Nadiya’s Banana Thyme Loaf Cake

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Here is another recipe for banana bread/cake! This time it is from the lovely Nadiya Hussain, who won the 2015 series of Great British Bake Off. I was really intrigued by the addition of thyme, and also the fact that the ingredients include olive oil, and no eggs.

Mmm caramel, yum

So I set to. The cake was not a total success. But not an unmitigated failure either. And I know where I went wrong, and it’s totally my fault, not the recipe!

All the ingredients for the loaf cake.
Mixing in the milk and olive oil.

Gathering everything together before I started I was pleased that I already had a half a pot of double cream for the caramel. And exactly 4 small bananas, at the perfect level of ripeness for banana bread. However. I did not have any self raising flour. Oh well, I thought, not a disaster, I will use baking powder. But. No baking powder.

Before it went in the oven

At this point it was 8.30 on a Sunday morning, pouring with rain and blowing a hooley. And I was still in my pyjamas! I did not feel like going down to the shop just to get some baking powder. So – I will make my own baking powder. I looked up the proportions of bicarbonate of soda to cream of tartar (1:2 if you’re wondering). I calculated how much I would need for 300g of flour. All good. Oh but, no but, no. Somehow I managed to put in a little too much raising agent, which meant that the the cake rose and rose far too quickly and then sank like a soggy stone!

Before the caramel
With a nice thick caramel ‘drizzle’

The outcome was a loaf cake with a deep well along the middle. But the caramel needs a place to settle, right?! And the caramel is good! So, although it definitely didn’t come out as the handsomest cake ever, which is a shame as the sliced banana on top does look pretty cool, it was very tasty. We decided it tasted a bit like those yummy toffee bananas you get as pudding in Chinese restaurants.

With an extra dollop of caramel!

And the thyme? It’s very subtle, but there is a hint of herbal tang and aroma which lifts this cake from the ordinary. I will have to make it again, with a proper flour/ raising agent mix.

You can find the recipe on the BBC website by clicking this link. (You really need to click on it to see what it is supposed to look like!) I didn’t change anything much (except the crucial specified flour 😂). You could make this without the caramel – but don’t. The salted caramel lifts it to another level.

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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!

Blackcurrant banana bread

So – Part Two of the banana bread weekend! I still have some frozen blackcurrants in the freezer, given to me by a friend who grew them in her allotment last year. There’s not many left to be honest because I love blackcurrants. Even the smell is delicious. I did make a blackcurrant cake not so long ago, so apologies if some of this post seems a bit familiar.

Banana bread is a bit of a blank canvas really, because the basic taste is quite bland. There are plenty of ‘classic’ recipes for chocolate or spiced or nut banana breads. Nigella Lawson has one that involves rum soaked raisins which is pretty good!

But blackcurrant versions are harder to find. Perhaps this is because in the USA, where banana bread is said to have originated in the 1930’s, blackcurrants are not well known. In 1911 they were banned, along with all currant species, due to a pest on currant bushes that affected economically important white pine plantations. It wasn’t until 1966 that states were allowed to decide whether or not to allow them back, and by that time they had disappeared from people’s consciousness. In Europe however currants were economically more significant than white pine, so they remained a widespread commercial crop. Blackcurrants were important for the UK during WW2, as a source of vitamin C. The juice is made into a drink – best known here in the UK as Ribena (ribes is the Latin name for currants). In 2010 90% of the UK blackcurrant crop went to the Ribena factory!

Anyway, the recipe I used for this version came from no less than the International Blackcurrant Association . It was similar to many banana bread recipes, although it only had one egg, and the actual recipe had no raising agent. I did add a scant teaspoon of bicarb/ baking soda. I split the recipe between two tins as before, but these loaves were quite a bit flatter than the spiced version. Less mixture? Less raising agents? I don’t think it really matters if they’re are bit flatter, you can just cut thicker slices!

