At long last, after weeks of testing and tasting (more of this and less of that, some of this and none of that, more fire, less fire, circle pans, square pans, muffin tins?!, and on and on) we have settled on our final Banana Bread recipes! To be honest, I didn’t initially foresee the process of finalizing recipes to take so long, but the end result is a couple of great locally tasted and approved recipes, and lots of baking and recipe tweaking practice!
Here’s a quick look into why finalizing a recipe takes so long.
There are about a million variables to play with. Some things, like having bananas in banana bread are kind of non-negotiable, but how many? If you decrease the number of bananas, how much milk should you add to keep the right consistency? If you use soy flour to increase protein and improve the color, should you also use soy milk and peanut flour? How much coal do you put in the oven for the perfect bake? What is your oven?! I could write about 20 pages explaining all the variables we tested.
TWB caters its recipes to local preferences and available materials. Here in Bukoba, the most plentiful (and thus lowest cost) banana is basically a large plantain banana that you let completely ripen. This kind of banana has a different taste, smell, texture, and amount of sugar than what we in the US typically think of as a banana. The local take on this banana was that it tastes great, but that we should mask the “banana smell” in the bread as much as possible. So now we’re thinking about what other ingredients will cover the smell of banana, does blending the banana work better than mashing it with a fork, if we reduce the number of bananas can we keep the flavor but lose the scent?
Cost of Goods, or COGS makes or breaks business. For the bakery, every single ingredient has to be priced out so that we know exactly how much 1 tsp of salt and 1.95 grams of spice in a recipe cost. Excel is a magical genius for this sort of thing, but the groups we work with by and large don’t have computer access, so we do it all by hand. I have now memorized the US measurements (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons), their metric equivalents (kilograms/grams/liters), and the corresponding prices in Tanzanian Shillings for pretty much any rendition of the recipe you want to throw my way. The women all think I LOVE math, which I think is hilarious. But there is something comforting about all these calculations.
How long the bread lasts “on the shelf”. This one is tough because again there are so many variables. How much liquid is in the bread, what kind of bag or container is it stored in, where is it stored, what is the local climate? Bukoba is hot and very, very humid. This poses challenges for keeping anything from going bad, unless you have a fridge, which we do not. After weeks of experimenting though, I think we’ve got it!
So there you go, a “quick” look at why we have spent 4 weeks finalizing our TWB Bukoba Banana Bread recipes. And, the end result is TWO great, delicious, nutritious longer-lasting recipes—Banana-Soy Bread and Banana-Peanut Bread. We also tossed in some Pumpkin Bread experiments, and came out with a huge hit, so all told we have 3 solid recipes for the BUWEA group.