Did you know that in the UK on average each person eats 10kg of bananas a year, which roughly worked out means that the UK consumes five billion bananas each year? Nope, I bet you didn’t know; well now you do! Banana, whose origin is in Southeast Asia and is one of the most commonly eaten fruit around the world – has amazing nutritional value, such as being high in potassium – was not my first choice of ingredient to add into a bread. However, as I wrote last week, I am inviting people to make different and unique flavour combination requests in return for a free loaf of bread in that flavour. So, when I was asked if I could make bread with banana in it, I couldn’t exactly refuse. Even more so when I had two requests for banana breads in one week.
I was actually a latecomer to eating bananas; I wouldn’t touch them with a barge poll. However, when completing my PGCE (teacher training) which is one of the most intensive courses out there, I began to crave bananas. Yes, I know it’s odd, I found it odd too. And no I wasn’t pregnant! I believe it was my body demanding energy from another source as it knew demanding sleep wasn’t an option. Since then I have never looked back and began incorporating bananas into my baking, obviously making banana cakes. Now the thing I find confusing is that banana cake is known more commonly as banana bread, but you make a batter not dough. Therefore I wasn’t sure how banana was going to work being combined with dough as it doesn’t often do well with wet ingredients.
The other part of the challenge was one of the requests was to make spelt multigrain banana bread, which made me slightly more concerned as I hadn’t worked with spelt before. I began doing a little bit of research online, but found very few recipes for real bread with banana, let alone one with spelt, though the ones that I did come across encourage you to mash the banana and add the banana into the dry mixture before you add in the water and yeast.
The other request was to make banana and peanut butter bread. Again I felt a bit stumped as how to put peanut butter into uncooked dough. Also I wasn’t convinced of the flavour combination, but this was a request so naturally I had to give it a go.
I came up with two options which I decided to use as the basis for both my flavour combinations. Option one was to mash the banana into the dry mixture before adding the water and then later add in the seeds for the spelt multi grain bread or the peanuts for the other combination. Option two was to make a basic bread mixture whether it was with spelt or white wheat flour, then after rolling the dough out, flat place a whole banana (obviously peeled first!) in the middle and then fold the rest of the dough around the banana. In the case of the peanut butter combination, I thought about smothering the whole banana in peanut butter before rolling the dough around it.
The multi grain spelt mixture was lovely to make, it is a very easy dough to handle and is a real pleasure to knead by hand as it’s not too sticky. The flavour is also very pleasing and doesn’t taste too different from brown bread. When you add in the seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, barley flakes and pine nuts, they give an extra flavour and a feeling you are eating something healthy.
If I am being honest I was slightly shocked that both options worked. I was convinced that the option with the mashed banana wouldn’t work, as I thought it wouldn’t rise and would collapse. On the contrary, it rose nicely and was aeriated as you can’t handle it much so it doesn’t lose the air bubbles created during the first prove. The taste was also pretty good. When it was warm you could really taste the banana in it, though it wasn’t too over powering. The texture had elasticity to it, which was different. Though the next day when my colleagues ate it, they said they actually couldn’t get the full flavour of the banana. When making it again, I will add in another banana to see if that enhances the flavour.
When slicing open the loaf of bread with the banana in the middle, I got a real sense of satisfaction as the banana has stayed whole and I think it looked pretty cool. It isn’t the most practical of breads as the banana becomes a bit mushy and once it has been exposed to the air for more than 5 minutes it does go brown. But I still think it’s a pretty cool idea. My friend and her family confirmed that their favourite one was the loaf with the banana mashed inside, though they still liked the taste of the other one.
Peanut butter to me should be eaten off the spoon or put on a plain cracker, not mixed with anything sweet like chocolate or banana. And peanuts should be eaten when holding a glass of alcohol in the other hand. So actually making this flavour combination wasn’t something I was that keen on doing. I am therefore pleasantly surprised to admit that I quite liked the mashed banana with peanuts, it had a nice balance of the sweetness of the banana with the crunchiness of the peanuts which were lightly salted. The loaf of bread with the peanut butter and banana in the middle was unfortunately my least favourite, even though when sliced open it looked impressive. As I made it with a basic white wheat recipe, the bread was too salty for this combination, and if I were to make it again I would try it with enriched dough, like Challah as it needs sweeter more cakey dough.
I would like to say a big thank you to all those who have been asking me to make them a bread with an interesting flavour combination and to all those who are reading this blog and letting me know that you are enjoying it! Keep the requests coming in!
Lastly, I will leave you with this link if you are interested in more information about bananas, http://www.bananalink.org.uk/all-about-bananas