Wholesome Vegan Banana Bread

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 I had a friend in high school who bought a slice of banana bread from the canteen almost every day. Cruelly in year eight they stopped making the chocolate chip banana bread, as if removing that sprinkle of happiness would really make a difference to the health of the banana bread! But that’s not the point. Lot’s of people stopped really buying it after that, but not this friend. I remember it clearly because every time she bought a piece she’d get attacked and harassed by her friends until she’d given them at least half. And by her friends, I mean me. It was good banana bread, it really was.

But as we grew older, we learned to read the ingredients list. And with knowledge becomes great responsibility. It wasn’t a very appetising group of products they squeezed in there. One of the ingredients was beef lard, all I’m gonna say. After that I became a believer in home-made banana bread. Just as delicious without the beef lard! This banana bread today is one of the family recipes that makes the best banana bread (in my humble opinion). 

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 I know the title makes it sound a little…bland. But it really isn’t! The recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook, which is one of my favourite cookbooks ever. So many childhood staple meals came out of that book. Vegetable ratatouille, Cheesy polenta, Bean Burritos, all the old classics. And this banana bread. I’ve mentioned it when I made these delicious banana choc chunk muffins. The recipe says to coat the pan in sesame seeds to stop it sticking but I used baking paper because we didn’t have sesame seeds. Also I had a feeling it would probably come out looking like a lizard bread, something I don’t think would photograph well. 

Can you believe I’ve had this blog for seven months and this is the first Banana Bread recipe I’ve put up? What is that about! Well partly the reason is that muffins are way easier to serve and photograph. I’ve adapted lots of breads before, like the sticky Banana Caramel Muffins that were originally going to be a loaf. Loaves have benefits that muffins can’t really trump, because you can toast them and put toppings on them. What is a banana bread without peanut butter and banana slices? Or ricotta and honey? You tell me. You tell me friends. 

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This banana bread is way healthier than your classic shop-bought plastic wrapped slice. It’s light but still moist and fluffy. The crust is super crispy and maybe my favourite part, because it’s so thin you don’t get that terrible hard edge that takes away from the squishy middle part. I adapted it to make a vegan version with vegan butter and chia eggs, but you can sub in normal eggs and super soft butter, or even olive oil. 

You can tell hippies wrote the recipe because there are a few rather strange instructions. Or rather lack of instructions. (I love hippies! But you can’t deny they can be vague! ) I should have known that hand whisking soft butter and eggs would end in lumpy egg-butter, but I tried it anyway. The result was a super sore arm from about an hour of trying to get the butter pieces small enough to combine with the other ingredients. And I couldn’t heat it up so the butter would melt because that would cook the eggs! So I’ve kindly amended the instructions out of respect for your arms. 

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As I’ve mentioned, this banana bread is great toasted and served with jam, nutella, peanut butter, butter, honey, ricotta, banana slices, mashed banana, melted chocolate, desiccated coconut, coconut cream, ok you get the picture. I could go on all day. But it’s also great plain and fresh from the oven. It freezes really well, lasts wrapped really well, and can be fancied up with chopped nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, seeds, anything you like really! 

 Here are some delicious banana bread recipes I’ve been drooling over this week on other awesome blogs:

Check out the amazing banana bread photography at The Munch and Crunch

Cookie and Kate’s amazing looking banana bread looks like it could feed multiple athletes

Almond Banana Bread by Bakerita looks amaaazing. 

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Wholesome Vegan Banana Bread: Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

2 medium bananas (2/3 cup) mashed well

80mls (1/3 cup) brewed black coffee (NOT GRANULES – LIQUID)

3 tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons water and stirred well (OR 3 chicken eggs for non-vegan)

110ml olive oil or 1/2 cup vegan butter, very soft

100ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup or 1/2 cup brown sugar

125g (1 cup) white flour + 120g (1 cup) wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp each cinnamon and allspice

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Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and line a loaf pan. Beat together the soft butter and sugar until fluffy, then add in the eggs, one at a time. If using oil and honey, just mix all these ingredients together. Stir in the mashed bananas and coffee well. Sift the flours, salt and raising agents, then gently fold into the wet mixture. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until brown on top and a skewer comes out clean. Enjoy! Serves 8-12

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Whole-Wheat and Vegan Apple Spice Cake

 Vegan and Refined Sugar Free<a
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 To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed when my friend requested for her birthday cake not a towering chocolate and caramel creation, or some challenging multi-layered pastry tart, but a simple apple tea cake. Simple and tea and birthday and cake are not words meant to be put together in the same sentence! Birthdays are such a good excuse to make lots of pretty layers with all the favourite flavours of the birthday girl or boy. Simple tea cakes, they can kind of be made any day! I expected big things from this friend. She is a pretty impressive lover of cakes that has eaten many a brownie or slice of cake I’ve brought in to school or uni. But you can’t go against birthday wishes.

