I didn’t know what a real oven looked like until about the eighth grade. Well, at least I thought I didn’t. That area under the stove with wire racks and a heavy door was a cabinet. The pots and pans were stored there. It’s actually a pretty nifty idea if you lack major storage space (ie. Manhattan). I found out recently it’s actually pretty common amongst Koreans. Makes sense because Korean cooking rarely requires an oven.
Until the age of 14, I did most of my baking in a toaster oven. It works fine and dandy. You just have some size constraints and possibly a few more batches to bake, but in the end, it all turns out the same. While I’m here, I actually prefer to use the toaster oven because then I don’t have to hassle with moving dozens of pans in and out. It’s also nice when you bake mini pastries because it feels like you’re wasting less energy (and possibly saving a little on your bills!).
So, for old times sake I decided to make mini loaves of banana bread in my mini oven. I’ve never made banana bread this way, but I have to say, this is the best banana bread I have ever eaten. It’s moist, sweet, with hints of nutty goodness, full of banana chunks and crunchy almonds. It melts in your mouth because it’s so soft but still keeps its shape when cut. The secret to its success is the roughly mashed cup of banana, extra banana chunks, and almond meal. I seriously think that almond meal makes everything so much better. Every time I have substituted it for flour, the end product is much more flavorful and comprehensive. The banana bits give it an extra surprise texture and burst of flavor.
If I had to change one thing, it would be the sugar amount. The bread is sweet, but not sickeningly sweet. It could be reduced to 1/2 or even 1/3 cup. Your choice. This banana bread is a winner for me because of its complexity more than its sweetness.
Banana Almond Bread
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens: New Cookbook
Makes two 4 ¾ x 2 ½ inch loaves
1 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
¾ cup almond meal
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup roughly mashed ripe banana, 2-3 small bananas
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
¼ cup chopped almonds
1 small banana cut into bite sized chunks
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix flour, almond meal, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda together. Add the mashed bananas, butter, milk, and eggs. Combine. Fold in the chopped almonds and banana chunks.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Cool and serve warm.