Those who are regular readers of the Mess would be quite familiar with my occasional (okay, regular) complaints surrounding my lack of a digital SLR camera, tripod, light-box and everything else that’s required to take quality photographs at night. It might therefore come as a surprise to see a low light photograph as the header for this recipe post.
Let me explain. It’s 11.30pm, Friday night. I’m sitting in my living room, watching a candle flicker on the coffee table after catching up with my beautiful friend Elissa (from Ethical is Easy) over a bottle of Taylors white, homemade tapas and salted caramel ice-cream. I’m feeling relaxed, energised in the best way possible. I start putting some leftovers away and all of a sudden, my eyes rest upon the image of a few over-ripe bananas that have been sitting, neglected, in the far corner of my fridge for the past six days. Yes. Let’s bake.
You can probably imagine the rest. Out comes my mixing bowl, some leftover ripe strawberries, dry goods and coconut oil. I pull out our trusty camera and some spare batteries to experiment with candlelight photography, sans any of the equipment stated above. Over the next two hours, my ingredients gently fused with the speckled bananas to create a fragrant, brown-sugar-and-coconut-encrusted vision of baked happiness, whilst pictures were snapped, erased, then snapped again.
Whilst the bread was baking, I sipped on a glass of leftover wine, cleaning the kitchen to the ethereal soundtrack of Emma Louise. The gentle, soaring sounds of her debut album, vs. Head vs. Heart, sweep you into an intricate, thoughtful narrative that is a perfect accompaniment to the inky blackness of the night sky. Now, whilst this is not in any way a full music review, I’d definitely recommend Emma Louise if you like London Grammar or any other band that combines gentle, thoughtful and honest acoustic guitar with elements of electronic syncopation. Check out more polished reviews of the album here and here.
Now, back to the baking: this fruity loaf is based on my favourite banana bread recipe, stolen from my mother’s copy of Marks & Spencer ‘Good Home Baking’ by Mary Cadogan (1983). I featured a loose variation of the recipe in one of my very first blog posts, Banana Bread: Two Ways as ‘Recipe 1’. Today’s version swaps raisins and walnuts for fresh strawberries, coconut oil and dessicated coconut. It’s topped with a crunchy, toasted coconut and brown sugar crust which, when cut, unearths a beautifully moist, fragrant interior studded with chunks of intense strawberry.
This recipe is simple, delicious, and achievable for anyone with a mixing bowl, an oven and a loaf tin (actually, you could even bake it in a round tin if required!). It’s adaptable, even if you’re missing a few ingredients, and forgives many common errors that haunt novice cooks (eg. when to combine wet and dry ingredients, how much to beat an egg, whether to sift the flour etc). As this loaf was consumed in the daytime, there are also some natural daylight shots of the finished bread below… thank goodness! It’s so difficult to make brown look attractive by candlelight.
Banana, Strawberry and Coconut Bread
Makes 1 x 1kg loaf
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 90g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp organic, virgin coconut oil
- 175g soft dark brown sugar
- 200g washed and quartered ripe strawberries
- 1/4 cup dessicated coconut + 1 tbsp (for crust)
- 3 large or 4 medium ripe bananas, mashed
- 1/2 tsp natural vanilla essence
- 1 tbsp natural yoghurt (optional, replace with 1 extra tbsp milk if preferred)
- 2 tbsp milk (dairy, almond, soy etc)
- 1 free-range egg
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar (for crust)
Grease the bottom of a 1kg (minimum) loaf tin with butter, then line with greaseproof paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees f).
Place the flour and salt into a bowl. Add in the butter, cut into small pieces, then rub in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sifted brown sugar, dessicated coconut and strawberries.
Add the vanilla, milk and yoghurt to the mashed bananas with the beaten egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, then mix until well combined. Turn your mixture into your lined pan then smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and your 1 tbsp extra coconut.
Place the tin into the preheated oven and bake for 90 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown, risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Serve sliced and buttered if desired, or (my favourite) toasted, spread with mascarpone cheese and topped with toasted almonds.
- This loaf tastes amazing with the addition of 100g coarsely chopped white chocolate (reduce your strawberries to 150g). You can also substitute the strawberries for blueberries, raspberries or another berry of your choice.
- Don’t like coconut? Just omit it, and add in 1/4 cup of rolled oats, nuts of your choice or flaxseeds.
- If you don’t have any (or don’t like) coconut oil, just increase your butter to 100g.
- To substitute plain flour with raising agents for self-raising flour, the general ratio per cup of flour is 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Sift together and use as required.