In Praise of Banana Bread

Picture the scene:  you buy a bunch of bananas from the local supermarket with big ideas about slicing them over your porridge for breakfast, instead you oversleep and breakfast instead becomes a mediocre croissant from your office canteen.  By the time you’ve remembered that you have bananas, black spots have begun to appear on the skin and little fruit flies have started to take a liking to them.  You curse yourself for wasting food and money and throw said bananas in the bin.  This is, of course, unless you are a baker, in which case you see these black bananas not as past their best, but as a source of endless possibilities.  Some bakers even buy bananas in order to purposefully let them go black, because everybody knows that this is when they have the strongest flavour.

Whilst catching up on recent food blog posts (Bloglovin’ is excellent for this, by the way, if you don’t use it already) I have noticed quite a few banana-baked-things popping up. I suppose it’s inevitable, really, as winter approaches and more and more ingredients drop from our ‘seasonal foods’ list, that we turn to bananas.  Also, what is more comforting than the smell of banana bread baking in the oven on a cold day?  Sadly, though, this baking stalwart has become a bit over-used – quite a few of the blogs I read came with some sort of apology:  “I know the world really doesn’t need another banana-baked-thing, but…” or “I know it’s a cliche, but…”  It’s almost like we, in an attempt to display our baking prowess, have become too good for the humble banana bread.  It has become the embarrassing relative of our repetoire – something we only allow out in public when entirely necessary.   Of course, banana bread is incredibly easy to make and, whilst it looks rather unspectacular, it is a shame to devalue it.  Anything that uses up unwanted fruit, can be whipped up in minutes and forgotten about in the oven for an hour, can be made with children and can be wrapped in foil and taken on even the most crowded of commutes is not to be sniffed at.

Banana bread is not really a ‘bread’ as such, as I have never come across one that uses a yeasted dough.  I think the name was given as it is usually baked in a loaf tin, rather than a round cake tin, which would identify it as a cake.  Although there is no one set recipe for this, the mixture is closer to a cake mixture than a bread mixture, although some leave the eggs.  Self-raising flour, or plain flour mixed with baking powder, is used to give the rise and most of the moisture in the cake is from the addition of bananas, often as many as four, which are mashed and added to the wet ingredients.  The subtlety of the banana flavour means that banana breads can accommodate a number of different ingredients including nuts and seeds, dried fruit, chocolate, toffee and even alcohol, meaning that you can often ad lib with anything you have lurking around the storecupboard.

I have chosen three banana breads that use a variety of different ingredients.  One is my boyfriend’s favourite: a banana, rum and coconut bread adapted from Orangette; a fruit and nut banana bread, perfect for using up the ends of old packets of fruit and nuts; and a basic banana and walnut bread.

Banana, Rum and Coconut Bread

Banana, Rum and Coconut Bread

Banana, Rum and Coconut Bread

  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Drop white vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp dark, spiced rum
  • 40g desiccated coconut
  • Granualated sugar, for dredging

Preheat the oven to 175ºc / 350ºf / gas 4.  Butter a 1kg loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Whilst beating, add the vinegar and the rum and mix well.  Add half the banana and mix well, followed by half the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Repeat this with the other half of both mixtures.  Fold in the coconut.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level off.  Dredge evenly with the granulated sugar and bake in the oven for an hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin  for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Fruit and Nut Banana Bread

Fruit and Nut Banana Bread with Crumble Topping

Fruit and Nut Banana Bread with Crumble Topping

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 75g chopped nuts (whatever you have in the cupboard is fine – I used a combination of walnuts and macadamias)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1½ tbsp milk
  • 35g dried fruit (again, whatever you have is fine)
  • Crumble mix (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175ºc / 350ºf / gas 4.  Butter a 1kg loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined.  Fold in the nuts and flour.

In a small bowl, combine the mashed bananas with the milk and dried fruit.  Add this to the mixture and fold in until just incorporated.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level off.  Top with a crumble mix, or leave plain, and bake in the oven for an hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin  for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Banana Walnut Bread

Banana and Walnut Bread

Banana and Walnut Bread

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 85g chopped walnuts
  • 50ml milk

Preheat the oven to 175ºc / 350ºf / gas 4.  Butter a 1kg loaf tin and line with baking parchment.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and mix until combined.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.  Add a quarter of this mixture to the other ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Repeat this until all of the flour has been incorporated.  Fold in the banana and walnuts.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level off.  Top with a crumble mix, or leave plain, and bake in the oven for an hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin  for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “In Praise of Banana Bread

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s