The taste was amazing – moist and creamy sweet cake studded with sharp and aromatic blackcurrants. Definitely a winner. You could use fresh or frozen blackcurrants. Frozen raspberries would also work, or blackberries.. any berry would work, although the blackcurrants do have a a sharpness that contrasts well with the sweetness of the bananas. A scoop of vanilla ice cream would go well too!

I’ve been looking through my previous posts and there are quite a few banana bread related ones! I’m sure there will be many more as it really is a versatile recipe and there always seem to be some bananas slowly going black somewhere.

https://eatcakeandrun.home.blog/2020/04/17/marbled-chocolate-banana-bread/

https://eatcakeandrun.home.blog/2019/08/25/banana-bread-a-classic/

https://eatcakeandrun.home.blog/2019/02/19/go-bananas/

Spiced banana bread

This banana bread started with a run. Yesterday morning I went for a run at 6.30am and ran past the closed grocery store at the end of my road. There on an empty stack of pallets were 3 large bunches of very black bananas and a few wrinkled apples. Hmm I thought, if they are still there on the way back I might just have those for an epic weekend banana bread…! And they were still there, so here’s the result. (I only picked up one bunch, leaving plenty for other early rising thrifty souls.)

The recipe came from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and I only tweaked it very slightly. In the comments section I read that someone had used garam masala instead of cinnamon, so I used that plus an pinch of crushed green cardamom for a subtly different flavour. No chocolate chips but chopped pecans instead.

Two smaller loaves are nice – keep one and give one away! (Or freeze it)

The garam masala that I used is a mix of the following spices: coriander, cumin, cassia, star anise, black pepper, ginger, green and black cardamom, pimento, bay, nutmeg, cloves. It seems to me that it’s a more complex version of pumpkin pie spice, or gingerbread spices. There are many versions of garam masala, some more ‘savoury’ than others. It is of course generally used in savoury dishes such as curries, but I’m more likely to think of it for baking now.

I used dark muscovado sugar – great flavour and a rich colour

The result – a very moist banana bread, with a gentle but complex spice flavour. The addition of pecans is definitely optional, and I think it would be just as tasty without them. Personally I think you could halve the amount of butter too, as very ripe bananas are so moist. Other recipes I’ve looked at only have 60g, which is plenty, especially with yoghurt too. And the recipe writer points out that whole wheat flour would be good too, something I would try another time.

I really liked the mild spicy flavour of this bread, and will be using garam masala in other baking recipes I think!

I started with 7 black bananas and this recipe used 4. Read tomorrow’s post to discover the fate of the remaining 3 bananas! This is certainly epic banana bread weekend!

Banana bread – a classic

Back in February I wrote up a post about bananas and made some chocolate banana cupcakes. This time it’s more of a classic banana bread. We have a young person staying with us who bought some bananas quite a while ago – perhaps two weeks?! And it has been hot lately. Imagine those poor bananas waiting patiently to be added to a smoothie, sliced on a bowl of cereal or simply peeled and eaten as is… Today I looked at them sitting forlornly in the bowl, getting squishier and blacker by the hour and took pity on them. I didn’t take a photo because to be honest they really did look quite gruesome. Another day and they really would have to have gone in the bin. As it was I was quite judicious in which bits actually got used! But I don’t like wasting food, so as long it wasn’t actually bad those chunks got mashed (that didn’t take long – they were practically mashed already).

Squishy bananas

The classic banana bread recipe I used came from the reliable Felicity Cloake in the Guardian. The only tweak I made was the addition of a packet of milk chocolate chips, because chocolate goes so well with bananas and hey – why not? Usually I would use dark chocolate but Lidl didn’t have any today.

It’s a bit hot for baking really but I am looking forward to a slice of this squidgy banana goodness for dessert later with a scoop of ice cream.

A classic banana bread

Here’s a haiku to celebrate:

Black soft bananas

Dying slowly in the bowl

Brought alive in cake.

Update: still slightly warm banana bread with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is really a taste sensation!

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!