the best banana bread

baked1

Like most learn-on-the-job bloggers with no formal photographic training, I’m excessively critical of everything I posted in the early days of Laura’s Mess (circa 2012).

Granted, I was working against the odds with a small automatic camera and no formal knowledge of composition, food styling, lighting or photo editing. Most of what you’ll see my first few posts is well-practiced application of the ‘winging it‘ technique, supplemented with tips from my husband Aaron.

Most props were scrounged from the depths of my mother’s kitchen cupboard (with permission of course) and, uh, never returned (sorry mum).

I’ve come a long way since then.

nanas

Not to say that I’m an expert or anything; heck no, I’m still essentially an amateur who now owns a better camera (and who, with much trial and error, is much better at composition and lighting). I’ve attended a couple of blogging conferences and amassed a sizable collection of vintage knives, bowls and platters, most of which still don’t get used on this blog (what was I saying about food styling again?).

I guess I’ve figured out what I like. The kind of shots that speak to my personal sense of style, my food ethos and (most importantly) my stomach.  I love natural light, blemishes, timber and well-loved crockery. Speckled eggs, dark rye and glossy fat aubergines. Food as the star that speaks for itself – with minimal props and clutter.

Beautiful simplicity.

still

I don’t always get it right. More often than not, there’s something I dislike about my photographs. I never hold ‘shoots’ with stylized food; each and every morsel that you see on this blog goes into my mouth or someone else’s.  I have so much to learn.

But in saying that, I’m happier with my work these days. I do better justice to the stunning food that graces our table each day. Like this banana bread, for instance. I first posted it in 2012 after a long battle with sunlight and our automatic camera. The photographs are quite horrid, but I’ve left them there as a monument to the early days.

There was slow improvement, evidence found here and here. Let’s hope that next year’s hindsight will be similarly pleasing.

baked3

mash2

The recipe below is for traditional banana bread, marked as ‘recipe one’ in my original blog post. It’s richly moist, fragrant and studded with plump walnuts and raisins.

For today’s loaf, I made one further modification from the original recipe: I substituted three quarters of the stated brown sugar for Billington’s natural molasses sugar. The latter provided a rich caramel flavour and a dense crumb that beautifully complimented the ripe banana and warm cinnamon. I’d recommend the switch, particularly if you have some hidden in your pantry (like I did).

sugar

Serve this bread thickly sliced with a dollop of mascarpone, a handful of toasted coconut shavings and/or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It’s also wonderful toasted, adorned with butter and consumed with a mug of strong Builder’s tea (aka happiness).

baked4

The Best Banana Bread

Loosely adapted from Marks & Spencer’s Good Home Baking cookbook (1983)

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g soft unsalted butter, cubed
  • 175g brown sugar (or 135g molasses sugar and 40g brown sugar)
  • 50g raisins
  • 75g halved walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar and crumbled walnuts, optional (for decoration)

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees f). Line the bottom of a 1kg non-stick loaf pan with baking paper, then set aside. Place your flour and butter in a bowl, then rub it in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

rubin

mix

Stir in your sugar, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts. Mix your mashed bananas with the vanilla extract and milk, then add to your mixture. Mix well.

Turn the mixture into your prepared, lined tin and smooth the top with the back of a spoon (I usually bang my tin on the bench a couple of times to expel any air bubbles).

unbaked

Sprinkle with demerara sugar or more walnuts if desired. Place your tin on a baking tray, then bake for 90 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes back with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Leave to cool in the tin for neater slices, or dig straight in with keen smiles and a butter knife. I understand if you choose the latter.

plated

 

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54 responses

  1. I one think your photos are lovely! And, this recipe sounds delicious. I too love to swap white sugar for golden or brown versions, they can make such a difference…

  2. I love your photos. They always take me away to lazy summer afternoons, cool tiles, hot sun, and something delicious just around the corner. Exploring the different attitudes and emotions you can evoke through photography is a fascinating journey, and I am always happy to gaze on your next step. Also, banana bread and builder’s tea is pretty much the definition of morning paradise :)

  3. I know exactly what you mean! I am torn between the embarrassment of my first posts, versus the satisfaction to see how far I have come and how much I have improved. Needless to say there are some shockers in there! You have such a refreshing eye for beauty, your camera literally seems drawn to it. That is a natural talent that no amount of training and conferences will ever teach. xx

    • Haha… I find it hard to believe that you started with shockers Martine! Nice to think that we’ve all come so far in the journey though. Thanks so much for the encouragement, you’re such a good friend! And you’re right, I’m lucky that the ‘natural’ part compensates a little bit for lack of knowledge. There’s a goal this year to learn more though… we will see what happens! xx

  4. I really like your photos. It could even be said that I love your photos (and yes, I should marry them then shouldn’t I…).
    I also like warm cakey loafy type things with mascarpone.
    Very nice indeed :)

  5. Your photos are always beautifully shot and They always tempt me to try your delicious recipes. I can’t go past banana bread so this is yet another of your recipes that I am adding to my recipe books ☺

    • Thanks lovely. Haha, I know what you mean about time. I am struggling myself, particularly as I want to maintain a certain standard when it comes to my content (I haven’t always reached it recently). Don’t stress about it though. I always think that blogging should be a pleasure rather than a chore. Easier said than done though! xx

      • Right you are. I keep telling myself that I blog for fun – now that I am too old to have my food biz. But I do think I should be able to reach my goal of a post a month! We’ll see how the year goes….

