Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Healthy Banana and Date Loaf

Banana Date Walnut Loaf

Banana Date Walnut Loaf

I recently purchased Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffery. Apparently, she's big in Australia. This book is a compilation of her "100 all-time favorite recipes for cakes, scones, muffins, biscuits, slices, quick breads, pies and tarts."

I need to try a few recipes, but I'll tell you what I like so far: it has entire chapters dedicated to scones and slices (bar cookies). There are some savory recipes too, like Egg, Leek, and Bacon Pie. I'm intrigued by the recipes that use grated pumpkin/butternut squash, olive oil, or whole-grain flours. Some of the recipes are decadent, and syrup-drenched while others are...healthy.

When I saw this recipe, I cringed a little. It had the word healthy in it. Still, I find that "healthy" recipes reveal much about the quality of a cookbook. I hate it when an author insists that a dense, cardboard-ish dessert tastes good.

Belinda Jeffery doesn't falsely advertise this cake. It is more of a breakfast cake than a dessert. It isn't too sweet; I think the slight saltiness is very addictive and plays up the fruit and nut flavors. I'd suggest making it in muffin form- it's very, very difficult to slice unless it's completely cool, and even then it crumbles a little. If you like wheat bran and grains, you'd like this recipe.

This is another recipe for grain and bran lovers. Please: make it for breakfast or coffee. Don't substitute it for dessert. Put something on it if you like: Tony ate it with a pile of nutella, and the author says her customers frequently ask for ricotta, cottage cheese, or "lashings of butter" to go with it.

Healthy Banana and Date Loaf
Adapted from Belinda Jeffery's Mix and Bake

1 1/2 cups (240g) wholemeal self-raising flour*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup (60g) wheat bran
1/3 cup (75g) raw sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (75g) chopped dates or dried apricots
1/2 cup (70g) coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
125g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed (about 3/4 cup mashed)
extra nuts for topping (optional)
ricotta, cottage cheese, or butter to serve (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Butter a 9x5in (23x13x6cm) loaf tin and line with parchment. Butter the parchment and dust the tin with flour, then set aside. (Alternately, you can just line the pan with foil.)

2. Put the flour, baking soda, bran, sugar, and salt into a large bowl and whisk them together until well combined. Add the apricots and pecans and toss them about so they're well coated in the flour mixture. Make a well in the middle of the mixture, then set aside.

3. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it's just about to start boiling- you'll see little bubbles forming around the edges. Take it off the heat and stir in the butter until it's completely melted, then whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.

4. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then pour in the buttermilk mixture, whisking as you pour. Scrape in the mashed bananas and whisk them in too. Tip this into the well in the dry ingredients and stir the two together until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth it out. At this point, you can top the loaf with extra nuts, raw sugar, streusel, or whatever you fancy.

6. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the loaf is golden and a fine skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave it to cool in the tin for 5 minutes or so, then carefully ease the loaf out of the tin onto a wire rack. Gently pull away the parchment, put the loaf right side up, then leave it to cool completely on the wire rack. This cake keeps well in an airtight container in a cool place for 5 days. It also freezes well for up to three weeks.

*I can never find whole wheat self raising flour. I measured 240g whole wheat flour into my food scale, added 2 1/4 tsp baking powder and 3/4 tsp salt, then removed enough flour to make the weight 240g again. I did this using a conversion of 1 cup self raising flour= 1 cup flour+1 1/2 tsp baking powder+ 1/2 tsp salt. I wonder if the crumbliness of the loaf came from a conversion problem, so if anyone has better tips, let me know.


Gretchen Noelle said...

I *love* that you do so many banana recipes. I always find myself with brown bananas or plantains and need more ideas. You come through every time. This looks delicious!

Aran said...

This is the second banana bread recipe I see today in different blogs and is making me crave it. As Gretchen said, I love that you use so many bananas. They just make everything taste great, very sweet, moist and creamy. Can't go wrong with that!

Jiyoung said...

I like banana bread so much !!

Dana said...

This is the kind of recipe that is right up my alley -- "healthy," but not pious ;-).

Kitchen Queen Victoria said...

I bought a large bag of dates before Christmas, used 2 cups, and now must find a way to use them. This bread looks great for breakfast, and I just happen to have very ripe bananas. Guess what I will be doing tomorrow morning?! Thanks for sharing!

Post. More. Date. Recipes.



Anonymous said...

This recipe is just lovely, thank you for posting it. I made it with walnuts and dates. A good combo indeed.

Ilovetocook said...

I made a delicious Lemon and Blueberry Cake for my husbands birthday from "Belinda Jeffrey's 100 Favourite Recipes" and it was divine! I made my own birthday cake in November last year - got exactly what I wanted and thoroughly enjoyed making it too!
As an Aussie girl who has been to the States, I can understand your facination with her use of ingredients. Olive oil is very common as is pumpkin (squash).
You sound like a great cook. Keep enjoying good recipes!