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Nigella’s Banana Bread

I make no apology for writing yet again about banana bread. Since 2019, when I started writing this blog, I have tried out several different banana bread recipes: a classic banana bread from the Little Red Barn Baking Book, another classic banana bread by Felicity Cloake, a marbled chocolate- banana bread, a spiced banana bread (using garam masala to spice it up) and a blackcurrant banana bread.

Three of these recipes were baked during the 2020 lockdown baking mania that seized people across the nation. Banana bread was a popular choice for many – but why?! I asked the oracle known as Google. It gave me some answers, which I am sure you would be able to give yourself if you thought about it for just a few minutes. Banana bread is easy. It is delicious. It is relatively cheap to make. Everyone always seems to have a few bananas going black in the bowl that nobody wants to eat. It is versatile – just look at the versions I have already tried – and now I’m going to give you another!

An article in The Grocer about baking in 2020 has some fascinating statistics about who baked what in lockdown. For example banana bread (or similar loaf cake) was baked by far more people in London and the south east – 45% of bakers – compared to just 24% of bakers in the north west of England! And there’s a great article here about the psychology of baking things like banana bread, especially in times of national and personal stress.

21 years old and still a constant go-to recipe book
Can you see that left over rum in the little bowl top left? Cook’s perks!

So – let’s get to this iteration of the wonderful thing that is banana bread. Nigella Lawton’s How to be a Domestic Goddess is 21 years old now, but the recipes still feel up to date, and like modern classics. This banana bread has rum soaked sultanas and walnuts. I made a tropical variation of this a week or so ago, with chopped flaked coconut and soft dried pineapple. It was good. But the original is even better! It’s really just delicious. That’s the reason banana bread is so popular.

Here’s the recipe. I grease the tin and line with a strip of baking parchment. And don’t throw out the drained rum! Drink it!

Marbled chocolate-banana bread

In my life I have made a lot of banana bread/ banana cake/ banana muffins etc. I’ve tried many recipes, many tweaks, many additions and substitutions. This recipe by Smitten Kitchen has to rank up in the top three all time BEST banana cake/ bread recipes. Incredibly easy and seriously good. Moist and delicious with deep banana and chocolate flavours.

I read a recipe blog somewhere that described chocolate and banana as a strange taste combo – really??!!! To me chocolate and banana are an absolute classic combination of flavours, and this recipe maxes out both. Other places where this taste combo can be found include: Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream and Chocolate Bananas. The latter look a little less than appetising I have to say, and since Ben and Jerry’s got bought out by the giant Unilever it doesn’t taste quite the same… So – for a taste sensation, try this recipe – you will not be disappointed!

I did not really sub anything this time – except the chocolate chips. I didn’t have any actual baking chips but I did have 3/4 of a bar of good dark chocolate- so I cut that up into biggish chunks instead.

BIG chunks of chocolate – really worth the (minor) effort compared to opening a bag of chocolate chips.
Blobs of plain banana and chocolate mixture
Swirl the blobs together with a knife
Ready to serve!

Not only does this cake taste amazing it also looks great. And the marble effect is very easy to achieve too. It is really good on its own, or take it to the next level and serve slightly warm with vanilla ice cream.

Seriously delicious 😋

Go bananas!

You may have noticed in the last post that runners were given a banana (or two) at the end of the race. Bananas are a traditional go-to in the world of running. Pre race, post race – bananas are a staple snack. Why? Well bananas are a great source of carbohydrates – fuel for running. They also contain significant potassium and magnesium, essential for proper functioning of muscles and good bone health. Bananas are a good source of fibre, and may even help you sleep better and improve your mood as they contain tryptophan which the body converts to serotonin – a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of well being and happiness. Maybe it’s not just running that makes you feel good (see earlier post..) but eating all those bananas!

The beautiful banana – healthy, tasty and versatile

Sadly bananas are in danger. The enormous success of the fruit has encouraged what some would call a factory farming approach, focussing on just one species to produce a uniform banana – the same shape, colour and taste that we are all used to. But this lack of biodiversity has led to a lack of disease resistance. A fungus known as Panama disease has devastated banana plantations across the world. Research into genetic modification is underway to try and introduce disease resistant strains. I found two excellent articles about this here and here, if you are interested in reading more.

Banana chocolate cupcakes

Let’s come away from the gloom of impending banana disaster! And to the world of banana cake. The cupcakes above are an adaptation of a recipe I found years ago somewhere on the internet. Here is my version:

Ingredients for 12 cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter – that’s about 50g

1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar (the original recipe says 1 cup but I always use less sugar than they say)

1 cup mashed bananas – nice ripe ones, probably about 3

1 egg beaten

1 cup flour

1/4 cup cocoa

1/4 cup ground almonds

1 tsp bicarb

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips – optional

I forgot to put the packet of ground almonds in the picture

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners – or cupcake cases. Preheat the oven to mark 4 or 350 deg F. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar, and then add the egg, mixing until just combined. Stir in the bananas and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts until just combined. Stir in the choc chips if using.

Fill each paper liner.(If you want bigger cupcakes don’t use all 12 liners, and fill the others more!). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until a cake tester or wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

I made a runny ‘icing’ with icing sugar and quark (it was all I had!) and put a chocolate button on top. Next time I will put that chocolate button on top of the unbaked mixture and let it melt right in. You could be more conventional and ice/frost them with a ganache, or a cream cheese frosting. I’m just not that keen on sickly icing.

The healthy version of banana cupcakes/muffins

I also made some ‘healthier’ banana muffins too – and they were really tasty. Not as lush and moist as the ones above, but very nice. I used this recipe, but instead of 1/2 cup of honey I used about 1/4 cup of agave syrup. If you have a very sweet tooth you might want more sweetener but for me they were just right.

Anyway – they went to work for a staff meeting and I made a few quid for JDRF, getting me closer to my target!

I have loads more great banana bread recipes so I will probably be posting another version at some point. Do you have a favourite version? Let me know in the comments!