go forth and bake

banana bread with chocolate & hazelnuts

I hate to complain, especially about the weather. I mean I love the seasons, each and every one of them. I love that every three months there is a different feel in the air and a new abundance of fruit and veg to explore and embrace. I love that each season brings a chance to wear different clothes. But really… what happened to our Summer? Global warming? Where are you?

I can hardly belive that it was only a week ago that I was visiting my Dad at the farm, sweltering in 40C (104F) temperatures and cursing my foolish decision to test my Mum’s veggie soup recipe on the weekend in question. Soup? In the middle of Summer? What was I thinking?

The last few days, however, have been another story entirely. With the pitter-patter of rain falling all around and my feet wrapped in the cosy goodness of my Ugg boots, some soup sounded like a lovely idea. That was until I happened to flick to one of my favourite food blogs, Orangette and the urge to bake came on fast and strong.

Those of you who are familiar with the musings of Seattle-based Molly will understand where I’m coming from. There’s something about the way she gets soo enthused about cakes and cookies that really is infectious. It makes you want to preheat your oven and get busy in the kitchen with some flour, butter, sugar and eggs.

I’ve often wondered why Molly bakes so much. Sure she sometimes turns out some delicious, simple savoury treats like her classic chickpea salad with lemon and parmesan, or the so-much-better-than-it-sounds tomato sauce with onion and butter. But mostly it’s cookies or cakes or desserts or bread or even bread-like things. I’m not complaining. I love her work. But the thought dawned on me on Sunday. Molly lives in Seattle. It rains there a lot. Of course she wants to bake.

And so I found myself pouring over recipes for banana bread and devising the perfect way to spend a cold and drizzly Sunday afternoon, even if it was supposed to be the middle of Summer. And that my friends is how this banana bread came to life. It’s not the most photogenic of baked goods. But trust me it tastes mighty fine.

Moist and fudgey, with only a subtle hint of banana flavour, this is the perfect thing to bring your kitchen to life with the cheery warming smell of good things baking. The perfect antidote to a Wintery Summer afternoon that will have you buying extra bananas on purpose so you can let them turn black and then stash them in the freezer for when the urge to bake strikes…. all good things.

banana bread with chocolate & hazelnuts

Inspired by the talented Molly and her collection of banana bread recipes over at Orangette.

To say that Molly loves baked banana products is a study in the gentle art of understatement. This is an amalgamation of a few of her recipes. I’ve halved the cinnamon so it you like a big cinnamon hit with your banana feel free to double up. The hazelnuts are my idea so you could either sub in your favourite nut or give them a miss all together or for the choc-aholics out there, replace with your chocolate of choice.

In terms of the chocolate I made it with white chocolate because that’s all I had in the house and didn’t feel like going out to the shops on a rainy Sunday afternoon. To be honest I think it would be best with some really rich intense dark chocolate like Lindt 70% cocoa solids. But if milk chocolate is your thing I’m sure it would be lovely.

As Molly notes, really ripe, black squisht bananas are what you need to do the job here. If you happen to have some overripe bananas, just pop them in the freezer to keep until the urge to bake strikes,

3 super ripe bananas, black on the outside if possible
2 eggs
1 1/2C (225g or 8oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1C (200g or 7oz) brown sugar
1t baking powder
1t cinnamon
1C (140g or  5oz) chocolate chunks or chips
2/3C (85g or 3oz) hazelnuts, roasted & peeled
2T demerara or other coarse granule sugar

Preheat oven to 190C (375F). Grease and base line a loaf tin approx 24cm x 12cm (approx 9 1/2in x 5in). In a large bowl peel and mash bananas. Stir through eggs until well mixed and add flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix until just combined and then stir through 2/3 of the chocolate and hazelnuts.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and top with remaining chocolate and hazelnuts and sprinkle over coarse sugar. Bake for 40-50minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for at least 15mins before slicing.

Serve warm straight from the pan or toast and serve with a big hunk of butter. If you did want to serve it for dessert, a scoop of good quality vanilla icecream wouldn’t go astray.


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