Monthly Archives: February 2020

Nigella’s rather good banana and chocolate bread (which can be gluten free).

I always associate banana bread with Nigella. I think it’s because, it was in one of the first recipes of hers that I read, I’m sure, that she said baking a banana bread filled the house with a fug of domesticity.

Or some such. Since then I’ve made dozens of banana breads and it usually
disappoints, probably because I keep changing recipes. Faced, however, with a huge batch of frozen, overripe bananas in the freezer (I always freeze overripe bananas) and more chocolate than any sane person needs (this is what happens when you get made Chocolate Correspondent of a national newspaper) I decided to have another go at making banana bread.

Also, for complicated reasons that I don’t fully understand myself, I hadn’t cooked or baked anything in weeks when I first made this last year. Which is really not like me, but this glorious little cake gave me my baking mojo back.

For a writer, I am remarkably picture led where recipes are concerned and thus it was that I found this recipe for Nigella’s Gluten-Free Banana Bread and it was, I confess the picture of the large slabs of chocolate which lured me in.  I planned to make it gluten free (why not) but in the end found no rice flour in my flour cupboard so made it with normal plain flour. I also lowered the sugar and used pecans instead. I think this would also be great made in muffin size. I’ve put the recipe below as I made it – do refer to the original if you wish and if you want to make it gluten-free which this ain’t.

 

175g plain flour

100g ground almonds

two teaspoons of baking power

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

a quarter teaspoon of sea salt

500g of very ripe bananas (weighed with skin on)

two teaspoons of vanilla extract

100g Greek yoghurt – full fat

Two eggs

125g light olive oil

100g light brown sugar

100g roughly chopped pecans (or any other nut you like)

150g chopped chocolate – I used a mixture of milk and plain in chocolate chip size and quite large chunks

 

You need a 2lb loaf tin for this (Nigella gives the sizes as 24cm x 12cm and mine was roughly that, why don’t cake tin manufacturers put the volume/measurements on the bottom of their tins?). Line this tin. Preheat the oven to 170C.

Mix together the dry ingredients, thus the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a larger bowl (for this will be the one everything else ends up in) place the bananas and mash them up, then mix in the vanilla extract, Greek yoghurt and the eggs one at a time. Then the oil and sugar. When all is better unified than a post-Brexit UK, add the dry ingredients bit by bit until combined. Then finally gently fold in the nuts and chocolate.

Dollop all this in the cake tin and bake for about forty minutes. Nigella says 45-55, my oven seems quite fierce so I started checking it after 35 mins. Also it does depend on how much moisture your bananas hold.

You know it’s done when the top is dry, it springs back, it’s shrunk away a little from the sides and a skewer comes out relatively clean (obviously not if you hit a shard of chocolate).

This is a beautiful cake. Unfortunately I can’t find a picture I took of it so this post will be picture-less until I make it again.

 

Back to retarded proving with sourdough

Like so much of my sourdough bread making, this reminder of how delicious a long prove can be, came about by accident. I’d started that day’s bread and had to go out for the day so I had to stick it in the fridge and pick up where I’d left off the day after.

Although the resulting bread was over-proved (see pic) the taste was sensational. You can tell when the bread is over proved because it has that ‘false ceiling’ look (I don’t know if that’s an accurate description but it is what I call it..), where the bread has risen up and can’t sustain its own, early, promise.

HipstamaticPhoto-603450013.505641

Super delicious but over proved sourdough

I’ve been baking sourdough for over a decade now and, as Dan Lepard so brilliantly put to me one day, sometimes we let success hinder progress. I know my shaping could do with (more) work, but I’ve grown lazy. And because I can make bread, now, I haven’t experimented much. And whilst my sourdough tastes good, a longer prove really improves the flavour.

I don’t do it very scientifically. Sometimes I start the bread with starter/water/flour/salt and leave it, unmixed, for a few hours. Sometimes I’ll take it to the first one hour rise phase and then put it in the fridge overnight and carry on the next day. Sometimes I start it, mix it up roughly and leave it til the next morning (in the fridge) – but if you rest if for a long time and the dough isn’t totally smooth, make sure it’s well covered, otherwise, as per point 2 below, you can get hard bits.

There are no hard and fast rules, but a few things to remember:

  1. You need a good starter to do prolonged proving, so one that’s been refreshed in the last twelve hours.
  2. Don’t leave it at the first (unmixed) stage for too long as hard lumps will form that will be hard to eliminate. Ask me how I know.

But other than that, just experiment. What can go wrong? Put it in and out of the fridge over a couple of days, see what happens. When I’ve finally shaped it, I leave it at room temperature for a few hours before putting it (back) in the fridge for its final rest. I tend to try to always cook it from fridge cold as it’s easier to handle and slash.

The mixture I’ve used recently has been 425g white bread flour with 75g rye. I had previously shied away from prolonged proving with white flour but it seems to be okay. If you need more information about sourdough do a search for sourdough in the search bar or select it in the drop down category menu on the right hand side of this page. If you’re new to it here is a step by step guide I did some years ago.

And if you’re totally new to it and fancy a try, do what I did many years ago: buy Dan Lepard’s excellent The Handmade Loaf. In terms of bread-making it changed my life.