For a food blogger who says she doesn’t like to bake much, I seem to be baking up a storm with the gorgeous Rhubarb & Almond Cake a couple of days ago and now a banana bread. However, 4 bananas were quickly ripening in my fruit bowl. I eat a banana each morning with breakfast but don’t much like them once they are very ripe … so if they reach that stage, for me there’s only one thing to do with them – bake some banana bread!
If I baked a ‘cake’ for my kids for tea for when they came home from school, it was most often a banana bread and I’m still using the same Katie Stewart recipe from 1990! I’ve even made the mix into muffins. I tried a ‘Delia’ recipe recently for a change but didn’t like it so much, so back to Katie I went. She was queen of cooks when I got married in the late 1970s and I had a number of her books, which are still on my shelves and became very worn through much use. I stuck rigidly to her recipe for years and years. For one, cake recipes are less tolerant of being experimented with than savoury dishes. But anyway, it was just a great recipe as it was – with walnuts (or pecans) and sultanas in the mix along with the bananas. However, because I now often share my cakes with Jonathan and Lyndsey, I take into account that Lyndsey doesn’t like sultanas or raisins; my other daughter-in-law Rachael doesn’t either. So a bit of experimentation is required. I made a banana bread recently, leaving out the sultanas and adding some orange and lemon zest along with the walnuts and that worked brilliantly. But when I came to share a piece with Freddie I wondered if giving a baby (albeit it one who’s now only 3 weeks off a year) walnuts was OK … He loved the cake and I made sure he didn’t get any big bits of walnuts. When I came to decide what to put in the cake today, and thinking about what goes well with banana, chocolate seemed a great idea. Thus, at the end of the preparation, I chopped some dark cooking chocolate into chunks and added them. It worked really well!
- 225g (8oz) plain spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 100g (4oz) butter, soft
- 100g (4oz) light muscovado sugar
- 2 eggs
- 450g (1lb) bananas (weight with skin on)
- 50g (2oz) chopped dark chocolate
Heat the oven to 180C/Fan 160/Gas 4. Grease a 1lb loaf tin and lay a strip of baking parchment along the bottom and up over the side edges.
Sift the flour into the bowl with the baking powder. I always buy spelt plain flour now, not just because it’s healthier but because it has a great flavour compared to ordinary plain flour. Now add the soft butter (please don’t use margarine!), sugar and the two eggs. Whisk it all together with an electric beater until well blended and light and fluffy. (Katie takes more time doing this stage by stage in the original recipe, but this all-in-one method works just fine.)
Now mash the bananas with a fork, add to the mixture and beat again until the banana is blended in well. Now chop 50g dark chocolate with a sharp knife into small pieces (about ½cm cubes).
Add the chocolate to the cake mix and fold in gently. Transfer to the prepared tin.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour. It should be nicely brown on top and shrinking very slightly from the edges. I checked mine with a small sharp knife to see it was cooked through. Leave to cool a little in the tin for 10 minutes.
Then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Now, if you can possibly wait a day or two before trying this, banana bread does benefit from a little bit of ‘maturing’. But then who can resist the wonderful smell of freshly baked banana bread? Certainly not me! I just had to cut into it and have a slice with a cup of tea this afternoon.
I shall take half over to Jonathan and Lyndsey’s tomorrow, but I’ve also discovered banana bread freezes well and that if I cut it into slices, slipping a piece of greaseproof paper between each slice, then wrapping the whole in greaseproof paper and then foil, it freezes really well. I can then take out separate slices when I fancy some. It also toasts well, so I might slip it into the toaster and then spread some butter on top. Indulgence! But a little bit of indulgence is a good thing. And while, of course, lots of cake isn’t good for us, I feel this is a slightly healthier cake than some. And most importantly of all, it’s absolutely delicious. I shall definitely be adding the chocolate again.