Friday, February 15, 2013

Kefir Banana Nut Bread: Success and Failure

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Kefir. If you haven't read it, you can see it here. Overall, I am very happy with culturing kefir. I have been eating it in smoothies. I have also been collecting recipes to attempt to use it in other ways as well. One of the reasons I want to do this is because the kefir doesn't require any work from me to help it culture the milk. No need to heat it to a certain temperature. No need to incubate it either. Not only does it not require any electricity, it doesn't require energy of any kind! Can't say that about yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream cultures!

I have also read that soaking whole wheat in kefir makes the grain easier to digest and provides access to nutrients that our body would not be able to use otherwise. While I am not sure I believe all this, I have been experimenting with cooking this way. This post is my first attempt at making kefir banana nut bread. While the quick bread recipe actually turned out quite tasty, for my lifestyle, I consider it a failure. Let me show you how I made it.

I got this recipe from the Cultures for Health website. Here is the link: Kefir Banana Bread. I have listed the recipe below as well. The changes I made to the recipe are also included.

Kefir Banana Nut Bread
1/2 cup kefir (I actually needed a bit more than this.)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup bananas mashed (I used freezed-dried bananas.)
1 1/3 cups sugar (I thought this was too much so I only added 1 cup - if I ever make it again,  I will only add 3/4 cup.)
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts.)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Let me start by saying that I doubled the recipe. The pictures I am showing have double the amount of every ingredient. Since my goal was to try my hand at soaking the whole wheat flour overnight, the only thing I needed to start was the kefir and whole wheat flour. I mixed 1 cup kefir with 4 cups of white whole wheat flour. I wasn't happy with what I got.

Was the kefir and flour supposed to look like this? I decided that it wasn't, so I added about 1/4 cup more kefir to the flour. This is what it looked like when I was done.

Then, I wrapped it in saran wrap and placed it in a bowl. 

The bowl went into the oven overnight. I didn't turn the oven on at all, the oven was just a place to put it to keep it out of the way.

The next morning, in another bowl, I  mixed the sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, banana and nuts together.

Now comes the part I didn't understand at all (and still don't). I was supposed to mix the kefir/flour dough thing into my batter. How? I can't knead it in, it needs to look like batter when it's done. I guess this wouldn't be difficult if I had a food processor, I could have put everything in that and turned it on.  Since I don't have one, I decided to break off the dough and put little pieces into the batter.

Then, I mixed until all the pieces were covered with the batter. I was hoping they would be easier to incorporate if I let them sit awhile. Well, one hour went by. Then two. The batter was as lumpy as ever. I tried to smash these things with a fork, then I tried to cut them with a knife. The lumps got smaller and smaller but wouldn't dissolve into the batter. At this point  I thought I was going to have to throw the whole thing out. Then I thought, "Can I find my electric beaters?" I was not sure I even had them any longer. I went up into the attic to look in some boxes to see if I could find them. (I really didn't want to go around my neighborhood knocking on doors saying, "Hi, I'm your neighbor. I don't have any electrical appliances at my house. Could I borrow one of yours for just a few minutes?" I could just imagine the police pulling up next to me as I walk from door to door....)

Fortunately, I found all the parts to one so there wasn't any need for my neighbors to call the police. I pluged it in and turned it on high. And I mixed, and mixed and mixed. 30 minutes later, I had batter. That's right, 30 minutes. I timed it.  I didn't believe it myself! 

The directions said to add the baking soda and baking powder after everything was mixed well. So, I added them at this point. Then, I poured the batter into greased 9 x 5 pans. I was so frustrated with the whole thing, I forgot to take a picture of the batter before I poured it. So here is a combo picture of the batter in the baking pans with a spoon in it so you can see the texture. The little lumps are walnuts.

The day I made this was a bright and sunny day. My original plan was to bake them in my Sun Oven. The directions say to bake 1 1/2 hours in a 300 degree oven. That means 2 1/2 to 3 hours in the Sun Oven. After the problems I had trying to get it to the batter stage, I just wanted the whole thing to be over!  I was not going to wait 3 hours for these loaves to bake! I used my kitchen oven. 

I monitored them during the baking and after 1 1/2 hours, the cake tester came out clean. I had a slice before I remembered to take the final picture.

 I must say, it was really tasty! I was not the only one who thought so. Another member of my family kept asking for more.

So, my mixing horror will pretty much ensure that I will not be making this again. Unless of course, I can figure out a way to make the batter without all the fuss. So dear readers, I ask you, have you ever soaked whole wheat flour before? Did I do it wrong? How on earth do you get the dough to incorporate into the batter (without using electricity)? Google turned up nothing I could get my arms around. All comments and suggestions are welcomed!

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