Or what happens when my unstoppable urge to make bread meets with overripe bananas
Leaving every possible banana- and bun-related innuendo aside (believe me, its hard, but I’m trying!) I have to tell you that I the only thing that prompted these Banana Buns were three severely over-ripe bananas. If it weren’t for them, there would have been just buns.
Am I the only person on the planet who can never seem to estimate exactly how many bananas to buy? No matter what number I choose, how many I consume it seems that on day 4 or 5, there is always that odd number left in the fruit bowl, turning a vile shade of grey. The sight invokes extreme pity. Because fruit ought to be consumed. One way or another.
Since my love for yeast has resurfaced, the itch to make bread has come back with a vengeance, and bun-making has been on my mind for a while. Mid-REM last night, I saw myself making buns and adding a mixture of mashed bananas, milk and honey to the dough. It was so utterly clear when I woke up that I did the only logical thing there is to do. I went with it.
The result is a cross between a sweet milk bun and a pao. To taste, it has the mild sweetness and comfort of a milk bun, and in texture it is like a spongy, wholesome pao. And because I made them in a pan, they stuck together in rows, giving me that rustic feeling of pulling them apart.
Apart from being infused with banana pulp, these buns are virtually sugar-free and sweetened very slightly by honey, and made only a little rich by a bit of ghee. Its the perfect kind of bun to toast slightly and dunk into chai.Maska-banana-pao, anyone?
What I used
3 over ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons fresh ghee (I used homemade ghee)
1/4 cup water, warm to touch
2 teaspoons active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar (only to activate the yeast)
2 cups flour (I used 1.5 whole wheat and 0.5 maida)
Additional water (good to have on hand, but to be used only if needed)
How I made them
First things first, I got the yeast activated. I warmed the water in a cup and mixed in the sugar and yeast and set it aside. It usually takes about 5-7 minutes to get frothy. In the meantime I mashed up the bananas.Added the milk, ghee and honey to it, and whisked well till it was relatively smooth.In a wider mixing bowl, I measured out the flour, and tipped in the banana mixture, followed by the frothy yeasty water.With my hands, I then mixed it well till it came together in a wet dough. It was far stickier than I imagined, thanks to the addition of banana pulp, milk and water. I had to dust my hands and the counter a few times to work it into a ball.
Feel free to add some flour, in small quantities, to make it easier to handle. And with some patient kneading, it does eventually come together. I rolled it into a ball and placed it in a well oiled bowl.I set it aside to rise for 50 minutes, at the end of which it had more than doubled.I patted it down gently, knocked it out of the bowl and kneaded it for a couple of minutes gently on a floured counter. Then I pulled apart golf ball-sized knobs of dough and placed them (leaving an inch on either side) in an oiled 9″ square pan.
You’ll see how as they progress they get less neater, because the more I handled the dough, the stickier it got. The trick is to be quick and handle the dough as little as possible.I covered the pan in a wet tea towel and set it aside for 20 minutes, while I preheated my oven at 180 degrees C.In 20 minutes the buns had risen further. I stuck them in the oven and baked then for 25 minutes till the tops were firm and sounded hollow when tapped.Once I took them out, cooling them completely is essential. I’ve learned that bread is moist when it is just out of the oven and as it cools, it loses this moisture and fluffs up ever so slightly.
– These buns are very mildly sweet, but if you’d like them sweeter, adjust the honey/sugar as you like
– If you want to eliminate the bananas, to make a sweet milk bun, adjust the honey/sugar accordingly as the bananas lend a fair bit of fruity sweetness. Also adjust the quantity of milk, adding in more as you go because the banana also lends moisture in binding the dough together
– The next time, I plan to eliminate the water altogether, increase the milk and and activate the yeast in warm milk itself
– The buns were done in about 25 minutes, but depending on how big/small you make yours, and how your oven works you might have to keep an eye out for them post the 20 minute mark
Somewhere in between the excitement, wolfing down the bun, I caught myself humming this track. And predictably, it is now stuck like a earworm I cannot get rid of.