variant on my sticky cinnamon scroll recipe a couple of weeks back, which is when I started wondering if you could enrich bread dough with bananas instead of eggs.
It turns out you can. These are quite wholesome buns, sweet (though not excessively so) from the fruit, faintly banana flavoured, but with a reasonable amount of heft from the rolled oats (which melt into the dough, incidentally, but are still very present in terms of texture). They have what I think of as a ‘squidgy’ texture – not fluffy, not dense and heavy, but soft and a bit chewy. The kind of bread that has a bit of substance to it, without being hard work to eat.
Exactly right for breakfast.
Your Shopping List1 1/4 cups sultanas that are taking a walk on the dry side 1/2 cup sherry, marsala, rum, or anything along those lines 275 milk or almond milk or a mixture of both if that is what you happen to have on hand 1 cinnamon stick 5 cloves a pinch of nutmeg 7 g yeast 2 daggy bananas 550 g flour 1 tbsp maple sugar or brown sugar 1/2 tsp salt 75 g rolled oats 50 g butter, ghee, or canola oil sunflower or canola oil for your hands (you will need this) maple syrup to glaze
Now what will you do with it?
Put the sultanas in a small saucepan with the sherry, bring to the boil, then immediately take off the heat and pour into a bowl to stand for a bit.
Stir the sultanas around occasionally, to make sure they all make contact with the liquid.
Put the milk into the same saucepan that had the sultanas, and add the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Slowly bring this to just below the boil, then pour everything out into a large bowl (the one you will be mixing the dough in), and leave to infuse until the milk is just barely warm to the touch.
Rinse out the small saucepan and use it to melt the butter for later (if you are using butter, that is).
Mash the bananas with a fork in another bowl. Sorry about all the bowls. But at least we are saving on saucepans!
When the milk has reached that barely-warm temperature (and if you are uncertain, err on the side of too cold, not too hot – yeast will rise more slowly at a cold temperature, but it will die completely at an excessively hot one), fish out the cinnamon and cloves, and sprinkle over the yeast.
Stir in the mashed bananas, followed by the oats, flour, sugar and salt. When they are all mixed in, add the melted butter or oil.
Your dough will be ridiculously sticky – use a fork or a wooden spoon at this point – but just mix it together well and leave it to sit for ten minutes under a cloth.
Now add in the sultanas. Mix again. If you use your hands, prepare to end up looking like this:
Oiling your hands might help. I didn’t think of that until it was way too late. Leave it all again for twenty minutes or so, then come back and try to knead it a bit. Or at least, shove it around the bowl a bit. You are not going to get a beautiful, smooth dough here, so don’t make yourself miserable trying. Do the same after another twenty minutes or so, then leave it to rise for about an hour or two, or until you remember that you left bread rising in the kitchen. This dough rises fairly slowly, so wandering off to do the laundry, write a blog post, start making dinner, and maybe doing some singing practice are all viable options.
When you think the dough fairly well risen – I think it goes to about 1 1/2 times its original size, but it’s hard to tell, because I really did forget about the dough entirely and couldn’t remember how big it was to start with – punch it down a bit, curse yourself for forgetting to oil your hands again (this is optional), and pinch off pieces a little smaller than your fist to make twelve buns. Now is the time you really do want to oil your hands, because it’s the difference between raggedy-looking rock-cake buns and lovely, smooth round ones. With oiled hands, you can actually roll these buns between your palms and shape them! It’s astonishing!
Put the buns a couple of centimetres apart on a tray, cover with a cloth, and leave to rise again for another half hour. The buns will not rise noticeably in this time, but it is always polite to give them the opportunity, and you do still need to do singing practice, so…
At the end of half an hour, pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Sing another song, and then come back and put the buns in the oven.
Bake for around 18 minutes, or until the buns have risen (finally!) are getting dark on top and are a little golden underneath.
Take out of the oven and brush immediately with maple syrup because this makes them shiny and sticky and gorgeous and just sweet enough, and suddenly your buns look all professional and awesome, which is always fun.
Eat, happily. I suppose you could break these open and butter them, but I wouldn’t bother.
We’re pretty much in vegan baking territory here – just use the almond milk and oil options, and you’re golden. Much like the buns. This recipe does need gluten to work, I’m afraid, which means the gluten- and fructose-free crowd have to skip this particular recipe. And of course this recipe is nut-free, too. If you can’t drink alcohol, soaking the sultanas in orange juice will work perfectly well, too, and might add another layer of flavour. As for its glycemic index, my suspicion is that it would be moderate – it does have a bit of the density one finds in breads marked low GI, and the oats will help with that, too.
In terms of flavour, the sky is your limit. Any dried fruit that you think will work with bananas should be fair game. Choc chips would be fabulous! You might also be able to replace the mashed banana with pear or apple sauce, though I think this would make your dough even wetter, and believe me, it’s wet enough already…
If you are very good at this sort of thing and have oiled your hands and your work surface well enough, you might be able to get away with making this dough into a base for cardamom scrolls. That would be fun, too. But then, bread is always fun, don’t you think? It’s a sort of magic.
Also, there are Muppets in them there buns.Banana buns! (da DA, da-da-da) Banana buns! (da da-da DA!) Banana buns! (da DA, da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da-da DA DA DA-DA DA!)
One year ago: Review: My Cousin Rosa: Rosa Mitchell’s Sicilian Kitchen
Two years ago: Meat!