Before you say anything, I realise that the world reached banana bread saturation point a number of years ago. You could be forgiven for rolling your eyes just a little upon reading the title of this post, and for thinking that I’ve finally run out of inspiration for adding another banana bread recipe to the myriad of banana bread recipes already out there. You could indeed be right, for I have two banana bread recipes on this site alone; but the reason I am adding another one is more or less the same reason I bought another black vest yesterday despite having three or four identical to it at home: I know a good thing when I find it.
So bear with me.
The truth is that this post isn’t really about banana bread at all, it’s about my current obsession with trying to use up what I have in the fridge and cupboards before buying more food. Despite my best efforts to keep an organised pantry, it has become so out of control in recent weeks that cupboard doors have to be opened with extreme caution in case piles of half-full packets, precariously balanced jars and hastily-labelled tupperwares come tumbling down. I have been haphazardly buying food without checking what I already have and suddenly realised that I was becoming the foodie equivalent of a bag lady. The other day I found three bags of risotto rice, all opened. It had to stop.
One Saturday afternoon, I completely emptied my cupboards and took stock of everything in them. I threw out anything past its best, condensed everything into single packets and put everything back in a way less likely to injure me next time I opened the door. I then sat down to plan my meals for the week and, instead of simply devising recipes based on what I would like to eat, I planned meals around the surplus ingredients I had in the cupboard and only bought what was needed to supplement what I already had. Common sense, I know, but it’s easy to act contrary to this when you’ve spent years cooking and eating on a whim. I also don’t need to tell you that this brought down the cost of my food shopping enormously, right? You know this already.
The idea for banana bread didn’t come from a surplus of over-ripe bananas, as is usually the case, but from a want to use up other things I had lurking in the cupboard: ends of bags of different flours, stubs of different butters, a bit of brown sugar, a bit of white sugar and half a bag of pecans. The reason that there are so many different banana bread recipes out there is simply that you can throw in pretty much any ingredients and it will still turn out fine. There isn’t much of a precise science to it, which gives you room to experiment. If you understand the basic ratios of baking ingredients, the supermarket shelves offer endless possibilities. You might even find yourself buying bananas just to deliberately let them blacken so that you can make more banana bread.
This recipe below is for a basic banana bread, which is why it looks so plain on first glance. Here are a few notes on substitutions you might find useful:
- The flour can be substituted with any flours that do not contain rising agent, but do bear in mind that the less refined flours will give a coarser texture. That being said, banana bread made with spelt flour is lovely. If you do use self-raising flour, omit the bicarbonate of soda. If you wish to add cocoa to the banana bread, add 60g in place of 60g of flour.
- The nuts can be substituted for other similar dry ingredients or omitted altogether. If you want to up the quantity of nuts, you may need to add a little extra buttermilk to loosen up the batter.
- A small quantity of wet ingredients can be added to the batter (e.g. a tablespoon of rum) without altering the mix too much. If you wish to add much more than this, it would probably be best to find a different recipe.
- Substitutions can be made for those with dietary requirements; e.g. gluten-free flour, margarine, egg replacements and dairy-free milk.
Makes 8-10 slices. Adapted from a recipe from Peyton and Byrne: British Baking
125g butter, at room temperature
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g chopped, toasted nuts
Demerera sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease a medium loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the mashed banana and buttermilk. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and fold until just combined. Finally, fold in the nuts.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with the demerera sugar. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until risen. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack. In an airtight container, this should keep for about five days.
One year ago: Blueberry pancakes.