Adapted from the Tassajara Bread Book.
“Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination streaming through you, with dough under hand, you are bread-making itself, which is why bread-making is so fulfilling and rewarding.”
I was determined not to be two years behind in the delivery of bread to the mom with the new baby. So this morning, as I sorted out my day to get ready to make dinner for them, I cracked open my copy of Tassajara and settled on this yeasted banana bread. There's a lot going on here, and the banana flavor gets lost. I think you could leave out the orange zest and the cinnamon and have a perfectly yummy loaf of bread, but you could also leave them in and have a perfectly yummy loaf of bread.
This is an almost whole wheat loaf, so it uses the sponge method. The ingredients are divided into two parts, the first for the sponge, a batter which allows the yeast to make your heavy whole wheat flour into a light and fluffy loaf of bread.
2 ½ cups warm water
1 ½ Tablespoons dry yeast (two packets)
¼ cup honey
1 cup dry milk
2 mashed bananas
2 beaten eggs
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
zest of 2 oranges
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons salt
¼ cup butter
approximately 4 cups whole wheat flour
Combine the mashed bananas, eggs, cinnamon and orange zest in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl add water, yeast and honey. Whisk to combine. Stir in dry milk, banana mixture, and white and whole wheat flours and beat with a wooden spoon at least 100 times. This is your sponge. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Now is a good time to take your butter out of the fridge to let it soften for stage 2.
When the sponge has doubled, stir it down and then add the salt and softened butter (or, if you forgot to take your butter out of the fridge, melt it and allow it to cool to lukewarm or cooler.) Beat in flour about 1 cup at a time until the mixture becomes too stiff to stir. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 20 minutes*, adding flour as necessary. After 20 minutes* you should have a smooth, elastic dough. Form the dough into a ball and allow to rest on the counter for a moment.
Wash out your large mixing bowl in warm water. Even if you have more than one, you want to go ahead and get this washed before the dough dries to an impermeable crust. Dry thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel, then butter the inside lightly. Place the dough in the bowl, turn it once so that the top is lightly buttered, cover with the clean, damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
After the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl and knead it on a lightly floured surface for another 20 minutes* adding flour in small amounts only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the counter.
Divide the dough in two pieces and shape into loaves. For loaf pans, simply use a rolling pin or your hands to flatten the dough into a rectangle that is one loaf pan wide by two loaf pans long and roll it up along the short edge, then place seam side down in the loaf pan. Cover loaf pans with a clean damp towel and let dough rise until doubled.
Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Bake loaves in the center of the oven , rotating side to side and front to back halfway through, for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are a gorgeous golden brown and your butter knife is twitching. Remove the pans from the oven and then the loaves from the pans and to a cooling rack as soon as possible. Allow loaves to cool on the cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.*