Freeze Drying · Trail Cooking

Freeze-Drying Banana Bread Slices

All the rage in the fall was having freeze-dried pumpkin pie coming out of your freeze-dryer on the groups and forums of avid freeze-drying loyalists on Facebook and similar.

Don’t get me wrong, freeze-dried pumpkin pie is pretty phenomenal. The secret are those massive pumpkin pies, sold at Costco in the fall, thinly sliced, then frozen, then freeze-dried. It is that simple. It produces a crunchy treat, so thinly slice those pies.

And then there are the candy freaks as winter settles in – and trust me, once you get a Harvest Right freeze-dryer, you will end up doing at least one batch candy to just have done it. Skittles is of course the choice for many. They become crunchy, instead of chewy. I wasn’t so happy with gummy candy. It can have issues where it looks dry, but isn’t. If it is that way, it will collapse later on as it absorbs moisture. The harder candies seem to do better. We left the Skittles in a jar, with no oxygen absorber, and they were fine even months later. That was a good run in my eyes.

But the star of my early winter freeze-drying runs was making lower sugar banana bread. Unlike the items above, this one I could partake in, and stay in my goals still. Since I was making the bread from scratch, I could use whatever sweeteners I wanted. I doubled the recipe to make 2 loaves at a time, to speed up my work. I had found bananas that were on a great sale, so I did like 6 loaves over a couple of days.

The key is I made the bread without added oil (only what was present naturally in the eggs). This ensured no fat issues when freeze-drying. The less oil used in any recipe you are drying, the better. You know how often you pick up a piece of banana or zucchini bread and you can practically squeeze out oil from it? Yeah, no. You don’t want that. It’ll leave a mess in your machine, but also lead to a lot shorter shelf life (oil is what goes rancid in freeze-dried foods).

So? The recipe? Here’s the thing…banana bread is pretty darn personal. What I like, many won’t like. Because I weaned myself off most sugar over many months, I use a recipe with about 1/3 of the sweetener a normal bread would call for. And then half of that is my go-to sugar sub.

So instead, use a recipe you like. One that makes a 9×5″ pan of bread. Look for a recipe high in bananas (say 4 per loaf). For the oil called, use unsweetened applesauce instead. Or use half plain greek yogurt and half applesauce. This will give moist banana bread but without all the oil. You won’t miss it! Be sure to add cinnamon, it really comes thru once dried. I would say though keep the sugar to only a cup per loaf, or less. It can become far sweeter tasting once dried. (I used about half a cup total) Changing the sugar won’t affect the bread, by lowering it. Some recipes call for as much as one and half cups sweetener. For subbing use Splenda (sucralose) or a monk fruit blend aimed at baking for best results. But if you use sugar free, do not feed to dogs!

I prepped our baking pans with pan spay that has flour added. For easy release without heavy oil, this worked great. You could also line your pans with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom.

After baking the bread, let it cool on a rack in the pan for at least 30 minutes, then knock out onto the rack. Let cool completely. Thinly slice the heels of the loaf off, then slice into thin slices. I then sliced the slices into french fry size portions, so that each piece has a bit of both top and bottom of the loaf. They were about as wide as my fingers.

I put the silicone mats on the drying trays, and then laid the slices out. You can have them pretty close to each other, but keep them separate. (Parchment paper, cut to fit the trays, can be used instead. Lining the trays is worth doing.)

Then I covered the trays (we have the lids) and froze them solid. This allowed me time to make multiple loaves of bread and process. And to get enough ready to have a full freeze-dryer load.

Then, off to the freeze-dryer, which had been pre-started before hand. The machine is automatic and determines how long it will take, but on average it was about 24 hours later that they were dried. We usually test a piece on each tray, in the center of the tray, by breaking in half. If there is any moisture, just reset for 4 hours or so, and walk away. I have gotten good at determining if things are done or not, it comes with running the machine often.

Pack up in mylar bags or mason jars, add in an oxygen absorber packet and seal fully. Mark and tuck away.

(Note: I pack up a small amount of everything we dry into a mason jar so I can keep an eye on it in storage, and see if somehow we missed moisture, as the food will collapse if there was humidity in it.)

The taste? It’s like biscotti. It’s crunchy. It’s like you have a dense treat that eats like crackers. It’s really addictive and tasty.

As always though, if you are eating freeze-dried food dry, drink a lot of water/liquids with it.

See more freeze-drying posts here.

And more on freeze-drying and dehydrating.


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