Tag Archives: banana bread

An overhead show of sliced marbled banana bread

Why We’re Drawn to Comfort Baking in Times of Stress, According to a Psychologist

If we could sum up our collective baking experience in 2020, it would boil down to two words: banana bread.

When the global pandemic first upended our everyday lives back in March, many of us turned to baking. It didn’t matter whether or not we were seasoned pros, we all seemed to crave the baked goods we cherished as kids. (Think: cookies, muffins, bread and pies). There was something comforting about the familiar smells and tastes — and it had many of us resorting to a form of culinary therapy in a time of uncertainty. You couldn’t scroll through your Instagram feed without coming across dozens of bread loaves conjured up by even the unlikeliest bakers in your friend group.

Get the recipe for Healthy Marbled Banana Bread

So, what gives? Why now, in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19,  have we once again turned to baking — albeit with a distinct holiday sparkle this time around. As it turns out, our desire to bake when the going gets tough actually has deep psychological roots that can be traced back to our childhood.

Dr. Brent Macdonald, of the Macdonald Psychology Group in Calgary, has more than 20 years of experience in the field — and is more than familiar with the various intricacies of the human brain when it comes to food associations.

Related: Our Fave Food Trends to Come Out of Quarantine, From Pancake Cereal to Bread Art

“[Baking or cooking] can remind you of the positive experience of sharing it with family, of being cared for and comforted as children — and that same emotional transference happens in adults,” he explains. “The smell, the taste, the texture, the experience of eating something that brought you pleasure as a child brings up all those positive emotions of comfort and warmth.”

As Macdonald notes, it’s no mere coincidence that we seek out these familiar foods in times of strife. For many, it’s a form of mindfulness — even if we don’t realize it. “We tend not to have [comfort food] when we’re doing well — we typically have it when we’re feeling stressed. That’s our medicine, in a sense,” he says. “The good thing about it is that it works — comfort food and comfort baking makes us feel better. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — we shouldn’t feel shame or embarrassment that we have comfort foods we enjoy. It kind of gets a bad rap because of its association with sugars and carbohydrates — and fair enough. But once in awhile, treats are treats for a reason.”

Get the recipe for Fudgiest Sweet Potato Brownies

But given this whirlwind year where many have faced significant social and professional upheavals, Macdonald says it’s still important to take note of how consuming these baked goods makes you feel — aside from sentimental reminders of Grandma’s kitchen.

“Does [comfort baking] make you feel good and just feel good? Or does it make you feel good temporarily, masking some really unpleasant emotions that come back immediately once you stop eating? Because that’s an unhealthy pattern,” Macdonald says.

So, what’s the actual science behind this feel-good attachment we have to baking? Over the years, researchers have shown evidence that the act of baking triggers various parts of our brain, including the amygdala (the part of our brain where emotions are given meaning) and the hippocampal cortex (memory retrieval) which can ultimately help us reduce stress and anxiety. Therefore, a simple scent — vanilla or melted butter — can take us back to the relative safety and comfort of our childhood, thus inspiring in us the desire to recreate the recipes we indulged in during our “stress-free” younger years.

Get the recipe for Perfect Fermented Sourdough Bread

And with certain scents you can almost feel the power of those neuroreceptors firing off, Macdonald says. “We start to drool, to salivate, as our body prepares to ingest the food. It’s similar to people who have nicotine cravings. All of those things set off an anticipatory response that is waiting for that intake.”

So, with the holiday season upon us and no sign of COVID-19 abating before the end of this strange year, indulge in a little feel-good baking — whether you’re a novice or pro. After all, it’s one of the most budget-friendly therapeutic activities you can engage in — and the end result tastes delicious. Happy baking!

Try your hand at these classic Christmas cookies that will spread holiday cheer or these bountiful bread pudding recipes you’ll make over and over.

How to Make The Perfect Banana Bread Every Time (Plus Freezing Tips and a Recipe!)

Bananas gone brown? Make banana bread! This recipe is guaranteed to stay moist and tender from the use of sour cream and gets a crunchy, crackly top from a combination of granulated and turbinado sugar. Customize your bread by folding in chopped nuts, chocolate chips or both. But first! Some tips on how to make the perfect banana bread every time.

How to Make the Perfect Banana Bread

• Use overripe bananas. We are talking dark, heavily spotted ones. Overripe bananas are responsible for both sweetness and overall flavour. If you want to speed up the process, place bananas in a paper bag along with an apple (or another fruit that emits ethylene).

• Need banana bread now? Bake unpeeled bananas on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet at 300°F until their peels turn black.

• Do not over-mix the batter. After the flour has been mixed in, it is OK if the batter is not completely smooth. Folding in the bananas and other add-ins will help keep from over-mixing as well.

Related: These Muffin Recipes Will Turn You Into a Baking Person

• Add some crunch! Without any add-ins, the texture can be a bit monotonous. If you don’t want to add in nuts, make sure to sprinkle the batter with sugar. Once baked, the sugar on top creates a nice, crackly crunch. And if you are adding nuts, it’s a good idea to toast them before folding into the batter with the bananas.

• Sour cream is the preferred dairy; the fat provides plenty of moisture and the acidity keeps the bread nice and tender. Don’t have sour cream? Try using full-fat, plain Greek yogurt or buttermilk.

• Freeze banana bread (full loaf or slices) in a double-layer of plastic wrap before being placed in a large, resealable bag for up to three months. Make sure the banana bread has completely cooled before freezing.

The Perfect Banana Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Total Time: 60 to 70 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup canola or grapeseed oil
½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mashed bananas (about 3 to 4 overripe bananas)
Turbinado or raw sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer), mix together the oil, sugars and eggs until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.

4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture. Stop mixing before the last streaks of flour disappear in the batter. Do not over-mix – it is OK if the batter isn’t completely smooth. Fold in the mashed bananas until combined.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with granulated and turbinado sugar (about a tsp or two of each), if desired.

6. Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs. Do no overbake.

7. Allow the banana bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Need more baking recipes in your life? Try these fudgy, gluten-free sweet potato brownies or perfect lemon meringue cupcakes.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Sometimes you just have to stick to a classic! I had the urge to make the banana bread I remember eating as a kid at my grandma’s house. But I definitely don’t have her recipe lying around and it certainly wouldn’t have been vegan, so I figured it out. This is a moist and delicious chocolate chip banana bread you can bake up on the weekend or give to someone special.

vegan-choco-chip-banana-bread1

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp ground flax
3 Tbsp water
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 ripe bananas
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup non-dairy milk
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 tsp coconut sugar, for topping (optional)

vegan-choco-chip-banana-bread2

Directions:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 375°F.
2. Whisk together ground flax and water. Let it sit in the fridge for 15 minutes to thicken.
3. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir with a fork until well combined.
4. In a separate mixing bowl mash the ripe bananas to a puree. Then add in vanilla extract, melted coconut oil, non-dairy milk, coconut sugar, and the thickened flax mixture. Stir together until well combined.
5. Add the wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and gently fold together until just combined, careful not to over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Transfer the mixture to an 8 x 4″ bread pan greased with a small pea size amount of coconut oil. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp coconut sugar on the top (optional).
7. Bake at 375°F for 50-55 mins. Stick a long skewer or toothpick in the centre to check if it’s done. It should come out relatively clean. Allow the banana bread to cool out of the pan on a rack before cutting into slices or wrapping.

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