How to make the perfect banana bread

by: Julie Donald
 
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Banana bread is the epitome of cheap and cheerful baking. It may be old-fashioned, but I still make this regularly to use up over-ripe bananas. The smell of a banana bread baking in the oven is evocative of my childhood, so I dug up the recipe that my mother used and gave it a modern day makeover.  

Originating in a high-school recipe book circa 1982, the original recipe called for “marg” and features alongside some other memorable retro gems such as Cremora tart, meringue mice and fruit cocktail tart. What can be said for the Girl’s High Recipe book is that none of the recipes in it have ever let me down. Such is the power of family recipes contributed, tried and tested by busy moms.  

Butter or marg?

The eternal question amongst bakers…  I stand firmly in the corner of butter. I believe that it is has a taste that is unequalled by margarine or even margarine/butter blends. Having said that, the cost of butter is astronomical these days, and margarines contain fewer saturated fats and no cholesterol.

Brown sugar

In my recipe, I have used brown sugar as it has a more caramel taste and a darker colour which adds a depth to the banana bread. However, this recipe is intended as a “store cupboard” recipe, ie. something you can make straight from the ingredients in your house right now, without having to go out and shop for anything special.  So if you have white sugar, or castor sugar in the house, go ahead and substitute it!

Ripening and storing bananas

Bananas should not be stored in the fridge, as this will cause them to go black without actually ripening. Store them in a fruit bowl at room temperature but away from other ripe fruits.  As fruits ripen they emit a gas called ethylene, which causes other fruits around them to ripen. So if you want to ripen up a banana (or an avo) quickly wrap them up in a paper bag or newspaper with a ripe piece of fruit and it will speed up the process, by trapping the ethylene inside the bag.  

If you want to slow down the ripening of bananas wrap the stem ends in tin foil, the ethylene is emitted from damaged areas of the banana, in this case the stems, and by wrapping up the stems it will prevent the gas from circulating and ripening the fruits.

If you have a few black bananas but no time to make banana bread, peel the bananas and place them in a freezer bag and store for up to 3 months in the freezer.  They may discolour slightly, but for banana bread that doesn’t matter.

Variations on the recipe

Like all good family recipes, this one lends itself to variations, here are a few suggestions:

- Add in lemon zest, orange zest or a teaspoon of cinnamon instead of the vanilla essence.
- Bananas love nuts, so try adding a handful of walnuts or pecan nuts.
- Add in a handful of raisins or saltanas for a fruity variety.
- Before baking, marble in a few spoonfuls of Nutella, to make a chocolate marble loaf!

How to make self-raising flour

Somehow I never have store-bought self-raising flour handy when I need it. So here is an easy recipe to mix up a batch if you don’t have any in your pantry:

250ml cake flour
7.5ml baking powder
2.5ml salt

Mix everything together.

Serving and storing banana bread

Serve your banana bread fresh and warm from the oven if you can, with butter melting into the slices. Is there anything more delicious than baked goodies fresh out of the oven?  Banana bread has a good shelf life and can be frozen for 3 months or stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

For the perfect banana bread recipe, click here.

Follow Julie Donald on Twitter @AskJulieDonald.

- Julie Donald

 

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