Modifying Banana Bread: A Question about my Obsession with Brown Butter

Discussion in 'Cakes' started by cmonamann, Oct 18, 2018.

  1. cmonamann

    cmonamann New Member

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    Hi all,
    I’m completely new to posting on the forum. It’s so great to be on here— I’ve learnt so much!

    I’ve been really interested in making Chrissy Tiegen’s banana bread recipe, a famous model whose recipe went viral after she asked her Twitter followers to give her brown bananas. I was kinda fascinated by the spectacle of it all, and her recipe does sound good:

    2 cups mashed very ripe bananas

    4 eggs

    2⁄3 cup canola oil

    2 cups all-purpose flour

    2 cups sugar

    1 (3.5-ounce) box vanilla instant pudding mix

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    1½ teaspoons kosher salt

    1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

    1 (3.5-ounce) bar dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

    I mean, it sounds amazing. Vanilla, chocolate, banana, coconut... now, this last ingredient is why I’m making this post. I love brown butter, and I think it would taste absolutely beautifully nutty with the flavor of the coconut. What I’m worried about (and don’t know enough about baking science to account for) is that the banana bread wouldn’t bake well if I replaced the 2/3 cup of canola oil with an equivalent amount of brown butter. I also want to use brown sugar, and I’m not really sure how that would change things either.

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to adjust the ingredients in this recipe to incorporate brown butter? I know butter can be used in quick bread recipes, so I would appreciate any of your thoughts or suggestions! :) Thank you for reading my post and happy baking to everyone!
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
    cmonamann, Oct 18, 2018
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  2. cmonamann

    Becky Administrator

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    Welcome to the forum, great to have you here! :)

    The main difference between canola oil and butter is that canola oil is pure fat, whereas only about 80% of butter is fat (depending on the brand - always pays to check) but of that fat the majority is saturated. The remaining 20% is water and protein. So healthy-wise there is a difference, and content-wise there is a small difference.

    When you brown butter you are evaporating some of the water content, and the milk solids are caramelising (hence the browning). So what you end up with is butter with a stronger flavour that has a higher fat content than regular butter - ie closer to the 100% fat content of canola oil.

    Given the amount of canola oil isn't significant in relation to the amount of other ingredients I'd try a 1:1 replacement.

    Re brown sugar as a substitute for white sugar, the difference between them is that brown contains molasses, which is slightly acidic and will add some moisture. As a result it'll react well with bicarbonate of soda, which is alkaline. Plus it adds a richer flavour and colour. In short, using brown instead of white sugar will change the recipe, but the changes will work really well with banana bread so again I'd stick to a 1:1 replacement.

    Ok now I really want banana bread :D
     
    Becky, Oct 18, 2018
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  3. cmonamann

    cmonamann New Member

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    Thank you so much for the thoughtful reply, Becky!! Your explanations made it so much clearer. After I bake it, I’ll update you with pictures to show how it turned out! :) And the cravings are real! Let me know if you end up baking (or even just eating!) banana bread too; I’d love to hear about the recipe you prefer :) thanks again!
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
    cmonamann, Oct 18, 2018
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  4. cmonamann

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    @Becky is spot on with her advice.

    But I would recommend you first make the recipe as written to see the results first.

    It’s important to know how the original recipe bakes using your brands of ingredients, baked in your oven before you make changes.

    Also the ratio of sugar to flour is not within standards. So baking first as written is important.

    2 cups flour = 240 grams to 300 grams (depending on how the measuring cup is filled)

    2 cups sugar = 400 grams


    Divide the weight of the sugar into the weight of the flour

    400/240 = 1.666

    400/300 = (1.33)

    In bakers percentages it would be expressed as following:


    Flour 100%

    Sugar 166% (133%)


    The standard ratio for quick breads:

    Flour 100%

    Sugar 66%


    So based on 2 cups flour a standard quick bread in volume measurements

    2 cups flour

    3/4 cup sugar

    So there is significant deviation from the standard in Chrissy Teigen’s recipe.


    Sugars role in baking goes beyond adding sweetness. Sugar is a tenderizer because it’s hygroscopic (meaning it pulls water from its environment). So it pulls moisture from all of the other ingredients and from the air.


    The sugar in a recipe effects the gluten development as it pulls water away from the flour. If too much water is pulled away from the flour, it effects both gluten development and starch gelatinization. That can cause the top to sink in the middle, or even completely collapsing.

