I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon a couple of days ago: I carefully pureed a couple of granny smith apples, mixed it with some of my good flour, sugar, gave it all a good stir and popped the lid on to what marked the start of a very long-lasting relationship of co-dependency (at least that's how I see it - clearly why it's taken me so long to jump into it.) Good thing I will have a lot of time to nurture it, seeing that the lockdown in Italy has been extended for another two weeks.
I read that one woman held the record for having a 122-year-old sourdough starter that outlived her. It's a little bit creepy when you think about it - if I were to find myself in the position of eating a loaf of bread from my deceased grandma's starter, it would almost feel like I was eating her. Too much?
Anyway, so with that I finished off my good flour I was saving for a good purpose. Flour and yeast are some of the hardest things to get your hands on these days. Apparently, everyone's cooped up at home becoming some kind of baking Yoda.
"Bake to forget, I will."
With the last fleck of my favourite flour, I figured that if this sourdough was to be my legacy I leave behind, at least it will be born from good stock.
Between feeding my sourdough baby, watching the last few episodes of Tiger King, getting tipsy in half my pajamas (which I later learnt is actually a thing in Finland, called kalsarikänni, translated: pantsdrunk), I decided it was long due for a good old bake of something that has been on my mind but hadn't made in years: banana bread.
Banana bread is one of those things that you think is going to be so basic like Britney, but when it comes out it makes you feel like Julia Child.
Dozens of banana breads have risen in countless ovens in my life. And honestly, I can't remember a time it didn't give me the same sense of satisfaction. Even in my mum's unused, gas oven which I had to learn to light up with a lighter (terribly frightening) I had pulled out delicious loaf after loaf to stockpile in her freezer before I left for Milan.
If you have a fear of baking, banana bread is a great place to start your #quarantinebaking adventures.
How to make vegan chocolate banana bread
Firstly, don't dis a banana bread just because it's labelled 'vegan'. This vegan banana bread is just as rich, moist (goodness I hate that word but what else can I use?), and delicious as its non-vegan banana bread counterpart. You won't miss the eggs in this banana bread - actually, you ought to be relieved in these days of Coronavirus lockdowns to be able to save your last eggs for a special brunch on the weekend as you get tipsy in your underpants.
Plus, there's no requirement that you use a specific type of milk for this - if you are not vegan and don't have any plant-based milk at home, go ahead and use regular milk instead. Flexible, yes.
This chocolate banana bread is very easy to make and can be simplified in just five steps from beginning to end: prepare your loaf pan, mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, stir in additional ingredients (chocolate chips), then bake. You don't need any special techniques or tools, just a wooden spoon or spatula, a couple of bowls, and a loaf pan is all you need, and you will mix everything by hand. As with any cake, don't overdo the mixing once you have added the wet ingredients to the dry (i.e. flour) for a tender, soft crumb.
Substitutions are allowed for many of the ingredients. I have listed them below:
- Flour: spelt, oat, plain flour work fine in this recipe. I used a mix of plain flour and wholemeal flour only because I had a lot of wholemeal flour in my pantry.
- Milk: you can substitute the almond milk in this recipe for oat milk, soy milk, or just regular cow's milk if you don't need the cake to be vegan.
- Maple syrup: substitute with agave syrup or even honey if you like, although it will end up sweeter.
- Oil: any vegetable oil will work. If you really only have olive oil at home, make sure it is light olive oil. Leave the cold-pressed special olive oil alone - the flavour will overpower and ruin the banana bread.
Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe
Makes 1 standard 9 inch / 21cm loaf
Banana bread is very easy to make, it's no wonder why it's usually one of the first things a lot of us learn to do when we first start baking. You really want very ripe bananas for this recipe, or any baking recipe that uses bananas: the kind that is almost blackened that you would rather not eat raw. That's why it's handy to always keep overripe bananas in your freezer, but if you only have super yellow bananas and just cannot wait, try this little trick: stick your unpeeled, raw bananas on a tray in a 150C oven for about 15-25 minutes until they turn shiny and black. Forced to ripen, these black bananas will be just perfect to bake in any banana bread recipe. This banana bread is delicious for a few days - actually, I think it is even better the day after.
310 g flour (plain flour or spelt or a mix of half-plain, half-wholemeal flour) 30 g cocoa powder 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt 150-180 ml maple syrup (if you'd prefer it less sweet, use the lower amount) 125 ml almond milk, oat milk, or soy milk 80 ml oil 2 tablespoons fresh brewed espresso coffee 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3-4 ripe bananas 60 g chocolate chips
2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Lightly grease a 7cm-deep, 11 x 21cm loaf pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper, allowing the paper to overhang over the 2 long sides.
2. Mash 3 bananas with a fork and set aside. Cut the remaining banana lengthwise in half (you will place this banana on top of the batter just before baking).
3. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the maple syrup, almond milk, oil, coffee and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Stir in the mashed banana and chocolate chips. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Carefully place the cut banana on top of the batter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and extra chocolate chips (optional).
4. Bake the banana bread for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve drizzled with extra maple syrup if you like.