This is the first time I have ever made banana bread. I know, I know – saying so is like admitting you’ve never melted Scotbloc to make rice krispie cakes, licked cake batter off your elbows or baked Tom and Jerry strawberry cakes from a packet. It’s one of these fundamental starter recipes, like scones or pancakes, walking hand in hand with blackened bananas to create something new from something old. It’s like wasteless baking. Good for the soul.
But it’s no surprise that I don’t have surplus bananas lingering on the windowsill, slowly speckling from muddy brown to black in the sunlight. I’m not a massive fan of the fruit as it is – I’ll rather blend it frozen into a mango smoothie or bake it on hot coals for a smoky, apple sauce texture. But I somehow had a hankering for a loaf cake last week, so I dutifully smacked around a couple of bananas and left them to age for two weeks. I’ve heard this makes the flavour of the cake more intense and judging from the result, I would say that method has its merits.
I researched a few recipes before I came across this one on the BBC Good Food site, but I wanted to cram in as much flavour as possible – anything sunshiny that will distract from this miserable month of January. I decided it needed some extra texture, and so added my favourite lemon and poppy seed combination for a little crunch and a citrusy zing. At the last minute, I threw in a handful of blueberries in impulse and I am glad I did – they burst into pools of colour and give the cake a lovely spring-like flavour.
I love the way this loaf slices; each thick, doorstop slice is speckled with poppy seeds and you can see little golden flecks of lemon here and there, spread throughout the loaf. A jammy burst of blueberry punctuates the slice, adding a sweet stickiness with each bite. I had planned to add a lemon glaze, but I greedily hacked into it with a bread knife and immediately decided there was nothing else required. It might seem simplistic, but some of the best bakes are. I still have fond memories of those strawberry fairy cakes after all.
Adapted slightly from BBC Good Food
You Will Need
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
140g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 tbsp poppy seeds
Zest of 1 lemon, plus ½ to ¾ juice to taste
A couple of things to point out – I followed the original recipe’s specifications for a 2 lb loaf tin and was returned with slightly flatter banana bread although it did take a shorter time to bake. If you prefer the look of a taller cake, go for a 1 lb and bake for a little longer – you might want to add a tin foil hat to the top to stop it browning too much.
Preheat an oven to 180oc/160oc fan and grease and line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and a third of the flour and beat again. Add the remaining flour and baking powder and beat again to a thick batter. Add the mashed banana, poppy seeds and lemon zest and juice and beat together. Fold in the blueberries then pour the mix into the tin, levelling with a spatula. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the tin from the oven and cool for 10 minutes then lift out of the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into slices and serve with coffee.