Banana Bread

Alliterative names improve the flavour of meals. A well-known fact of course; doubters need only to observe the use of the technique by those doyens of persuasion – the clever marketeers. Well do they recognise the truth that food names that sound good have developed in our vocabularies for food that tastes good, and are good for you. Our brains and higher cognitive capabilities naturally acting in harmony with our senses and self-awareness.

Originally anyway, until the phenomena was recognised and described by the US’ FSA and Kellogs University in 1957 in a study sponsored by a consortium of wheat and corn industry bulk producers and market speculators. The group was seeking ways to use the emerging technologies of television and wire communications to create new markets for their products, as they faced declining rates of margin as crop yields increased due to mechanisation, profligate use of fertilizer, and a cheap Mexican labour force. Having learned that tastes can be influenced by the sound of the name of the food, they turned this evolutionary useful vocal quirk into a weapon of mass persuasion.

Which is why Banana Bread is good for you. Why it tastes really very nice. Why it is easy to make. And why it fills the house with a scent while cooking that makes you want to go “Hhmmm!”

Better bring bags of these for the banana bread…

* 1/3 cup of sunflower oil
* 1/2 cup of organic raw sugar
* 2 heaped teaspoons of linseeds, soaked in 2/3 cup of room temperature water for 15 minutes (use the water in the final mix)
* 1 3/4 cups of white stone-ground flour
* 1/2 cup of almonds, finely ground in the bamix whizzycupthing (or use whichever inferior method you wish if you do not have a bamix)
* 1 teaspoon of baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon of salt
* 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarb)
* 1 cup of mashed overripe bananas (usually 3 to 4 bananas). The best bananas for this are ones that are several days into their black skinned phase. Once peeled, cut of any really mangy bits however bruises and mushy bits in the flesh are no problem.

Bringing banana bread into being…

* Thoroughly mix everything together
* The bread will rise better if you “whip” the final mix for 5 minutes or so with a fork or a whisk
* Pour mix into as large and shallow a baking dish as you have. The banana bread doesn’t rise much, so baking in a deep dish will result in an over heavy cake brick. Use a quiche tray, or a baking tray (3-4 cms deep) or similar. Also works well in muffins trays, if they are lined with paper cups.
* Bake in a prewarmed oven at 180C (350F) for twenty minutes, or a little more if needed

OK….lets be honest….this isn’t “bread” it is “cake”. But lets keep that to ourselves.

This recipe was shared with SheWhoMustBeFed by her friend The Stitch’n Bitch.

PS. The first two paragraphs of this post are works of sheer free association.

A warm gift

I baked bread today and gave one to my friend, The Queen King, when we met for coffee. Even though it was zero degrees during the 15 minute cycle into Eton it remained warm from the oven, wrapped inside an old linen tea-towel in the pannier bag. The Queen King said she’d never been given a loaf of bread as a present before, as she cuddled its warmth. I hope she liked it, especially as I gave her the better of the two loaves.

Stuffing

Christmas isn’t Christmas without stuffing. Though it is a fair and reasonable question to pose whether Stuffing is Stuffing if it isn’t stuffed up the vent* of a dead chicken/turkey? One reasonable answer is that the name is still appropriate because after you’ve gorged on the meal it is you who feels stuffed. This was made on the afternoon of the day before Christmas, simply because it could be and thus gave me one less thing to do in the kitchen on The Day. But if you want to sagely nod and claim that doing so will allow “the flavours to stew, intensify and gain complexity” go right ahead..

Ingredients…

  • As luck would have it, a loaf of homemade wholemeal bread had just been finished leaving only the two end crusts from the loaf. Each of these was a fairly thick slice. So…two end slices of bread.
  • 6 or so thin slices of onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium, firm mushroom
  • 1/4 cup of almonds, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon of marinated black olives
  • 2 teaspoons of light miso
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped, fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Put the kettle onto boil…

M├ęthode de la fabrication bourrant…

  • Breadcrumb the bread slices. In my case, they were torn into medium size pieces and then “wizzed” using the ever useful Bamix.
  • Do the same for the mushroom and the olives.
  • Combine these with all other dry ingredients into a bowl
  • Dissolve the miso and tomato paste in about 1/2 cup of boiled water, and add to the mix
  • Add the olive oil, and mix thoroughly
  • Place mixture into an appropriately sized and lidded baking dish, squeezing down as you do so to ensure a tight fill.
  • Pour in additional boiled water to about the halfway level (this was easy in my case as the baking dish was glass so I could see the level).
  • Bake, covered for about 45 minutes in a hot oven.

* “Vent” is the official name for the common opening that birds have, that is used for reproduction, and for the evacuation of stools and urine.

Basic bread

I highly recommend baking your own bread whenever you have the chance to do so. Also, get yourself a copy of “Bread Matters” by Andrew Whitley (http://www.breadmatters.com/book/). This recipe is an adaption of the basic wholemeal bread recipe from that book.

