i have been stashing some bananas in the hopes of getting them ripe enough to bake banana bread. now this is actually harder than it sounds when bear keeps stealing them to make smoothies. it takes about a week and half to get a reasonably ripe banana to the type of over-ripe that you need for baking.
if you are not fighting off banana thieves feel free to let them ripen even more. i have baked with bananas where the skin had gone almost completely black. the fruit inside is gooey but adds such a delicious caramel flavour that its worth some squeamish handling to achieve. when peeling over ripe bananas be gentle. don’t be put off by brown bruises on the fruit and be sure to pull out the hard bit at the end of the banana. i have no idea whats its called but take it out to avoid funny lumps in your batter.
the recipe (the hummingbird bakery cookbook) called for muscovado or light brown sugar. the riper the banana the less effort you need to put in with fancy sugars. because i had some handy i used demerara. i recently purchased some black treacle and was toying with the idea of adding some to the batter. i haven’t played with black treacle before so i decided to taste some first. i immediately decided against using it. the taste was bitter sweet..almost more savoury than anything else. like liquorice but not. yes i am very good at describing things!
anyhoo i didn’t think the black treacle would work so i put it back in the cupboard. if you are thinking of flavour additions test them first. i will generally take a spoon of batter/icing/custard and add a little of the flavouring to get an idea of it compliments or ruins. baking is not just about sweetness. you can create full spectrums of flavour, adding your signature to your baked goods.
i beat the eggs and the muscovado together until fluffy. i used less than the stipulated amount of sugar.
i then mashed up the bananas and added them to the egg/sugar mixture. i had more banana than i needed. in fact almost double but i used it all anyway. some recipes say to roughly mash the banana so that you still get chunks of banana in the batter. this is a big no no for me. i like a nice homogenous sponge. i don’t like biting into something and hitting a glob of something gooey. this is of course my personal preference so roughly mash if that’s your thing…just don’t invite me over for tea.
the recipe called for ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg to be added to the dry ingredients before folding into the egg mixture. i wasn’t so keen on the idea since i really like the taste of a plain and simple caramelised banana (like the ones you get at thai restaurants) so i didn’t want to detract from that. also and perhaps more importantly, bear does not like cinnamon (very strange indian guy).
i added some ground himalayan salt (i’d read in annie bell’s baking bible that making banana bread with slightly salted butter added nice flavour).
lola had done a lot of hard work beating the eggs and sugar so i decided to fold in the flour by hand. i have fond memories of childhood baking when i was learning how to fold. it takes a great deal of patience and a pure love for the art to fold well. when i was a kid i used to fold with a big metallic spoon which was heavy and cumbersome. we didn’t have any wooden spoons after i, as a toddler, decided to bury all my mother’s wooden utensils following some disciplinary action. my mother thought the problem was my behaviour. i thought the problem was the presence of wooden spoons. even at a young age i had great problem-solving capabilities.
i thoroughly enjoyed folding in the flour. that hypnotic action was deeply relaxing and ultimately rewarding when it resulted in a nice smooth batter. so many times in life we opt for the quickest route but sometimes slow and steady is good too.
the last step was mixing in the melted butter. i have mentioned before but will re-iterate here that melting butter should be handled as delicately as melting chocolate. i cut the butter into slices and laid it out evenly in the bowl before microwaving at 70% for 30sec intervals. i took it out when there were still some solid lumps and mixed until it was all melted. it takes time but remember…love the butter…respect the butter.
i poured the batter into a prepared loaf dish and baked for 1 hour and 15 minutes. i checked the cake after 55 minutes and it wasn’t done. i checked again after an hour and 5 minutes and it still wasn’t done. eventually i got this…
bear and i had slice with some coffee. i’m really happy with the rich caramel colour on the sponge. and the house still smells like baked banana.
lessons learnt: black treacle is not as friendly as we thought it would be. you can add extra banana. when the recipe says bake for about an hour it can mean more than an hour especially if you added more banana which technically is a liquid ingredient. get myself a nice cake plate.
anecdotal note: banana bread is great toasted with a smear of butter. definitely a breakfast of champions. word to the wise though. do not toast banana bread in a toaster. the sugar burns creating wafts of smoke to a degree that will set off a smoke alarm. this we found out the hard way in australia when bear set of said smoke alarm and was convinced that the impending visit from the fire department would result in us being deported back to South Africa. he had of course made the unfortunate mistake of spending the month prior to our trip watching border patrol. if you haven’t seen it, its a reality show about people travelling through australian borders i.e airports and the strictness of the system. it frequently features people of indian origin getting in some sort of trouble. needless to say he was more than a little paranoid. i was frequently reminded that my behaviour (jay-walking, impersonating the australian accent, and laughing and joking in airports) was bound to get us deported. for the record it wasn’t me that set off the smoke alarm. long story short…toast your banana bread in a pan.