About a month or so ago I was contacted by the publisher Phaidon who asked if I would like a copy of one of their new books to try out, review and, if I liked it, blog about it. Now, everyone likes free stuff and I love cookbooks so of course I accepted gratefully. With that eager response I totally forgot all about it until a mysterious heavy package arrived at home a couple of weeks ago. It was addressed to me but I was sure I hadn’t ordered anything lately…had I?
So I opened it with a slight tad of suspicion only to be delightfully surprised with the promised new book ‘What to Bake and How to Bake it’ by Jane Hornby. And it really is delightful. Even before I had delved in to its pages the eye-catching illustrated front cover held great promise. The inside didn’t disappoint either. This really is a ‘how-to’ of baking. The book has a blog feel to it as all of the ingredients and steps to each recipe are photographed meticulously. Each recipe is delivered in the same simplistic format which would be very easy for the novice baker to follow.
The cover is gorgeous, bright and the interesting design would certainly make you pick it up for a flick through in a book shop but if you are after evocative or arty food photographs then that’s not what this book is about. I think that’s ok though, because this book is meant to be a tool to teach which in my opinion is successfully does.
Since receiving this book I have baked two recipes. One is the banana loaf I’m sharing with you today, and the second was a classic Victoria sponge. I bake a lot of vanilla sponge and I’m always trying new recipes or tweaking my own in the bid to find the perfect, fail-safe sponge. I was really impressed with Jane’s recipe. The sponges had a great rise and colour, were sturdy enough for frosting and fondant as well as good flavour, texture and kept well.
This book would make an useful gift for someone who has recently taken up baking and looking to expand their repertoire. On a slightly less serious note, one of my favourite things about the book was the fact that it comes with TWO ribbon page markers! That’s so handy because one is rarely enough. When I publish a cookbook, I’m insisting upon two, or maybe even three, pink ribbon markers!
So, on to the banana bread. Banana is one of my favourite baking ingredients. The subtle, natural sweetness along with the moisture it lends to anything containing it make it perfect for so many bakes. I’ve used it in many bread recipes before (Strawberry, Choc-chip, Peanut Butter and Pumpkin), added it to blondies and my all-time favourite Banana Nutella Muffins! I didn’t have the walnuts or chocolate this recipe called for, well at least no chocolate I wanted to sacrifice for a loaf, so I had a think and a rummage in the cupboard and came up with Malted Banana Bread.
Does ‘old fashioned’ have a taste? If it did, I think this loaf would come close to representing it. Already banana bread is a classic flavour but adding in the malt powder heightened that nostalic vibe with a comforting, gentle warmth which compliments the sweet fruit, the caramel notes from the browned butter and earthy pecans. All in all the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup or tea…or breakfast, or indeed bed time snack!
- 110g butter - melted, browned and cooled slighty
- 280g bananas, mashed
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 110g maple syrup
- 85g caster sugar
- 250g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2tsp baking powder
- 4 tbsp malt powder, such as Horlicks
- 85g pecans, crushed
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (140 degrees C fan). Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper or a pan liner and set aside.
- In a large bowl mix together the butter, banana, eggs, maple syrup and caster sugar.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and malt powder until combined. Add to the wet ingredients and fold in. When the mixture is just about fully incorporated add in the crushed pecans and mix until they are just evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter in to the prepared tin and bake for about 1hr and 10 minutes. Check the loaf after an hour, when it is done it should be rised, golden brown and a skewer inserted in to the center should come out clean or with just a few crumbs.
- Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve on its own or my favourite way to eat it is lightly toasted with a generous spread of Nutella.