Banana bread is a well-explored subject on food blogs. Each blogger, it seems, has his or her standby recipe plus a few fancier versions. My go-to recipe is my mom’s, from her red, 1978 Betty Crocker binder. The recipe uses butter, a respectable amount of sugar and all-purpose flour. It’s more banana cake than bread but there are times when banana bread should be cake.
But there are also moments for experimentation, which brings me to the banana bread I’m writing about today. It takes its inspiration from Cyprus, which I visited with Spyros and his mom back in 2010. For dinner our first night in Nicosia, Spyros’ Uncle and Aunt took us out to dinner at a cozy restaurant in the historic district. They ordered a series of mezedes (just as popular in Cyprus as in Greece): grilled halloumi, smooth hummus, homemade stuffed grape leaves, and meatballs. The waiter also brought a saucer of warm tahini and a basket of toasted pita bread. Spyros’ uncle pushed the saucer towards me, encouraging me to try some.
“Tahini is popular here,” he said. “Cypriots even spread it on toast for breakfast.”
Biting into a warm pita, runny with tahini, I understood why. It was salty, creamy and slightly bitter. Like peanut butter for adults. I understood why Cypriots ate it for breakfast.
I bought a jar of tahini when we returned to Athens and smeared it on toast. It really makes for a hearty, tasty breakfast, especially with a sprinkle of salt. Recently I’ve taken to drizzling tahini over my oatmeal. One day I threw a sliced banana on top, for sweetness. Eating a spoonful, I realized that bananas and tahini, like bananas and peanut butter, are natural flavor partners. I began to wonder if I could develop a tahini banana bread recipe.
A quick internet search provided a few good examples. I liked this one by A Cozy Kitchen and this one featured in Bon Appetit last year. While these recipes provided a good start, I like my banana bread on the homespun side and came up with this.
It uses spelt flour, a tasty, soft whole grain that’s ideal for baking. Like my mother’s recipe, this one is more cake than bread but is moist and fudgy because of the tahini. We ate it for breakfast one morning when the weather here was still rainy and rather cold. Tahini Banana bread is good for those kinds of mornings.
Tahini Banana Bread:
1 3/4-2 cups spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup wholegrain tahini
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
- Preheat the oven to 350oF (175oC). Butter and flour an 8 ½ x 4 ½ loaf pan (or, if you’re in another part of the world, a 30 cm x 11 cm loaf pan works fine, too). Whisk together the spelt flour, ground cardamom, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- With an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the butter with the sugars and mix until the sugars have slightly dissolved. Add the egg, vanilla, and the tahini and stir until combined. Add the mashed banana and stir again.
- Add the flour mixture in two additions and stir until just combined, scrapping the bowl occasionally.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. With a rubber spatula, smooth the to to even it some. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Tahini banana bread will keep for about three days, wrapped, at room temperature and about five days in the refrigerator.