Baking is not my forte. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it; indeed it’s one of the more pleasurable ways of spending a Saturday afternoon. It’s just that I lack the patience that baking requires. And I’ve had some disasters, mainly now I come to think of it from Nigella Lawson’s books, but that’s not necessarily the Domestic Goddesses’ fault - I’m a bit slapdash with my measuring and as every cook worth their weight knows, you don’t go messing with cake.
Mum on the other hand is a born baker, a confirmed dessert-a-holic and a gifted cake maker to boot. Her choice of main course on any restaurant menu is decided by what dessert it will best complement. I grew up with her endlessly baking cakes, biscuits, slices and memorably one year, old-fashioned ‘boiled lollies’ as end of year thank you gifts for my school teachers. The individually cellophane-wrapped sweets left the palms of her hands bruised a deep shade of purple for weeks afterwards. They were however, spectacular.
Over the years my taste buds have changed. Icing has ceased to be made; probably because by the time that the cake comes out I am ravenously hungry (the smell of baking make me slightly crazy) and cannot wait for the cake to cool before being iced, but in truth I think it’s because I find that extra sugary hit to be tooth-achingly, brain-achingly sweet. The kinds of cakes I make now are simple ones, those that require no further gilding beyond release from their tin and at most a quick dusting of sugar or cocoa. But they are full of flavour.
There’s a little book by David Herbert called ‘the perfect cookbook’, and everything in it turns out, as the title suggests, perfectly every time. With my cake-making skills as they are, his recipes have saved me on a number of occasions, and they do leave room for a little personal experimentation. This cake was originally based on his, but has morphed into something else – and isn’t that the mark of a really good cookbook?
Banana bread Serves - oh, who knows - maybe just two of you. All I know is that by the end of day three it’s starting to look a bit sad. But it probably won’t last that long anyway.
¾ cup of wholemeal flour
¾ cup of plain white flour
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of bi-carb soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
125g of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
2 very ripe bananas (you know the kind – black and beyond disgusting)
¼ cup of plain yoghurt
¼ cup milk (I used soy and it was fine)
Small handful of glace ginger, chopped roughly
Small handful of walnuts, roughly broken with your fingers
Handful of very dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Grease a 23 x 12cm loaf tin with a little butter and line the base with baking paper.
Sift the flours, spices, bi-carb and baking powder into a bowl. Tip the bran left at the bottom of the sieve into the bowl as well.
Cream the softened butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
Mash the bananas with a fork, add them to the butter and sugar mixture and beat well with a wooden spoon. Now add 1/3 the sifted flour mixture to the bowl, folding it gently through and following with the yoghurt. Fold in 1/3 more of the flour, followed by the milk and then the remaining flour, making sure it is all well combined. Fold in your ginger, walnuts and chocolate.
Spoon into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean when it’s ready (though if you’ve speared a chunk of molten chocolate, wipe the skewer clean and try another spot!). Cool for 15 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a cooling rack. Keeps for three days.