A Buckwheat Banana Bread Recipe
One of the first things I baked during my time in Italy is this simple thing - banana bread.
It was my friend Francesco who started talking about it (he was the single soul who I knew when I first arrived here), he'd reminisce his days in Sydney and how one of the things he missed the most was banana bread. Then he wasn't the only one. On a few occasions, when people found out that I was from Australia, they'd bring it up.
Banana bread is so simple though.
It's one of those things that you would always find on cafe counters, from the city to the 'burbs. So of course it's strange for me to feel that this ubiquitous quick bread made with almost-dying, dirt cheap bananas has some kind of glorified status overseas.
I guess we have always been drawn to things that seem different to what we are used to.
I've tried many banana bread recipes in my life. Once, I went through such a banana bread baking-spell, that caught on to my mum, resulting in her buying a 20kg box of bananas from the market. She packaged those brown bananas in bags and put them in the freezer for me! (Of course that was her end of the banana bread cycle - it was my job to then bake, and her to consequently eat them and offer to her friends.)
The classic banana bread, made of plain flour and lots of oil, and that wonderful crack on the top is something that will always make everyone happy. I've not yet come across someone who doesn't like banana bread.
And there are many recipes out there, lots of them making delicious banana bread loaves. I'm a bit of a purist and might only add a handful of walnuts apart from bananas, and I never go down the path of chocolate chips for example. It's because I see it as a breakfast food, so I try to keep it as simple as possible without compromising flavour.
I'm sure you are wondering what recipes I have tried. Here are some that I've used several times over the years:
Jamie Oliver (my first chef crush! The apple juice in Jamie's recipe can be replaced with milk if you don't have it on hand.)
Taste.com.au (a recipe site by the Australian supermarket chain Coles, but it's full of everyday recipes for normal humans who have access to the wonderful produce we have Downunder.)
Australian Women's Weekly (AWW is like the bible for many Aussie home cooks! I add walnuts instead of seeds, but that's up to you of course.)
As you can see, the banana bread here is called 'buckwheat banana bread', and it's a lot darker than your regular dude. Some may be apprehensive about trying buckwheat - I know it's been pushed as an ancient grain and used in many gourmet bakeries around the Anglo-Saxon world where people look for low-gluten products and better-for-you wheat substitutes.
Luckily in Italy, buckwheat flour, called grano saraceno is very easy to find at your local supermarket. It's just one of the advantages of living here where tradition is so strong that it will never be pushed over by cheaper, industrial substitutes. Italy has always made loads of bread products with the grano saraceno, and it really doesn't even cost much more than the usual farina 00 (plain wheat flour).
Buckwheat lends a complex, nutty flavour to this banana bread. Replacing plain flour for buckwheat flour also changes the texture of the bread, making it slightly grainy - almost like when you use a very good wholemeal flour.
The flavour of the buckwheat is quite distinct, but complements the soft sweetness of the banana very well, as does the warm cinnamon and brown sugar.
I am always trying to reduce sugar amounts in my baking, and that's also what I have done here. This is a banana bread made for feel-good snacking and breakfast; my new favourite, thanks to queen Donna Hay👑 (I love you!). Please, just if you do one thing:
TO SERVE, SLICE, AND TOAST IT SO THAT BOTH SIDES ARE SLIGHTLY CRUNCHY, AND SLATHER IT WITH SALTED BUTTER.
Oh, do please do add the salted butter. It makes all the difference. Don't make this Aussie upset by eating it cold. It's banana bread, not plum cake for heaven's sake.
Peace and bananas,
p.s. imagine eating this at a sunny cafe by the beach in Sydney, of course it will always be toasted and buttered. You can thank me later. x
BUCKWHEAT BANANA BREAD
Makes one 21x10 cm loaf
Adapted from Donna Hay
220 g buckwheat flour (farina di grano saraceno)
200 g light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (soda bicarbonato)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 medium very ripe bananas
150 g natural yoghurt (plain yoghurt, the type with no sugar added)
60 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 160C.
Butter and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
In a large bowl, add all your dry ingredients (up to the cinnamon in the list) and whisk together to combine well.
Cut lengthwise in half of one banana. Reserve one half so that you can add it to the batter for decoration later. Mash the rest of the bananas with a fork.
In a separate bowl, add all your wet ingredients (all the rest after the cinnamon in the ingredients list) and whisk well to combine.
Add the wet to the dry and stir with a wooden spoon to combine, just until you don't see any dry bits. There's no need to beat this too much, it just makes for a tough bread later.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin. Top with the half banana that you set aside earlier on.
Bake for 1 hour - or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Serve, sliced thick, toasted, with salted butter.
Note: this will last a few days in an airtight container. You can also slice them up, bag them, and put in the freezer for later.
Note: Also, remember that you can freeze your super ripe bananas to make banana bread when you feel like it. Just defrost at room temperature and mush them with a fork as per the recipe.