Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Humble Banana Bread

Here in the UK tea time is important, and tea time needs a good biscuit or a cake or maybe a sandwich to go with it. There are many different types of cake that you can have with your tea, from lemon drizzle, which is a big hitter for many, to marble cake, madeira cake or even the less popular but equally lovely fennel seed cake. There are flavour combinations to suit any and all. It is when you experience tea in the proper English way, that you understand why it is such a big deal. There is nothing better than a good brew and a good thick slice of cake.

For me Banana Bread is one of my most favourite of the tea time cakes. It is rich and full of flavour, tastes amazing with coffee, tea, warm milk or a hot chocolate. Thanks to the bananas it is moist and melts in the mouth. Plus my recipe has rum in it, and any cake with rum is good in my books, I love the boozy spicy flavour of dark rum, it just gives the banana bread an extra depth.

The recipe I use is from the BBC Food website and it is both simple, quick and guarantees a great result every time.

I will put the ingredients here for you but for the full recipe and method just go here.


  • 285g/10oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 110g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g/8oz caster sugar*
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 85ml/3fl oz buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The only thing I changed is the addition of 50ml of Dark Rum/Spiced Rum to it. I add it to the bananas as I mash them it. You can use rum essence if you want the flavour but not the alcohol, however that is very strong and you need to be very careful when you use it. Depending on the brand it can also leave a chemical aftertaste to your check, so use at your own peril. 

I like mine with a dollop of cool thick Greek Yogurt
Another tip that I have, which I again discovered due to poor maintenance of my baking supplies, is that if you can use *demerara sugar instead of caster sugar that will also give you an extra rich caramel flavour to your bread.

I wish there was a way for me to explain the amazing aromas currently wafting through my flat, or how hard it is for me to not start cutting into this while it’s still piping hot.

                Bon Appetit Everyone!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Bread Part Two - An Ode to the oh so easy soda bread

One of my new years' resolutions was to eat better. Not diet, but eat healthy food with high nutritional value that will give me the energy that I need to get on with my day and achieve my other new year resolutions. Part of this was to buy less ready made food and make things myself. 

One of the easiest things to make ourselves that 
 we use every day is bread, and out of the many types of bread the quickest by far to make is soda bread. Soda bread uses bicarbonate of soda as a rising agent instead of yeast therefore doesn’t need hours of waiting around for your dough to proof. It also doesn’t need 15 minutes of hard work kneading to develop the glutens that help make bread dough stretchy. Infact the less you handle soda bread the better.

These are all of the tips that come with making soda bread, and I followed all of them, where I diverged was the recipe, and that was out of necessity rather than just me wanting to mess around. I used a Paul Hollywood recipe for Irish Soda Bread which is as follows:

250g white flour
250g wholemeal flour
400ml buttermilk
1tsp salt
1tsp bicarb soda

First rule of baking, preheat your oven, you cannot skip this step, your cakes won’t rise as much, your bread will end up like bricks. The only time you do not preheat your oven is when the recipe expressly tells you not to, and I haven’t seen such a recipe yet. In this case your oven needs to be at 200C for fan ovens and 210-220C’ for non fan ovens, depending on the temperament of your oven. Next line a baking tray with baking parchment. Now for the baking part.

I didn’t have wholemeal flour, I had cornmeal flour so here came swap number one. I then realised I didn’t have buttermilk, I had 100 ml of milk a lemon and yogurt. If you are like me and watch food programmes, read food blogs and research food recipes all the time you will know that those 3 ingredients can easily replace buttermilk.

I added 1 tsp spoon of lemon to the milk, 3 large tablespoons of greek of yogurt and enough water so that when it was all mixed together it added to 400ml of liquid with similar consistency to buttermilk. You can also just do it with 400ml of milk and a tsp of lemon or just 300 ml of yogurt and 100 ml of water - you need the water to loosen the yogurt up otherwise there is just not enough liquid there.

So once you have all your ingredients ready you mix, one thing you need to remember is that you need to add whatever liquid you are using a little at a time, start with half and start mixing with your hands or a rounded edged knife (Paul’s tip, and let's face it if it’s bread Paul is always right!). Keep adding the liquid until you have a sticky dough, depending on the type of flours you are using you may not need all of it, I did. Once all the ingredients are combined turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, combine the dough into a ball, that is ALL you need to do to it, do not knead it any more after you have it in a ball.

Here is a science fact that is very important to the process:  Bicarbonate of soda, unlike baking powder, reacts to liquid so once you get all your ingredients together you have to work fast to get the bread into the oven. For those who are curious, baking powder reacts to heat.  

Quickly move your ball of dough onto the baking tray, with a sharp knife make 4 very deep cuts going almost all the way down to the tray, but not quite all the way. Dust with flour. Put in the oven for 30 minutes of until it turns deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.

Best way to eat it is hot with butter and jam OR you can cover it with freshly made pesto and a pit of mozzarella and melt the cheese under the grill, OR dip it in a hearty bowl of Beef stew!

Bon Appetit!