Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jamie Oliver's Banana & Honey Bread

As I sat at home on on a Saturday night, sick for the second weekend in a row, I had three serendipitous thoughts. 

The first was that I had no bread in the house. No bread meant no toast to have with my scrambled eggs in the morning - the only thing that would redeem not having been out the night before. The second was that while I was stuck in I might as well try to finish my list of new year's resolutions before it turned into a thesis. The third was that there was an obvious solution linking both of them, so I procrastinated a while longer and decided to make Jamie's Banana & Honey Bread for breakfast.

As usual, I made compromises. I used defrosted bananas; I think my yeast was a little old and I totally miscalculated; I forgot to add the honey; I ended up proving it about 3.5 times; and finally my breakfast was ready at ... well ... dinnertime.

I haven't quite worked out the best way to blog these things, so below is how I baked. I'd recommend sticking to Jamie's recipe.

Lizzie's Banana & Honey Bread

400g strong bread flour
100g wholemeal flour
3 bananas (defrosted)
0.5 tbspn dried active yeast
1/2 tspn + 2 1/2 tspn sugar
1/2 tbspn salt
4 tbspn runny honey

Knead, knead, knead, knead, knead and knead again ..
Whisk the bananas until there's no lumps and top up with warm water to make 325ml. Add the yeast, 1/2 sugar to the mix, stir and leave for 10-15 mins until the top is covered in foam.

In a large bowl mix the flours, remaining sugar (2 1/2 tspn) and salt, then make a well in the middle. Pour in half the banana and yeast mix and stir with a fork until it becomes too sticky. Then, add the remaining banana liquid and mix with your hands until it all comes together. Jamie said to knead for 4-5 minutes, thought that really wasn't enough for mine. A wise woman once told me that it's nearly impossible to over-knead by hand so I've believed that ever since. The dough is ready when it's pliable and elastic. One day when I've made enough bread I think this this'll come naturally, the same way I've learned to tell if a mix is right or a cake is baked properly.

This stage is not highly attractive.
Then put the round into a bowl covered with clingfilm and leave in a warm, moist place for 30 minutes. Mine didn't rise properly so I panicked and googled and kneaded again for 5-10 minutes before putting back in the bowl to rise for another 30 minutes. At this point I realised I'd completely forgotten the honey so I kneaded half of it in and left it to prove again for a while ... Finally (nearly) I pounded the air out of the mixture, shaped into 6 buns and placed in a round tin dusted with flour. At this point things looked really sticky and messy and highly un-photogenic. Seeing as though I am typing this blog in real time I appear to have committed myself. Unless I declare them inedible (which would really be saying something for me). So, prove them again for a bit - 30 minutes seems to be the favourite number. This proving is the important one as  this is the one that goes to bake. Once they've doubled(ish) pour over the remaining 2 tbsps of honey and put into the oven preheated to 190 degrees. Bake for about 25 minutes - I opened the oven at 20 mins to see how it was going and decided to squeeze some more honey over the top. Serve while warm. Eat them all. By this point you've earned them!

I was prepared to be disappointed but this... well, once you remember that you've just made bread, not the cake-like delicacy that I think of as 'banana bread', it's heavenly. It was a little heavy and stodgy and I know I can improve on it, but seriously, this stuff is great. And the wholemeal makes the lashings of butter so very acceptable!

What I also learnt today: An Australian tablespoon is bigger than a UK/US tablespoon by about 1/3 again (20ml vs 15ml). I always know there's differences in cups but i don't think I realised the tablespoon measurement was so drastically different. Must remember for when I'm called upon to make my godson's birthday cake. Please feel free to remind me.

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