Anyone who hasn’t made bread from scratch probably thinks it takes really long time. Well it kinda does and it kinda doesn’t. From reaching for the scales to having a slice of bread does take about three to three and a half hours elapsed time. However, you’re only actually doing something for 20 minutes at the beginning, then 10 minutes later, then 5 minutes later again. In between….what ever turns you on.

Ingredients

  • 300 grams organic, stoneground, strong white flour
  • 300 grams organic, stoneground, wholemeal flour
  • 5 grams of sea salt
  • 8 grams of fresh yeast (or equivalent dried active yeast)
  • 400 mls of water (adjust temperature of water as required – see below)
  • Heavy duty bread mold. Heavy cast iron is best, followed by heavy duty glazed pottery. Lightly coat with olive oil (too much and the bread will fry). Do not use a thin metal cake tin (the metals expands and “pops” in the oven which can “shock” the bread and deflate it). Do not use glass – the bread sticks to it terribly. Do not use non stick – because non stick is just blah.

By the way….this is all bread needs. Compare this list with the ingredients list on the side of a standard supermarket loaf of bread. All that other crap they put in there is there all to make it possible to make bread according to what’s called the “Chorleywood Method” of bread making – which is the high industrialised method that skirts the need to allow the bread to rise and prove.

What to do…

  • In a large glass bowl….Combine flours and salt (stir in the salt with a fork to more evenly distribute it)
  • Dissolve the yeast in a little of the (cold) water and add
  • Add the remaining water
  • Note: the ideal temperature for the bread mix is about 27c. On a really cold day, when all the ingredients are cold, the bowl is cold, the bench is cold and so on the coolness will hamper the growth of the yeast in the dough, and the feeding cycle of the yeast on the sugars in the flour. This will result in a somewhat unrisen loaf which is akin to a brick. Therefore, adjust the temperature of the water in the mix to create a warm dough. Just don’t dissolve the yeast in boiled water – you’ll kill it with too much heat.
  • Now…roll up your sleaves and come to terms with the fact that you’re going to get dough on your hands.
  • Using your hands….mix it all up in the bowl until the dough begins to form a kneadable mixture – which should only take about a minute.
  • Scoop out the dough and firmly knead on a bench for 12 minutes. If you’ve never kneaded bread before: take particular note of how the dough changes consistency as it is kneaded over the 12 minute period. These changes in consistency are due to the flour taking up the water and the gluten bonds beginning to form.
  • At the end of kneading: “fold” the dough to create a “ball” (should be about 15cms in diameter) and then place “seam down” back in your original bowl.
  • Go and wash your hands in warm, soapy water NOW. If you can stand to do so use a soft brush like one normally used for scrubbing under your nails to help get the dough off. Special note for men with hairy hands: get the dough off your hands thoroughly NOW because it is REALLY painful to pull it off all those hairs once it dries; you’ll also spend the next few hours explaining to people that “No…that is not dried snot on the back of my hands”.
  • Cover the bowl with cling wrap. Note: the bowl should be deep enough so that the dough isn’t touching the cling wrap as it rises. Not only would that prevent the dough from rising evenly, cling wrap is blah. In VegHead’s kitchen it is only used very sparingly and only for one or two particular purposes and only when it won’t be sitting touching food. This is one of those times.
  • Place in a warm spot for 2 hours (I use the cupboard in the house where the hot water cylinder is located – its about 25+ degrees celsius in there)
  • While you’re at it, the bread mold you’re going to need later shouldn’t be stone-cold either. I put the mold in the same cupboard as the dough so that it warms up to the same temperature.
  • Set a reminder timer and go do something else for 2 hours….
  • ….After 2 hours….the dough should have noticeably risen (at least doubling in size), retrieve it and also the bread mold.
  • Scoop out and knock back the dough.
  • Stretch it out lightly and fold it back on itself “in thirds” i.e. don’t fold it back in half, fold it back a third of the way and then again.
  • Repeat last step twice more.
  • Fold the dough to a suitable shape to place it in the mold. The folded shape should be about two thirds of the size of your mold. Place the dough into the mold with the “seam” of the folded dough facing down.
  • Cover again and put it back in the warm spot for 20 to 30 minutes to “prove” – this is the second stage of rising
  • Meanwhile: preheat oven – hellfire setting
  • Set a reminder timer and go do something else for 20 to 30 minutes….
  • ….After 30 minutes….the dough should have again noticeably risen
  • Bake for 20 minutes on high
  • Reduce temperature and bake for further 15 minutes (adjust times up or down depending on your oven)
  • Bread is ready when a metal skewer comes out clean
  • Turn out the bread onto a rack
  • Allow to cool before slicing. If you slice very hot bread straight out of the oven its always doughy – better to leave it to cool down.