Blogging will be a little slower for the next month while I am travelling, though I do have a lot of great recipes saved up from a last minute New York cooking binge that I will try to post when I get a chance. I started writing this post in the lounge in Edinburgh airport on my way back to London after a fantastic week-long conference in honour of the 300th aniversary of David Hume (the philosopher whose brilliant essay “Of The Standard of Taste” inspired this blog in all the obvious ways). However, I then spent a few days in Santorini (pictures to follow) where I didn’t have my computer, so I am only now getting back on track. It has been a beautiful couple of weeks, but I have also been greatly missing my boyfriend, Nick, and when I was thinking about the next recipe to post this came to mind as he was the one to make this particular loaf of banana bread…
When I first met Nick he really could not cook (he had never so much as fried an egg), but since moving to New York he has been slowly mastering recipes that I have suggested to him. Banana bread has a lot going for it – it is easy, the preparation is very quick, you can make it using bananas that are too ripe to eat (using old fruit rather than throwing it out – brilliant), and once you have the dry ingredients in your pantry you can usually make it without needing to go to out to buy extra ingredients (so long as, like us, you always have butter and eggs in the fridge). If there is a loaf in the fridge a couple of slices can be a delicious breakfast, but it is also great for taking into work for lunch or a snack.
3-5 over-ripe bananas (see discussion below)*
75g (2.5 oz; 1/3 cup) salted butter; plus a little more for greasing the bread tin
200g-250g (7-8.5oz; 1 cup) white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
200g (7oz; 1 cup) plain white flour
100g (3.5 oz; two large handfuls) walnuts
Before you begin, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 fahrenheit) – remember that whenever you pre-heat your oven you should check that the shelves are where you want them (in this case you want the banana bread in the middle of the oven) and also make sure that there aren’t any pans or trays in there that you would need to move when you put the banana bread in, as this will all be harder to do if the contents of the oven are hot. I find it easier to grease baking tins with softer butter, so you might want to take the butter out of the fridge as well at this point.
In a large bowl mash your bananas. *It doesn’t matter exactly how many bananas you use (the more banana, the more banana flavour), but it is important that they are quite soft. That said, I like to add one that is slightly less soft as this will create little banana lumps in your bread, rather than being mashed into a smooth paste. You can also freeze your bananas if you want to keep them for longer, or if they are still bright yellow and you want to make banana bread right away – freezing bananas will make them very soft (once defrosted they look a bit like soft-serve ice cream), which is what we did this time, but they don’t keep all of their original flavour. When defrosting bananas, make sure that they are on some kitchen paper or something that will catch the water released in the defrosting process.
Melt the butter on low heat, stiring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn. Add the melted butter to the mashed banana and mix together with a wooden spoon. Beat the egg a little, and add that to the butter/banana mixture along with the sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix to combine. Sprinkle with the salt and baking soda and mix in. Mix in the flour.
You don’t have to add nuts, but I think they really improve the banana bread – you can really add any nuts at this point. I suggest roughly chopping walnuts and throwing them into the batter, but I have also tried slivered almonds which I toasted in a frying pan, and this was also very delicious. Just make sure that if you do add nuts (particularly walnuts) you do it when all the dry ingredients have been mixed in, otherwise you are likely to find pockets of flour in the crevices of the walnuts.
Grease the inside of your bread tin, and pour in the batter. Put in the preheated oven and bake for an hour and 10 minutes. Turn the bread out of the tin and place on a cooling rack – serve the first few pieces warm from the oven, spread with butter.