Sunday, 24 May 2015

bittersweet chocolate banana loaf & work experience

Remember when you're around fifteen and you dress up all smart in a suit and pretend to be an adult in the workplace and think people are taking you seriously, when actually you're secretly looked upon as a child in a suit? Sadly I know this is very much the truth, no matter how nice the real adults are - they think you're a child. You’ll inevitably end up sitting behind a real desk and if you're lucky you'll get to answer the telephone. Someone Sensible looking is assigned to babysit - err supervise you, and you relish being in charge of making the tea - because they trust you right? I had my work experience at a Fleet Street publication before Fleet Street stopped being the media epicentre of London, an insurance magazine which wasn't the most glamorous magazine out there but as least it wasn't something awful. 

Lunch included a sandwich, a carton of juice and a slice of malt loaf. I tricked myself into thinking the copper coloured loaf resembled a Jamaican ginger cake, but just a healthier version. I packed this lunch - the same lunch, every day for two weeks - don't ask why. Although I was maltloafedout, I was too afraid to go out into the big bad world of busy streets, traffic and so many adults and decided to grin and bear it and just eat my neatly pre-planned lunch. I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't being wasteful and had in fact made a good choice with my pudding selection.  It was inevitable that I developed a deep aversion (hatred) for malt loaf by the end of the first week. The same way I developed an aversion to the colour blue, my prescribed school uniform.

Following on from my work experience lunch time ordeal, my cake eating self decided to be healthy and bake slimline versions of everything for a while. I baked an oaty cake with hardly any sugar in it - it really couldn't be called a cake, and then there was the time I baked with low fat spread and that was a total disaster. Once I baked a healthy crumble which tasted like chalk - but I ate it. All these baking disasters reminded me of work experience. So I’ve decided there is no such thing as a truly delicious and equally healthy cake. Hands up if you've ever eaten a healthy cake and derived the same pleasure as when you've bitten into a buttery Victoria sponge or chocolate fudge cake with lots of frosting? I'm guessing there'll be no hands apart from the one who (weirdly) doesn't like sweets, or has had a tooth out recently and can't eat a thing.

Suffice to say healthy baking didn't go down very well with the tough bunch of critics I call my siblings. Baking for the family is so much more complex than baking for myself. I have to consider food intolerances and preferences. While one person loves citrus in cakes, they (pretend) they don’t eat dairy or nuts unless they sneakily buy cake (yes, you know who you are sibling number 1). However, everyone loves a good banana loaf and this went down a treat, with voluntary compliments. 

Make no mistake, this is no dry semi-bread moonlighting as a cake. This loaf is packed full of yummy ripe bananas, flavoured with a hint of Madagascan vanilla, warming spices and deep dark chocolate chunks to make it extra special. There is nothing quite like a kitchen filled with the delicious smell of baking a banana loaf. It makes me feel as though I should be on some exotic island somewhere, eating a slice on a veranda. If like me you can't wait to get stuck in this loaf is gorgeous served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or take a slice to the office for morning tea.

Ingredients (Serves 8)
200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
150g demerera sugar
120ml oil (I prefer rapeseed oil)
25ml milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 medium free range eggs
2 large ripe bananas mashed
80g 85% good quality dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 190c or 180c (fan) /gas mark 5

In a bowl mash the bananas to a smooth pulp with a fork.

Lightly whisk eggs in a separate bowl and add to the mashed banana along with the oil, vanilla and brown sugar.

Slowly add the flour and baking powder into the wet mixture in three or four increments and lastly add the cinnamon.

Bake 50-60 mins until golden brown on top. Insert toothpick to check it comes out clear. If not bake for another 5/10 mins.

Cool for about 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

Stores well for 3-4 days in airtight container (but it won’t last that long!).

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