Since this blog is mostly about language, I thought about introducing this post with a remark about food being the language of love, or baking being the language of the kitchen. I quickly decided that would be unnecessary: who needs an excuse to spread a good recipe?
Some years ago I tried a simple recipe for banana bread that worked well and painlessly and allowed for various adaptations. Over the years so many people called it “banana cake” that I began to wonder about its true nature. The option (usually taken) of a chocolate layer underscores its cakey credentials, but for a cake it is unusually nutritious. So I think of it as a hybrid and I call it “banana bread”, “banana cake”, or “banana bread-cake”. You may call it what you like.
The ingredient quantities are double the original quantities because I usually make two bread-cakes at a time: one for me and whoever is around, and one for some other person or household. Although this adds a few minutes to the baking time, on balance it wastes significantly less energy and allows more satisfaction to be distributed.
4 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
0.5 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of butter
1.5 cups of brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
4–7 bananas, mashed
Handfuls of nuts, seeds, mixed fruit
Notes on ingredients:
General: I don’t weigh the ingredients, and I tend to experiment a bit with proportions and additions, so it’s slightly different each time. At the moment “1 cup” corresponds to the central vessel here, placed for relative scale between a glass tumbler and a pint tankard:
Flour: Typically I use about 3 cups of plain flour to 1 cup of wholewheat flour, but this varies. Too much wholewheat and the bread-cake loses taste and lightness; too little and I can’t pretend the results are as healthy as they might be.
Butter: This can be salted or unsalted, depending on dietary preferences. Both work fine.
Bananas: The riper the better for taste, nutrition, and ease of mashing. Number depends on size: 4 large, 5 average, 6 or 7 small. Too much banana makes the bread soggy, too little and the taste of banana becomes faint. Either way, worse things have happened.
Eggs: Always free-range for the sake of our feathered farmyard friends.
Nuts (e.g. almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, cashew nuts – broken to suit), seeds (e.g. sesame, pumpkin) and mixed fruit are optional. Mixed fruit are a recent addition, suggested by a friend who was helping me make a batch of the bread. Other optional ingredients are cinnamon, vanilla, wheat germ, or whatever takes your fancy. Of the nuts, walnuts work particularly well.
1. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl:
2. In another bowl, blend the butter and brown sugar:
4. Cover with aluminium foil and bake in a fan-assisted oven pre-heated to 175°C (approx. 350°F) for 60–65 minutes, or sometimes a little longer – until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean and not sticky.
5. Let the bread-cakes stand in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack (or a grill):
This last photo is hopelessly out of focus; I may replace it in due course. In theory, the banana bread-cake remains edible for several days. It goes fine with butter, jam or other spreads, but these are not necessary, especially if you have added chocolate. It is ideal for breakfast, lunch, after dinner, in the evening, on a picnic, on the move, at a party, or as part of a midnight snack.
If you try it, let me know how you get on, and please feel free to suggest further additions or adaptations.