buttermilk banana bread with coconut palm sugar

Truthfully I can’t remember where or when I first heard about coconut palm sugar, even though it was very recently, but when I saw some at the local market and it wasn’t ridiculously expensive I decided to try it. Coconut palm sugar is made by harvesting the nutrient-rich juice from the coconut palm tree flower and evaporating the liquid out in a kettle drum. It has the same number of calories as regular sugar, but it’s got a low glycemic index, meaning that the sugar is released much more slowly and doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels (I read that it raises your blood sugar about as much as milk or cooked carrots). It’s also completely natural and unrefined (read the label though, as I’ve heard of some non-organic brands trying to mix it with regular sugar to make it cheaper), and has the added bonus of containing Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, and potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Now I’m not calling any sugar a health food, but if you’re going to cook or bake with it, why not use a healthiER sugar?

So yesterday I made a banana bread because there were three over-ripe (at least by my standards!) bananas lying around, as well as buttermilk left over from last week’s homemade ricotta experiment. I combined the bananas with 2 eggs, 1/3 cup buttermilk, about 2/3 cup applesauce (instead of oil or butter), and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. Then I mixed the dry ingredients separately and then added them to the wet mixture: 1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar, 1 cup white flour & 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg (spices are optional – I like them). At the end I stirred in some Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips (optional, again, or you could add nuts) and baked it at 325 for about an hour and 35 minutes. Between the whole wheat flour and the dark color of the coconut sugar, you will get a very dark looking loaf, but the taste is rich and caramel-y. Good for breakfast, dessert, a snack…. you get the idea…

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