Whole Grain Roasted Banana Bread


There's always a sense of anticipation when I'm spelunking through my freezer's odds and ends. I'm often just looking for inspiration and figure that whatever buried treasure I rediscover will become the constraints for a cooking adventure. Most recently, it was a cache of frozen bananas on the brink that sent me paging through Sarah Owens' Sourdough and Heirloom for ideas. Wasting such perfectly imperfect fruit that I patiently watched ripen -- like watching a pot of water boil -- was not an option. The subsequent bakes and detours that Sarah sent me on ultimately produced one of the most delightful whole grain banana quickbreads I've made.

I initially came across Sourdough's Roasted Banana Marble Cake and was immediately committed to the idea of ripe fruit, rum, and brown sugar bubbling away in the oven. While the recipe sounded wonderful, there was the small matter of the marbling since, unfortunately, Rob isn't a fan of chocolate. I made the marble cake sans cocoa and served the slices his and hers style -- one with honey butter and the other with From Roy's crema hazelnut. Compromise has its upsides because the latter was tremendous. Hazelnut chocolate spread is always a good idea.

There were more bananas to work through so I turned my attention to the recipe in Heirloom which uses raw fruit instead of cooked. I couldn't bring myself to let go of the marble cake's roasting process so I gently adapted Heirloom's version to accommodate it. This brings us to the Whole Grain Roasted Banana Bread below that was such a hit I've already made it three times.

There are so many things that I like about this bread. The smell of the roasted bananas, the way the texture of the batter surprised me, and most importantly the completeness of the flavor. The bananas are the star but they wouldn't shine quite as bright without the whole grains, dates, and sourdough starter filling in the nooks and crannies. Topping it all off is a crumb that defies expectations often associated with 100% whole grain recipes. It's springy and light from top to bottom and end to end which is important since nobody likes a soggy bottom (or top for that matter).

Freezer constraints are the mother of discovery and invention.

Original vs. Adapted

The recipe below most closely resembles the one in Heirloom with an adjustment for the roasted bananas plus some dates as a sweetener. In terms of method, my reading comprehension failed me and I combined several of the wet ingredients instead of phasing them into the batter as the cookbook calls for. It worked out so I ended up staying with the approach.

If you want a banana bread without the roasting step, I would be inclined to recommend the Heirloom recipe even though I haven't made that exact version.

Banana Toppers

They're beautiful, photogenic, and can add a layer of flavor, but they also make the bread beneath them soggy. I abandoned sugar and fruit toppers for my quickbreads but acknowledge that I'm probably in the minority on this.

Recipe Tips

Make Ahead

It's worth making a double batch of the roasted bananas and then freeze half for a rainy day. You're future self will be quite pleased when they stumble across the frozen treasure and realize it's an easy hop and a skip to Whole Grain Roasted Banana Bread.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

There may be other factors at play, but I find that quickbreads rise and set more evenly when the ingredients are room temperature. Perhaps cold temperatures impact the protein in the eggs, gluten in the flour, or it just creates more of an uphill climb for heavier batters -- not sure about the science. The point of this short tip is that there's a lot going on with the roasted bananas, walnuts, and whole grains and you don't want make the bread work harder than it needs to. If an expedited schedule is needed, I barely warm the roasted bananas in the microwave and then combine them with the other ingredients to take the chill off.

Food Pet

I use a sourdough starter that was fed the night before and has reached peak but still smells pleasant (i.e. not overly acidic) and has an elastic texture. I don't bake with starter that's thin/runny or has a particularly strong nose. Those cues indicate that my yeasty friends had a wild night out and are spent -- maybe the house was warm that day. Too much acidity can throw the flavor off so sometimes it's time for a refresh rather than a bake.

One additional note is that my starter is 50% whole grain flour and 50% Central Milling Beehive (AP).

Whip It

Update: I finally got around to skipping the whipped egg whites step. The bread was still very good so I'm taking it out of the instructions. With that said, the tip I picked up from Sarah Owens' workshop still holds true. Whipping the egg whites and folding them in separately from the yolks can help lighten the texture of whole grain cakes.

Farmers | Artisans

I make an effort to source my food from California artisans with a special focus on the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Below is a list of the folks who contributed to this dish.

  • Grist & Toll // Whole Grain Einkorn
  • Garcia Organic Farm // Citrus
  • Polito Family Farms // Citrus
  • JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch // Citrus
  • K&K Ranch // Walnuts
  • Bautista // Khadrawy Dates

Toasted walnuts in a carbon steel pan

Toasted K&K Ranch Walnuts


  • KitchenAid Pro Mixer and KitchenAid Artisan Mixer- Both mixers sit on my counter but the Artisan is perfect for most kitchens so that is my suggestion of the two. I make larger batches of stiff dough that require the bigger mixer so having both works for me.
  • Baking Dish 8x8 or 9x13- I usually make a double batch of the roasted bananas and a 9x13 baking dish is a good size for that.
  • Immersion Blender - I use this tool often for Pomodoro Sauce, Almond Milk, and more. It does a great job and is easy to clean. The whisk attachment comes in handy when whipping egg whites or making some whipped cream.
  • OXO Scale - This scale is a workhorse that I purchased over 10 years ago and only recently had to replace. RIP scale #1. It's a sturdy cooking companion that repeatedly gets covered in flour, sauce, or whatever else is flying around the kitchen. I recommend keeping liquids away from the screen since they can find their way inside. That being said, the scale seems to dry out and keep on measuring. Note: My original scale with the black pull-out display is now made in all stainless steel.
  • 9x5 Loaf Pan

My Favorite Cooking Tools - Spotlights the kitchen equipment I've owned and used for years from bread baking to coffee brewing.

