>> Saturday, August 28, 2010

I always seem to have the same problem. I buy a bunch of bananas and the final two turn black, sickly sweet and soft before I have a chance to take them to work and have them for morning tea with some yoghurt and honey. I usually throw them in one of our freezer drawers until Chris and I start to crave my mum’s wonderful Banana Crunch Cake.

A few weeks ago I already had three frozen bananas hiding in the freezer and two more ripening at lightning speed in our fruit bowl. Something had to be done. I felt too guilty to add them to the pile that was growing slowly but surely in the deep freeze. So I took a banana from the freezer and the two from the bench and got baking. (See my baking tip on freezing bananas here.)

For some reason banana bread popped into my head; the chewy kind you can spread butter on. I kind of like the 1970’s associations that come with banana bread – healthier and a bit more down to earth than cake. It should be baked in a brown kitchen with brown and cream linoleum on the floor and orange-flowered crockery on the shelves. While wearing flares.

Am I right in thinking that banana bread is meant to be a bit more glutinous and, well, more like bread than cake? That’s the kind of texture I was looking for but, sadly, this banana bread was more like banana cake or banana loaf. Don’t get me wrong; it was totally delicious! We ate the whole thing within a couple of days; Chris even eating his share for breakfast. Though that’s not necessarily the measure of a good cake – he always does that.

Actually, when I think about it, this bread was very similar to the Banana Crunch Cake my mum makes but without the crunch. It has a touch of cinnamon added to the batter which achieves the same sort of overall flavour; just a little more plain and restrained. The cake (I should say ‘bread’ really shouldn’t I?).... the bread itself is light and soft; a nice basic banana cake (no! bread!) with a hint of spice that adds a pleasant depth of flavour. A slice of this would be perfect with a cup of tea when you want something simple but a little more satisfying than a plain biscuit. I wouldn’t toast it though, the crumb is too loose and it would fall apart in your toaster. And that’s it right there isn’t it? The reason why it isn’t ‘bread’. You can’t toast it.

I’ve given up. I now officially rename this recipe, ‘Banana Loaf’. (I seem to be doing that a lot lately don’t I? Renaming recipes....)

And so my quest for a chewy, dense banana bread continues.... When I find it, I’ll let you know.


After re-reading the recipe and looking at the picture on the website, I think I know why my banana bread turned out so light and delicate and more like cake:

I have a feeling I mashed the banana too intensely. I think making a chunky mixture with a few whole pieces of banana still intact rather than a smooth paste would moisten the bread and help it to develop a more glutinous texture. I think next time I'd add an extra banana as well which would help.

The recipe says not to over mix the batter. While this is really important when trying to make a cake as light and airy as possible, a banana bread can do with a little more mixing. I basically only mixed until combined which turns out wasn't quite enough, so I'd recommend mixing for another minute or so after the ingredients have come together. Don't overdo it though, otherwise your bread will become tough.

I didn't have any walnuts in my pantry so had to miss them out. Next time I'll make the effort to find some because I think they would have helped to retain a little more moisture in the cooked loaf and produced a slightly chewier texture.

(or Banana Bread, adapted from the Joy of Baking website)

1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar (I used caster)
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter and flour or line with baking paper the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.) Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. This bread can be frozen.

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