      • Fingers crossed, ah! I know what you mean… I always want to do one post per week but it NEVER happens. Monthly is more realistic but then again, life takes over! P.S too old? Never! xx

    • Aw, thanks lovely! I appreciate it! So great to know that people are making some of my recipes too (I don’t know about you but sometimes it seems like I’m just sending recipes out into a massive tangle of food blogs. You know, you can’t see the wood from the trees? That kind of thing!). Same to you re your blog, I’m loving the balance of healthy and indulgent stuff you’ve got on there. My kind of blogging! ;)

  6. So, I must be the only person on Earth that doesn’t like banana bread, not to say that your bread doesn’t look gorgeous becaus it certainly does. I don’t like the flavour of cooked bananas. I did make a cake with roasted bananas to see if that would be different and I did eat that. Roasted bananas fame the raw banana flavour. Anyway, your banana bread is gorgeous and I bet it tastes wonderful to non weirdos like me.
    As for your photos, I love your photos, and that’s the very style I like to do as well. Unfortunately, my kitchen is tiny and I can never take natural light photos like you do. I have to take my food out to ghe living room and set it up to get proper light. Be
    I’ve me, I totally prefer the simple, no props kind of photo. Even setting up mine, I find it hard to clutter it with props. Maybe I, just nit good enough!! Don’t change your photos, keep to your style. I love them. xx

    • I’m sure there are others in the same boat as you Nazneen! I do love bananas in EVERYTHING but… well, that’s just me. Glad that the roasted banana cake was more to your preference!
      I have noticed that you and I are more similar in terms of style. I do tend to think that the food speaks for itself in most cases. Btw I;m sorry that I haven’t been around much, I find it so hard to get round to everyone’s blogs without my own computer (I hate using my phone. Right now I am at lunch break at work, on my work PC!). Love the layout of your blog now, shows off your photos beautifully! xx

  7. Laura, you an dI share a lot in common. Every single thing I feature on the blog gets eaten. Usually by me and usually in some state of coolness. Such is the life of the amateur photographer / writer / cook / stylist / blogger.
    Keep up the great work.
    Conor

  8. I have always thought your blog posts are beautifully composed and photographed. Your recipes are always amazing. This banana bread looks dark and rich and moist well pretty much perfect. I love your style.

    • I just had a look at your blog and you’re doing amazingly, considering that you’re only one year in! I look forward to seeing what you create as time goes on (it’s a continued learning process and the more that you learn, the more that you notice your previous mistakes! Argh!). Thanks for stopping over Laura xx

  9. I, too, leave the old posts and photos up as a testament to how I have improved, Laura. So many are cringe-worthy with, among other sins, Stacy or camera-shaped shadows in unnatural light on the food. I try not to think about it! When I get discouraged by all the gorgeous photos on the interwebs (yours among them) I go back and look at 2011 (and parts of 2012) and feel much better about myself. Always room for improvement, of course, but, dear God, I have come far. Meanwhile, that banana bread is gorgeous. I’d love a slice!

    • I know what you mean about the shadows/lighting, that’s one of my pet hates when looking back at old pictures. Haha… ‘Stacy shaped shadows’! Your photos are lovely now, I think one of the best things about our kind of blogging is that it does look like REAL food as opposed to overly polished, studio images. It’s all a journey though, isn’t it! Thanks lovely, I appreciate you! xx

  10. I hear ya! I don’t know what I’m doing…I think the first year of my posts were shitty point and shoot shots done on the grass in a camping bowl out the back of our van. Ha! I still don’t know what I’m doing, but like you, have better equipment. I definitely still raid my mum’s cupboard. I love your posts and photos, particularly the warmth of them – they always look so inviting and lovely. I’m a fan of natural light too. And your banana bread looks scrumptious x

    • I liked those grassy shots that you did! You always seemed like the super cool hippy blogger… much better than those polished studio ones ;) I guess it’s a learning process for all of us and it’s fun to see how far we’ve come! xxx

  11. I feel like I am a 12 year old boy going to confession… “Forgive me Laura, but I don’t like banana bread…” But, then I saw your ingredients list, the darkness of the bread, and the raisins… and I decided confession might not be necessary. Maybe I DO need to try the best banana bread ever… xox, d

    • Haha, I do think that the darkness of the bread and the raisins make all the difference! The molasses sugar makes it super moist and the walnuts add satisfying crunch. I don’t like the basic ones myself… I tried a piece at a cafe last week and was very disappointed. If you lived closer I’d definitely bake it for you David ;) Maybe one day you, Aaron, Mark and I will meet! xx

  12. I don’t know what to say. Your recipe and your (as ever) lovely photos, styled or no, just makes me want to eat this banana bread straight off the screen. That and the fact that I was put off making some only the other day because the pater doesn’t like it and what’s the point just for little old me? Now I see that there IS a point because who can resist that cinnamony, banana-y, raisiny goodness? YUM :D

    • Aw, why aren’t we next door neighbours? We could’ve devoured it together with big mugs of tea (whilst trying to deter Loki and Clemmie from pinching some, haha).But in saying that, I could definitely eat a whole loaf myself. DEFINITELY. Might not be the best of ideas but I’d be happy ;) xx

  13. Hey Laura!

    Beautiful appetizing photos & I made your divine banana bread a few days ago & loved every bite! So good toasted too with some good butter & local honey on it! Yummy yummy too! :) xxx

  14. Pingback: The Best Banana Bread | homethoughtsfromabroad626

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