Heidi Swanson is one of my favorite cooks. Her delightful lemon sesame twist on the classic banana bread is both hearty and sweet. Her banana bread set me off on a sesame and citrus tangent, inspiring a delicious chocolate truffle for a series I served at the Dylan Hotel for a plant-based dining event here in Amsterdam. They were: kumquat (using the pickles from my recipe), tamari almond coconut, and tahini honey lemon with black sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds are full of calcium and much more versatile than you might think. They are lightly bitter and complement the olive oil in an earthy, grounding way. Both work deliciously with the banana in this recipe.
My variation is dairy free with applesauce instead of yogurt and offers a gluten-free flour alternative. I make it with spelt flour sometimes; the texture is best this way, so try it if you have no gluten issues. In place of the eggs, you can make 3 flax “eggs” using 3 Tbsp of flax seeds soaked in 3 Tbsp water for at least 10 min).
Prep Time: 1 hour with 40 mins baking, 15 mins active prep, and 15 mins cooling
Serves: Makes 12 hearty slices, halve the recipe easily for normal loaf tins
2 cups or 240g spelt flour For gluten-free version: 1 cup rolled oats, 2/3 cup buckwheat flour and ⅓ cup rice, sorghum, teff or oat flour - I make oat flour by blending whole oats and sifting them
3/4 cup or 125 g applesauce (1 large apple chopped, seeded and blended with 3 Tbsp apple juice or water works well in a pinch)
12 dates soaked in hot water for at least one hour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine-grained sea salt
1 cup or 125g black and white sesame seeds, gently toasted and mixed
1/3 cup 80ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (3 eggs if they are small)
3.1/2 very ripe bananas, 4 if small (for garnish* read below before mashing bananas)
Grated zest of one whole lemon, only yellow (avoid the white pith, it’s bitter!)
Juice of half the lemon squeezed into the wet ingredients
¼ tsp vanilla essence or extract
Soak the dates in hot water. Preheat the oven to 175-180°C and place a rack in the center. Line a 23x13 cm loaf pan or equivalent with waxed baking paper.
Slice one banana the long way from the middle to get 2 long thin pieces of banana to lay on top of the bread, seed side up, as a garnish for later. Mash the remaining banana for the batter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, lemon zest, 1/2 cup (half) of the sesame seeds, and salt. Combine well.
Either by hand or in the blender, mix together the other half of the sesame seeds, olive oil, mashed banana, applesauce, lemon juice, vanilla essence and zest. If using a blender, pulse, don’t puree it. When combined, beat in the eggs last so they are just mixed. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and mix in with a spatula until just combined. Don’t overmix as it toughens your final product.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. You want to achieve beautiful color on the cake, but you don't want to bake all the moisture out of it. So the minute you're in that zone, pull it, erring on the side of under-baking versus over. When it starts to crack and no longer jiggles in the pan, it’s fully baked. For cakey bread, don’t let it bake any further than that.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan to cool completely.
Original recipe by Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks Blog: