Gluten-free banana almond bars

I stopped eating gluten almost a year ago. Initially I did a flurry of baking experimentation with gluten-free flours, because I was used to baking and eating tons of bread. I came to the conclusion that I was not going to find a satisfying bread substitute, but for a while I was making crackers and pancakes and tortillas as well as sweet breads and cookie bars. I became somewhat adept at using gluten-free flours, but I also gained weight and had low energy. I stopped baking and started eating meat, lots of it, along with more nuts. I’ve also tried to eat more vegetables and fruits, but have less success keeping that up, though am still eating more of those than I used to. I lost weight and I have a lot more energy. It’s a semi-paleo diet that I’m doing, because I still eat some grains and sugar.

I’ve resorted to a few tricks to keep myself from eating sweets and high carb items. I try to make single serving desserts, like one dish of fruit crisp in the microwave, so I’m not tempted to eat several servings at once. I don’t bake cookie bars on a regular basis anymore.

Banana almond bars (gluten free), first batch
Banana almond bars (gluten free), first batch

But the other night I was craving something more than my single serving of plum crisp, so I made some banana almond bars. I was going with what I had on hand – the idea for the recipe came from the 1/2 banana that I had – and so I baked this in a smaller pan (6″ x 8″). There are two versions of the recipe here, the first is what I baked in the smaller pan, and the second is for a standard 8″ x 8″ pan, with a few tweaks.

Initially I wanted to do this without any added sugar, but for the first batch I added the jam because I thought the dough tasted pretty lifeless. On the second batch, I eliminated the jam, used more banana and added a dash of cinnamon (so no added sugar). On the other hand, if you keep the jam, other flavors beside peach that I would recommend would be apricot or orange marmalade. Not sure about berry jams like blackberry or raspberry – maybe.

Both times the dough started rising while I waited for the oven to heat up. So maybe the baking powder could be reduced more, but they both turned out pretty tasty with good texture. I think any gluten-free flour blend could be used instead of the rice flour, and this would probably work without the xanthan gum.

Banana Almond Bars
Oven 350 F / 175 C

Original quantities for 8″ x  6″ sized pan:

2 eggs
1/2 banana, mashed
1/4 C oil
1/2 C almond meal
1/2 C brown rice flour
1-1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp peach jam

Revised quantities for 8″ x 8″ pan, with proportionately less baking powder and  jam optional:

3 eggs
1 banana, mashed
1/3 C oil
3/4 C almond meal
3/4 C brown rice flour
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 Tbsp peach jam (optional)
dash cinnamon (optional)

Beat eggs, oil, and banana thoroughly. Mix the dry ingredients separately, then blend into the egg mixture along with the almond extract. If using, fold in the jam at the end – it doesn’t need to be fully blended in. Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 F (175 C) for 18-20 minutes (use toothpick test). Cool on rack. Makes about 16 bars.

Banana almond bars - before baking
Banana almond bars – before baking
Banana almond bars - second batch
Banana almond bars – second batch