Ingredients (Adapted from Sourdough and Heirloom)

Roasted Bananas

  • 400 grams (14 ounces) raw bananas measured without the peels Note: This is roughly 4 bananas weighing about 560 grams (1 pound 4 ounces) in the peel.
  • 30 grams dark brown sugar
  • 20 grams rum
  • 29 grams dates (measured after pit is removed), roughly chopped


  • 90 grams toasted walnuts
  • 195 grams whole grain flour Note: I use einkorn but spelt may also work.
  • 3.6 grams (3/4 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond kosher salt
  • 120 grams dark brown sugar
  • 90 grams brown salted butter, softened Note: This recipe is pretty close to how I make brown butter. Quick tips: Stick with lower heat, use salted butter, and scrape the edges and bottom of the pan occasionally.
  • 2 large eggs (100 grams out of shell), room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 100 grams 100% hydration sourdough starter Note: See Recipe Tips
  • 20 grams buttermilk or whole milk (I use buttermilk)


Roasted Bananas

  • Heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Thoroughly mash the bananas and then combine them in a baking dish with the rum, 30 grams dark brown sugar, and dates. Note: An 8x8 dish works or use a 9x13 dish when making a double batch.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. You will end up with about 412 grams (14 1/2 ounces) which is a little more than you need.
  • Thoroughly mash the roasted bananas until they're as smooth as you can get them. Note: I usually make a double batch and just puree the mixture with an immersion blender.

Note: If making the bananas ahead, they can be cooled and refrigerated for a day or frozen for longer storage.


    • Lower the oven to 350°F.
    • Butter a 9x5 loaf pan, add a parchment sling (see photo above), then lightly butter the parchment. Set aside.
    • In a skillet, toast the walnuts over medium-low heat until they're fragrant and taking on color. Once the walnuts are cool enough to handle, wrap them up in a towel (or just use your hands) and gently rub them together to kick off some of the skins. Break the walnut halves into slightly smaller pieces. Note: Removing some of the skins is a personal preference since I don’t care for the tannic edge that they add. Also, toasting the walnuts in the oven on a lined baking sheet is probably more efficient and reduces dishes. I'm just partial to toasting on the stovetop since it's easier to watch the pan while I'm moving around the kitchen.
    • Place a bowl and mesh strainer on top of your scale. Measure the flour then add the baking soda and salt. Sift the mixture into the bowl, dump any bran flakes back into the pile, then whisk to recombine.
    • In the standing mixer bowl, combine 120 grams dark brown sugar and the room temperature browned butter.
    • In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla, buttermilk, 400 grams roasted banana puree, and sourdough starter. Mash and stir with a fork until just combined. Note: I'm not actually sure if it matters, but I'm mindful of the fact that there's gluten in the sourdough starter and try not to overdo the mixing.

    Mise en Place Checkpoint

    • Room temperature eggs
    • Sugar and butter in mixer bowl
    • Toasted walnuts
    • Banana mixture
    • Flour mixture
    • Spatula

    Mix & Bake

    • Cream the sugar and butter on medium until it has lightened in color and has a fluffy texture, 3 to 4 minutes.
    • Turn the stand mixer off, scrape down the sides, then add the eggs one at a time and mix on low until combined. Scrape once more.
    • Add the banana mixture to the bowl and mix on low until just combined. It may look a little odd - grainy or streaky - that’s ok. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and give the batter a fold or two.

    There’s some stopping and starting with the next steps but it goes quickly.

    • Add 1/4 of the flour mixture and turn the mixer on low for a couple of rotations. Turn the mixer off and repeat this process with another 1/4, a few turns, and so forth. You’re only looking for the flour to be about 75% incorporated with each addition.
    • Add the walnuts and give the mixer a couple of turns. Turn the mixer off and finish incorporating with a few folds to make sure there aren't any ingredients hiding on the bottom. The batter will be a thick and slightly elastic which is funky but it works.
    • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and gently spread it into the corners then level off the top. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes until the internal temperature of the center is around 204°F, rotating the pan from front to back at the 40-minute mark.
    • Run a paring knife along the side of the pan without the parchment, then place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.
    • Lift the bread out of the pan, peel away the parchment sling, and set on a wire rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.


    This banana bread is great on its own as a breakfast or afternoon treat but a swipe of honey butter or hazelnut chocolate spread is also excellent.


    Unlike quickbreads made with all-purpose flour, this whole grain banana bread keeps pretty well overnight. That said, there's no getting around the science of sugar, water, and the weird soggy/sticky top that ultimately develops as the bread stales. I'm a little fussy when it comes to the texture of baked goods so this is how I handle things:


    Once the bread has cooled completely, I slice it into servings. All but two pieces are wrapped, put in an airtight container, and frozen on day 1. The remaining pieces are wrapped and put in an airtight container with a paper towel for breakfast the next day. I honestly don't know if the paper towel is doing anything but the suggestion online is that it helps prevent moisture buildup.


    Leave the slices at room temperature until defrosted and then pop them in the toaster just long enough to warm the bread.


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