    So I would really encourage you to make the recipe as written first to see how it bakes.


    *********

    To expand on @Becky comments


    Brown sugar considerations:


    Hygroscopic: sugar is hygroscopic meaning it pulls moisture from its environment.


    Brown sugar is significantly more hygroscopic than granulated sugar.


    Where granulated sugar encourages spreading and creates a crispier crust, brown sugar inhibits spread, encourages rise, and creates a softer moister crumb and crust.


    This recipe contains 4 eggs and 2 cups of mashed bananas, that’s a lot of moisture. So using brown sugar might create too much of a moisture rich bread.



    Acidity: baking soda is an alkaline so it requires an acid to activate. The only acidic ingredient in the recipe as written is the dark chocolate.


    In substituting the granulated sugar with brown sugar you add additional acid as molasses is acidic. Too much acidity with baking soda can produce a bitter flavor



    *****

    Recommendations:

    Reduce the water in bananas as a way to offset hygroscopic properties of brown sugar.


    Method:


    Cut the bananas in large chunks and place in a microwavable bowl and cover with microwavable plastic wrap.


    Cut several slits in plastic


    Microwave the bananas for about four minutes.


    Place a mesh strainer over a clean bowl.


    Transfer the bananas with all the liquid into the mesh strainer and let it sit for a good 15 minutes.


    Occasionally stir the bananas gently to allow as much liquid as possible to drain.


    Measure the liquid then place it in a saucepan. For 2 cups of mashed bananas you’re going to need 6 to 7 bananas. That will create between 3/4 cup to 1 cup of banana liquid.


    Cook the liquid over medium heat until its reduced by about half.


    *************


    Browned Butter substitution considerations


    Fat content:


    Oil is 100% fat


    Butter is 80% to 85% fat depending on brand.


    Because of the differences in fat content between the oil and butter, when substituting oil with butter, increase the butter by 10% to 15%.


    Water evaporation: When you brown butter the fat and water separates and a lot of the water will evaporate. So when using browned butter you would adjust the moisture content slightly to make up for the water loss.


    ************


    Recommendations:


    No adjustment to browned butter substitution.


    Use an equal amount of brown butter to replace the oil.


    Normally a substitution would require an slight increase in the amount of brown butter to adjust for the differences in fat content. And a tablespoon of liquid to replace the water lost to evaporation during the browning of the butter.


    But I do not recommend either since the recipe has 4 eggs to 2 cups flour. That is an extraordinary amount of egg for the amount flour.


    Egg yolks are contain significant of fat.


    Egg whites contain significant water.


    Plus you’re going to use brown sugar which has strong hygroscopic properties.


    Given these factors I do not think it is necessary to increase the amount of butter or add additional liquid to offset water evaporation in the browning of the butter.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Oct 18, 2018
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  5. cmonamann

    cmonamann New Member

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    Wow, Norcalbaker59, thank you so much for the insightful reply. I'm a fan of yours (your replies are always brilliant), so I'm a little starstruck that you replied to my question. Thank you to you and Becky, really!

    I understand more now what the inclusion of brown butter and brown sugar would do to this banana bread. I found your math about the ratios particularly insightful-- I would've never noticed, but given all the properties of sugar, wow, that makes a huge difference!!

    I will try the recipe as written, and with modifications, and let you know how it goes. Thank you again for taking the time to explain things so thoroughly. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I hope one day I can become a more savvy baker and give advice like you two. :D
     
    cmonamann, Oct 19, 2018
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  6. cmonamann

    Becky Administrator

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    @Norcalbaker59 that's a very good point about the high sugar and egg content! Definitely a good idea to make the recipe as is and then try the substitutions. Plus it sounds like an excellent way to end up with more banana bread :D
     
    Becky, Oct 19, 2018
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  7. cmonamann

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Well thank you for the kind compliment:) I deeply love baking and I enjoy talking about it. Maybe more than I should :rolleyes:

    If you haven’t tried baking by weight, I would definitely encourage you to try it. It takes a bit to understand ratios and baker’s percentages. But once you grasp the concepts it becomes second nature.

    Baking by weight has so many advantages: accurate, easy to scale recipes, allows for accurate planning and management of ingredients for baking projects. But most of all when you bake by weight it gives you the knowledge to develop your own recipes.

    I always say that bakers are nothing more than mad scientist run amuck in a kitchen— we bakers make science and math delicious :cool:
     
    Norcalbaker59, Oct 20, 2018
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