Recipe of the Month:
Gluten Free Banana Bread with Chocolate from Oaxaca

I crave banana bread most days, but as a celiac it’s not the easiest to find. Lucky for me, there are several supermarkets and shops in Oaxaca that carry gluten-free flour. This gluten free banana bread recipe uses four ingredients from Mexico: 70% organic chocolate with cinnamon from Oaxaca, local coconut oil instead of butter, bananas, and Mexican natural vanilla extract. I also included yoghurt to keep the banana bread moist.

I should note that I am a cook, not a baker;  my only other baking experiment as a celiac is the Amaretto almond cookies I posted previously. So I was extremely curious about how my banana bread would turn out. The answer?

It was delicious!

So I’m sharing it with you here.

Healthy Gluten Free Banana Bread

recipe for gluten free banana bread with coconut oil

The finished product!

Ingredients For Banana Bread

  • 3 or 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons of natural, pure vanilla
  • 1 & ½ cups of gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour, as it is available at the supermarket here in Oaxaca!)
  • ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt, no sugar added
  • 6 tbsp of organic coconut oil (heated until it is in liquid form)
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of  salt
  • 2.5 – 3 oz bar of chocolate, broken into small chunks — this is approximately 1 cup of chocolate. I’m in Oaxaca, so the chocolate is already pre-baked with cinnamon and sugar. If you’re in the USA, you can use one of these organic Mexican chocolate discs with cinnamon, broken into small pieces. If you use 1 cup of regular chocolate chunks instead, please add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to your recipe. Note: the recipe is also great with a chili chocolate bar like this one.
recipe for gluten free banana bread with coconut oil and chocolate chips

Local ingredients. Not pictured: Mexican vanilla, and organic coconut oil.

Instructions for Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F / 175 degrees C and spray a bread pan with non-stick spray, or line it with a thin layer of vegetable oil or coconut oil.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a larger bowl, mash up the bananas until they are a paste, and then add the Greek yogurt, egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and coconut oil until well-blended.
  4. In batches, mix the dry ingredients into the larger bowl of wet ingredients until combined.
  5. Slowly add the chocolate broken into chunks and fold them into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the bread pan.
  7. Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (In Oaxaca this took a full 60 minutes, but depending on your oven and altitude… your mileage may vary).
healthy gluten free banana bread recipe

Be sure to chop up the chocolate into small enough pieces that it doesn’t all sink to the bottom

A Very Brief History of Banana Bread

A reader asked when banana bread was invented, and that led me on a deep dive about quick breads (ones that have no yeast), bananas, and other breads.

Roughly 12,000 years ago was when scientists believe that the first breads were likely baked, primitive but still bread. Grain crushed by stone, mixed with water, cooked on a heated slab and covered in ash as it bakes.

As to the banana…

Bananas were originally found in South East Asia, mainly in India. They were brought west by Arab conquerors in 327 B.C. and moved from Asia Minor to Africa and finally carried to the New World by the first explorers and missionaries to the Caribbean. The mass production of bananas started in 1834 and really started exploding in the late 1880’s.1

Banana bread recipes for the most part are yeast-free quick breads that use baking soda for leavening. These types of breads were not common until the late 18th century, first with pearlash. A “leavener” is an ingredient that lends baked treats their fluffy lightness. These days, that’s usually baking power or baking soda – but it wasn’t too long ago that these chemicals were unknown in cooking.

I hadn’t heard of pearlash until I read up about banana bread. Per Four Pounds Flour, a history of food site:

Sometime in the 1780s an adventurous woman added potassium carbonate, or pearlash, to her dough. I’m ignorant as to how pearlash was produced historically, but the idea of using a lye-based chemical  in cooking is an old one: everything from pretzels, to ramen, to hominy is processed with lye. Pearlash, combined with an acid like sour milk or citrus, produces a chemical reaction with a carbon dioxide by-product. Used in bakery batter, the result is little pockets of CO2 that makes baked goods textually light. Pearlash was only in use for a short time period, about 1780-1840. After that, Saleratus, which is chemically similar to baking soda, was introduced and more frequently used.

This adventurous woman – Amelia Simmons of Connecticut – did not leave behind a recipe for banana bread made with pearlash. Although in 1796, she DID publish American Cookery, the first known cookbook written by an American.

Baking power was not developed commercially until the mid 19th century, so today’s banana bread quick bread could have stemmed from the curious minds using a new chemical leavening technique with a ‘new’ fruit for their country.

For my recipes, the full list is here.

If you are interested in learning more about Oaxaca, please see my posts about mole sauce, Hierve el Agua, and if you’re a celiac or gluten free, my Essential Gluten Free Guide to Mexico.

Buen provecho!

-Jodi

p.s. a big thanks to my neighbors Wherever With You for letting me use their oven and bread pan for my masterpiece!