Sunday, 11 May 2008

Pushmi-pullyu banana bread

I mentioned yesterday that I had made an exception to my current no-freezer rule for some banana bread. I really had meant not to do any extra baking at all for a while, but then I saw that Not Quite Nigella was having a Banana Bread Bakeoff, and I couldn’t resist sending in my favourite recipe. I had no hesitation in picking it – a swirled banana and chocolate bread originally from a Cooking Light Annual, though I got it from here. It’s really flavoursome and moist and I would never guess it was a lightened recipe. But then I got thinking about my second favourite banana bread, which is a spiced honey banana bread (also lower fat) which I’ve only made once, for my birthday cake last year, and most of it ended up not being eaten for various missing-cat-stress-induced reasons (it was the pook, and he turned up eventually, thankfully). Was this an opportunity to give it another go?

After some dithering, I hit on the idea of making two loaves in one – the head would be chocolate and banana, and the tail (so to speak) would be honey banana – a pushmi-pullyu of the banana bread world, if you will. This seemed like a brilliant plan, and it actually did work a lot better than you might think for such a hare-brained scheme. I halved each recipe, and propped a divider in the tin while I filled it, so that there wouldn’t be too much mixing of the batters. This got a little complicated since the chocolate-banana loaf already had a mixing of two batters component, but with a little propping and balancing and careful checking of ingredient lists, everything ended up in the right place. The only other change I made to the original recipes was to substitute some wholemeal flour for some of the plain in each case, which didn't notably alter the flavour. (DVN: I used the Leeds farmers' market honey!)

It's all about improvising!

I was really intrigued as to whether the two halves would stay separate, and was delighted to find that they did! A cross-section of the middle revealed some intermingling, but as the two separate pieces show, it really is two loaves in one. I feel quite pleased about this experiment, and think it may even invite the use of the word ‘splicing’ which isn’t one I use every day. Even better, the honey banana half keeps well, so as long as you start at the right end, you will be in banana bread for ages! Even longer in my case, as most of it has joined a veritable battery of cakes in the freezer which I’d better actually start eating at some stage before they join forces in some flour-based crack force and take over our house.

Two breads in one - honey-banana on the left; chocolate-banana swirl on the right

Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread (full quantity recipe)

From Cooking Light, 2004 Annual (and to be found here)

2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon and level method)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup plain chocolate chips

Butter for greasing tin
2 lb loaf tin (8" x 4")

Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4. Grease the tin.

Cream butter and sugar together until well combined. This won't look like a traditional mixture due to the lower proportion of butter to regular loaf mixes.

Mix flour, soda and salt together. Don't bother sifting.

Add eggs, bananas and yogurt to the creamed mixture. Melt the chocolate chips, in a medium bowl, in the microwave for one minute on HIGH. Stir the chocolate until completely melted. Leave to cool whilst you finish the batter.

Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture. Mix well, scraping bottom and sides of bowl. Scoop out a cup of this mixture and blend it into the melted chocolate.

Place alternating spoonfuls of the chocolate and plain mixtures in the loaf tin. Swirl batters together using a knife, making sure you go into all corners.

Bake for one hour. A skewer inserted should come out clean.

Cool in tin for ten minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.

Spiced honey and banana bread (from Martha Day's Complete baking) (full quantity)

Serves 20

115g/4 oz soft light brown sugar
275g/10 oz plain flour
3 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarb of soda
4 tbsps sunflower oil
4 tbsps strong-flavoured clear honey
2 eggs
4 tbsp orange juice
3 bananas
115g/4 oz sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Lightly grease and line a 7x11in baking tin

Mix in the sugar with some of the flour and sift it into a bowl. Sift the remaining flour into the bowl with the mixed spice and bicarb of soda.

Make a well in the centre, add the oil, honey, eggs and orange juice and mix together thoroughly.

Mash the bananas, then add them to the bowl with the sultanas and mix together well.

Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for about 35-40 mins or until the centre springs back when lightly pressed [you may notice that this is a lot shorter baking time than the swirled bread, but in fact it did take longer for the whole loaf to be cooked. I just kept testing with a cake tester]

Leave the cake in the tin to cool for 5 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.


Johanna said...

I like the ambition despite your no-freezer rule! I also couldn't resist making banana bread despite my vow to lay off baking - will post it later today! Great idea to do the divider - I often want to make so many different cakes that I will keep this idea in mind!

LisaRene said...

This is such a fun post, a "pushmi-pullyu" banana bread how cute! Two for one, I do love variety :)

Ilana said...

they look so professional... all marbly/curranty...

and out of pure generosity and empathy with your terrible freezerful state i guess i could eat various bits of freezer baking if you happened to bring them with at the wknd. just in case you weren't intending to already :)