Golden Banana Bread
My first cook book was a children’s ‘around the world cookbook’ that I inherited from my older brother, when I was about six. I can remember flicking through it, looking at the cartoon illustrations and being allowed to pick out what me and my mom would bake together.
Banana bread featured on the Caribbean double page spread, together with a mango ice cream. I’m not convinced that this cook book is the most accurate on its food geography but I used to love looking at the dishes, and countries for that matter, which I had never even heard of up til that point and I feel like I picked up a lot from it. Just the other day, I was reading a fantastic post by Finger, Fork and Knife on her elegant raspberry and white chocolate take on the humble Australian Lamington and felt convinced that I had seen a recipe for them before. I’ve just come across them in my cook book, right next to a drawing of a boomerang.
For my own take on another humble classic, I wanted to add a little more Caribbean into the recipe. I added nutmeg and allspice to compliment the caramel flavour of the really ripe, blackened bananas, and the additional stone ground oatmeal to gives the loaf a little more texture and a golden brown crumb, together which helping to keep the sponge lovely and moist. If you want to really up the Caribbean feel, you could also add 90g or 3 oz golden sultanas, steeped in a little dark rum for half an hour or so and thrown in with the chopped nuts, to give an even more rich flavour.
175g or 6 and a quarter oz plain flour
two teaspoons of baking powder
a pinch of salt
quarter teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
quarter teaspoon of ground allspice
75g or 2 and three quarter oz medium oatmeal
120g or 4 oz coarsely chopped nuts (I used 40g walnuts and 80g almonds)
120g or 4 oz soft unsalted butter
90g or 3 oz caster sugar
90g or 3 oz dark soft brown sugar
two tablespoons of milk
two large really ripe bananas
a teaspoon of vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan oven)/ 180°C/ 350 Fahrenheit/ gas mark 4. Grease a one pint loaf tin and line the bottom with a rectangle of greaseproof paper.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and allspice together into a bowl to thoroughly mix. Add in the nuts and oatmeal and stir everything together. As with all fruit cakes, this flour coating prevents the nuts from sinking to bottom of the sponge during cooking, giving a nice even texture.
Place the butter and sugar into another large bowl and cream them together until smooth with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to worry about incorporating too much air into this butter and sugar mixture as the baking powder in the mix will give plenty of lift.
Next, beat together the egg and the milk in a cup and begin adding it gradually to butter and sugar mixture, ensuring that each bit has been completely mixed in before adding in a little more. If you are worried about the mixture curdling, then feel free to add a little of the flour mixture with each addition of egg mixture.
Once all the egg and milk mixture has been mixed into the butter and sugar, gently fold in the flour and nuts. Finally, peel and mash the bananas, together with the vanilla essence, using a fork and gently mix this into the sponge mixture, being careful not to over mix.
Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top using a palette knife. Bake the banana bread in the preheated oven for around an hour or until a skewer comes out clean when you test the loaf. Banana bread is supposed to have a dark caramel coloured crust but if you are worried about it burning, then place a baking tray on the highest shelf in your oven, with the banana bread on the next shelf down, in the centre of the oven. This baking tray will just help to protect the loaf from direct heat and should stop the top from burning before the cake is cooked through.
Once cooked, take the banana bread out of its tin and allow to cool on a wire rack. With the addition of the oatmeal and a generous amount of banana, the loaf cake should keep very well, and even if it becomes slightly stale, it is wonderful carefully toasted and spread with butter.