Friday, April 27, 2012

Battle of the Banana Breads

So a couple of weeks ago we hosted the Battle of the Banana Breads at my house. The event was sparsely attended, only Katie and myself for most of it. Although Thomas did show up for the actual tasting of the bread. This was my first recipe to veganize, is that a word? Anyway, I chose it because it is one of my children's favorite desserts and it is a recipe from a low fat cookbook. I figured that this would make for less of a transition. The only animal products used in the original recipe are egg whites, yogurt and two tablespoons of melted butter. The only other change I made was vegan chocolate chips, which are indistinguishable in taste from non-vegan chips. Most semi-sweets don't list animal products as an ingredient but they do warn that they may contain milk. 

Photo 128
The eggs gave me pause. According to The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, applesauce and bananas can both be used in place of eggs. Since this recipe has bananas, I debated on whether to use the egg substitute or try the applesauce. Finally, I decided on the substitutes. Mostly because I had bought the damn box of powder and wanted to try it. Okay, I have to be honest that this is one of those places that I am conflicted. I understand not using animal products, especially from factory farms. However, since these were never going to be chickens - my eggs come from a Farm Share, I wonder if it is better to use powered egg substitute. Then again, I am realizing that my idea of humane may not agree with what my farmer considers humane. I know that sounds arrogant, but I have often heard that it is necessary to burn off the chicken's beaks so they don't peck at each other. However, I have since learned that chickens actually have a sophisticated social structure and when that structure is left in place, they don't peck at each other. It is only when we attempt to modernize by cramming the chickens in together that the pecking becomes a real problem. Still, it appears that the practice is fairly common. You can read more about this in Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Froer or on Wikipedia. I haven't worked up the courage to ask my farmer if they burn the beaks off their birds. I mean really, what would I say? It might be worse than the "Do you keep guns in your house? Because I don't want my kid to die." talk. Okay, not worse than that, but still not comfortable. 

Still using a substance with a long list of ingredients was not feeling too natural to me so I researched it. Here is some of what I found out when I decided I needed to learn more about what was in this box of egg wanna be's. Ener Ge Egg Replacer (the brand I bought) is made from  potato starch, tapioca flour, leavening (calcium lactate [non-dairy], calcium carbonate, citric acid), cellulose gum, carbohydrate gum. Calcium carbonate is the same stuff that is in antacids, like Tums. Calcium lactate is a mineral found in dairy products, red beans and rhubarb. It helps the body absorb calcium. Cellulose gum  is a thickener. It is derived from wood pulp and purified cotton cellulose. Check your yogurt and ice-cream. Chances are it has cellulose gum in it. If you want to learn more about cellulose gum you can do that here. Carbohydrate gum comes from pine trees or cotton and is modified to create a binding agent. When small amounts are put in water it forms a thick sticky liquid. And citric acid comes from, you guessed it citric fruit.  So there you have it, everything in the box. Although now at least I know a little more, I can't say that I am in love with the idea of using them. I will definitely be playing with egg substitutes. Still, I am not as tentative as I had been in the beginning. If you compare the ingredients to the ingredients in say Bryers Strawberry Yogurt (milk non-fat grade A pasturized, concentrate, gelatin kosher, flavor(s) natural, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, tricalcium phosphate, red40, blue 1, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3, contains yogurt cultures active including L acidophilus and bifidobacterium lactis) , it sort of puts it in perspective

So here is the original recipe:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
It's a simple recipe where you mash the bananas, melt the butter toss the dry ingredients in one bowl, mix the wet in another and then combine the two. This isn't one of those recipes where I ever worry about timing. It tosses together pretty quickly, add the mashed bananas and chips at the end and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Bing! Done! How easy is that? 
I only changed a few things. First, I obviously used the egg replacer. I chose to substitute for two eggs as I didn't know how to substitute for two egg whites. That meant three teaspoons of egg replacer mixed with four tablespoons of water. Second I used vanilla soy yogurt. By the way, I buy the yogurt (both soy and milk) in the personal sizes which are about six ounces. So both had more yogurt than the recipe called for. And I used Earth Balance in place of the butter. Also I used unbleached unbromated flour.  Flour is often bleached, and sometimes this process includes using animal bones in a charring process. Also, potassium bromate is added to flour to help age it so it performs more reliably when baking. It seems that when wheat is first ground, it forms lovely gluten but after a few weeks it stops. Aging allows the flour to settle down and again perform more reliably. Some smarty decided they could age the flour more quickly by adding the potassium bromate. Unfortunately it is also a carcinogen that has been banned in Europe as well as many other countries.  Who knew?  Finally, I used four bananas in the vegan bread as opposed to three. I did this because I had four bananas left that were banana bread material and I wanted to use them up. I did use the three larger bananas in the traditional banana bread in an effort to be fair. 

And the winner is..........
Photo 133 The vegan banana bread by a landslide. I kid you not. My children loved the texture more, which could have been the egg substitutes or the extra banana. And they said it tasted better. Since I didn't taste both it is hard for me to determine. However, the vegan bread was gone in two days, while I still have a piece or two frozen of the traditional banana bread. 


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