The ultimate comfort food – banana bread.
Finally. It is one of the basic, fill-the-tins morning tea recipes that emerges from our oven most frequently, so I can’t believe it has taken a year to make it up here. It actually came down to a deadline thing – one of my friends has been dying for the recipe, and threw down the ultimatum that it needs to be available for her perusal by the time she goes home for the summer – in two weeks time.
It is something I make whenever the bananas in the fruit bowl have been ignored for just that little bit too long – the spots appear first, and then at a certain stage we realise no one will eat them and the fruit flies begin to circle, so they get put in the fridge at eye level, skins slowly turning black and just begging to be transformed into mouthfuls of goodness to go with your coffee. We are a house of (mostly) perfectly yellow banana eaters (or at least I am) – the first sign of a spot and the banana is destined for the oven. I still don’t understand spotty banana lovers – something about the texture and flavour is irrevocably changed for me at that transition. However, spotty, blackened bananas are the BEST for banana loaf like this- sweeter, a softer crumb, stronger banana flavour, and just all round better.
But I couldn’t stick with plain banana bread, as good as plain banana bread is. Gooey chunks of dark chocolate found their way in, along with a whole heap of brown sugar for that rich, caramelised flavour. And being a newfound coffee fiend, the perfect partner for the warm, straight-from-the-oven banana bread was espresso mascarpone. Creamy, tangy and rich with strong espresso flavour, it balanced the sweetness of the loaf, mingling with those dark chocolate chunks. With new season strawberries around, I couldn’t help but use them and raspberries to top it off for a layer of fresh fruitiness.
And coffee + berries + bananas = breakfast. Yes, this can definitely be breakfast.
Unfortunately my time is up and I have to return to the books (being gastrointestinal physiology – I mean, why would I want to know what happens to food once it passes my mouth? I truly don’t).
Do give this loaf a go, especially with the espresso mascarpone for a treat. You won’t regret it, I promise.
- 250 grams plain flour (2 cups)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 125 grams softened butter
- 235 grams dark or regular brown sugar (1 cup + 2 tablespoons, tightly packed) (I used regular brown sugar and it turned out beautifully, but would use dark or muscovado if you have it!)
- 3 to 4 ripe bananas (400g), roughly mashed (there should still be lumps left)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 100 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 250g Italian mascarpone cheese
- 4-5 tablespoons espresso coffee (cooled, or placed in the freezer for 5 minutes beforehand just so it isn’t super hot)
- 3-5 tablespoons sifted icing sugar (adjust to taste)
- Heat the oven to 180°C. Line a standard-sized (23 x 13cm) loaf tin with baking paper.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar one at a time until fully incorporated.
- Fold the vanilla extract, mashed bananas and roughly chopped chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture.
- Sift the flour and baking powder over the top and gently fold it in until just combined.
- Scrape the batter into the lined loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out just clean ( a bit of chocolate is fine). If it starts to get too dark before it is cooked, cover it with a piece of tin foil.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Then, using the baking paper as a sling, remove the banana loaf from the tin.
- Gently mix together the mascarpone, espresso and icing sugar. Adjust to taste (just don’t add too much espresso or it will get too liquidy).
- Cover and put in fridge until ready to serve
- Slice the banana bread with a serrated knife and serve with dollops of the espresso mascarpone and a few berries.
- If serving the next day, toast or microwave the banana bread briefly if warm, gooey chocolate is your thing. Otherwise, eat it straight from the container - that is fine too!