In the office where I work we are lucky enough to get a delivery of free fruit every Monday, sometimes however there is quite a lot left uneaten. This week the fruit in question was the banana, so many bananas in fact that they were starting to take over the office!
The solution was clear, it was time for the Keston kitchen to step in, so with a bag full of over ripe bananas I headed home to decide on the best recipe to transform them into something tasty and stop them going to waste.
I had so much fruit to use up that I decided to test 2 recipes, there were many variations of banana bread/cake online but it didn’t take me long to reach the conclusion that I should go with the 2 big names in baking Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson.
Both recipes were quite straightforward to make – although I did have to make a quick call to Abbie (the offices resident baking expert) when I realised I didn’t have the wholewheat flour Delia’s recipe asked for. Nigella’s loaf was faster to make particularly as the batter was a lot sloppier and quicker to mix but the ingredients Delia uses (wholewheat flour and brown sugar) did appeal to me.
The next morning I returned to the office armed with the 2 banana loaves and enlisted the help of my workmates to judge which cake they preferred. As I work in market research I knew that they were clearly the best people for the task. They all stepped up to the mark and tasted both loaves.
Both cakes were definitely a success as there was very little left at the end of the afternoon. It was a close run thing but a few more people preferred the lighter, sweeter more banana taste of Nigella’s loaf. Personally I liked Delia’s it was denser but had a nice citrus flavour from the orange and lemon zest and I’d definitely like to try it again with the full amount of wholemeal flour. Also I think including walnuts in Delia’s banana and walnut loaf would probably do the recipe more justice!
In conclusion, you can’t really go wrong with banana cake!
Delia's Banana and walnut loafIngredients:
350g bananas (about 4)
175g walnut pieces
pinch of salt
1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder (I used less than 1 tsp because of the self raising flour I added)
1 level teaspoon of ground cinnamon
110g plain flour
110g wholewheat flour (I used 55g plain and 55g wholemeal self raising flour as we didin’t have any wholewheat flour)
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon
110g of butter at room temperature
175g soft dark brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon of Demerara sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, then spread the walnuts (if you add them) out on a baking sheet and toasting them lightly in the oven for 7-8 minutes. After that, remove them from the oven to a chopping board, let them cool briefly, then chop them fairly roughly. Now, in a bowl, peel and mash 3 of the bananas to a purée with a fork, and peel and chop the other one into 0.5 inch (1 cm) chunks. Next you need to take a large mixing bowl and sift the salt, baking powder, cinnamon and both the flours into it, holding the sieve up high to give it a good airing, then adding the bran that's left in the sieve. Now simply add all the remaining ingredients (except the chopped banana and nuts) and, using an electric hand whisk, begin to beat the mixture, first on a slow speed for about half a minute, then increasing the speed to mix everything thoroughly and smoothly. Then lightly fold in the chopped banana and walnuts. You may need to add a drop of milk (I had to add quite a bit of milk because I used extra plain flour which absorbs more moisture than wholewheat flour) to give a mixture that drops easily off a spoon when you give it a sharp tap on the side of the bowl. Next pile the mixture into the loaf tin, level the top with the back of a spoon and sprinkle on the Demerara sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1.25-1.5 hours, until the cake feels springy in the centre.
After that, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes before turning it out on to a wire tray. Then let it get completely cold before serving or transferring it to a cake tin.
Nigella’s Banana bread
75ml bourbon or dark rum (I used brandy)
175g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
125g unsalted butter – melted
150g sugar (I used caster sugar)
2 large eggs
300g banana (about 4)
60g chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the sultanas and rum or bourbon in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and leave for an hour if possible until the sultanas absorb a lot of the liquid, drain remaining liquid.
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC
Put the flower, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium sized bowl and combine well.
In a large bowl mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended, beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the mashed banana. With a wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts, drained sultanas and vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.
Scrape the mixture into a loaf tin and put in the oven for 1-1.25 hours. When cooked a skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool and eat thinly or thickly sliced as preferred.