Sweet Treat With The Feel-Good Factor

I don’t know about you, but with the cold weather I have turned more to comfort food.  Warm soups and home baking.

Now, I’m not a very patient cook.  I like my recipes to be simple, straightforward and quick.  So, one of my favourites (all year round) is banana bread. One bowl, chuck in the ingredients and whisk it up.  Pour into a loaf tin, or cake tin and whack it in the oven.  Before long, you’ve got a slice and cuppa.

I tend to use a basic Mary Berry recipe (easily available online), but slightly reduce the amount of sugar.  It can be a little sweet for my taste.  I also use frozen bananas as standard: I have a freezer packed with bags of chopped banana ready for baking.  Not only is frozen banana convenient, I also find it mixes better and doesn’t sink to the bottom of the loaf creating the dreaded ‘soggy bottom.’

There are also lots of little tweaks you can make, to ensure that every banana bread is a bit different.  I have a couple of favourites.  By adding in a good handful of fresh blueberries and a little vanilla essence, you get a lovely moist, almost summery version.  Alternatively, add a heaped teaspoon of organic cacao to create a chocolatey banana bread.  The last time I did this, I also added a generous sprinkle of chopped roasted hazelnuts.  The result was a banana bread with a Nutella type note.  Very yummy!

My method might make many a cook or chef shudder, but so far all experiments guaranteed edible.  And it’s quite fun experimenting with what you’ve got in the fridge and the cupboards rather than going out to buy something specifically for a recipe.  And, if you find you’ve got more banana bread than you can manage, it freezes really well. 

Rightly or wrongly, I always feel banana bread is a more virtuous sweet treat:  it’s got fruit in for a start – that has to count, right?  But also, being homemade you have control over the ingredients – I use organic flour when I can, and organic eggs.  There’s no added preservatives, colourants, flavour enhancers etc.  I can alter the sugar content to taste, or use honey to replace some of the sugar.  In fact, once you go that far, it’s practically a health food!

But seriously, home baking can be very satisfying, both in the making process and in the eating.  While exercise is important for our health and wellbeing, baking too has a part to play in the way we feel.  Especially at a time when we are mostly stuck at home, and the weather is not conducive to spending lots of time outdoors, a little home-baking – a little banana bread – goes a long way to calm the mind and satisfy the soul.