There’s a reason under “decorative/layer cakes” in my recipe section there’s no healthy recipes yet listed. (Apart from it being an obvious major challenge) usually celebration cakes are meant to be just that, a bit of a celebration. They’re meant to be sky-high for lots of sharing. And they’re meant to be specially flavoured depending on the cake receiver. They’re meant to look really pretty and dressed up in fluffy icing, or elegant and drizzled with some dark chocolate ganache. How was I meant to make an any day apple teacake that lived up to these kind of birthday dreams?? 

But this cake turned out not to be an any day sort of cake.

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To start with, the smell of it baking in the oven is amaazing. Think warm apple pie and spice cookies and hot crumbles and custard and mmmmm. You might think this is weird, but once it was baked I put it on a plate, brought it upstairs and kept the cake next to my computer all morning, so that while I studied I could smell it’s apply, spicy goodness. All day the house smelled like cinnamon and apple, and I’m kind of sad no one needs an apple cake again today just to perfume the house. 

The recipe is adapted from The Healthy Chef, a great baking blog full of healthy recipe ideas. I wasn’t actually looking for a “healthy” recipe, just one that didn’t use eggs, milk or white flour. (Ok, I know how silly that sounded). And I’ll admit, at first I was a little worried that a cake made entirely on a foundation of cubed apples would be a little…bland. Or watery. Or strange and thick. It really wasn’t at all though. I should have known from the combination of apple and cinnamon in cupcakes I’ve made before, that it was going to turn out well. I used wholemeal flour, and it formed the barest wisp of custard-like batter around the soft, spiced apples. There’s something really warm about this cake, even if you eat it cold. It tastes a lot like the insides of an apple pie.

The birthday girl really liked it too, which must be a good sign. I’m one of those terrible people that gives someone a birthday cake, and proceeds to eat a slice of it almost straight away and sometimes asks for another piece before they’re finished theirs. So I had ample opportunity to sample this cake. Between three of us we almost ate the entire thing in under an hour, which is a testament to how easy it is to eat. It’s a very light cake, and fun fact; if you cut it into 12 slices it’s less than 150 calories for a piece. 

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 I don’t really think about calories very much but that’s pretty impressive for something that tastes like pie. I think so, anyway. You always hear people advertising their recipes as healthy enough to “eat for breakfast”. Well this cake is definitely healthy enough to eat for breakfast. It’s like an entire serving of fruit just for you. And all the goodness of whole grains! And olive oil for your skin! 

Also, who likes my new doilies? Doilies are No. 1, the funnest name of anything ever, and No. 2 the funnest pieces of cloth ever. Seriously, they’re so random. Imagine the days when every afternoon people had tea and cake and a table covered with scones and doilies. Times have really changed. My new doilies are actually old doilies from Vinnies discovered by my step-dad and quickly purchased. I love the little flower patterns, they’re actually so cute. I like to think they were knitted by a little grandma somewhere for her grandkids who grew up and didn’t really need or want so many doilies, and now they’ve come to me. 

The original recipe calls for almond meal and a topping of walnuts, which I omitted. If you like nuts or want a gluten free option, substitute 2 cups of almond flour for the 1 cup of wholemeal, and increase the amount of apples to about eight. Believe me, I tried to fit in the original recipe’s calling for 800g of apple chunks, but there was just no way the tin or the batter was going to hold so much apple. It was pretty heavy on the apple as it were. But if you want more of an apple slice with occasional hints of cake batter, the original recipe calls for 800g (about 7 medium apples). 

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Wholemeal Apple Cinnamon Cake: Adapted from Apple Cake

2 tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 4 tablespoons water to form a gel

130g (1 cup) wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground ginger

600g apple (3 cups, just over a pound), chopped into small 2cm chunks (skinned optional)

70ml (1/4 cup) olive oil

85ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup or runny honey for non-vegan

110ml soy, almond or rice milk (1/2 cup)

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 Method:

Stir up the chia and water and leave to thicken.

Preheat the oven to 150C (300F) and grease line a 20cm round cake tin (8 inch) with baking paper. Whisk in a bowl the flour, spices and baking powder. Mix the honey, oil, milk and chia water together and add to the dry ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Pour in the apple chunks and stir everything gently together until just combined. Bake for about 35 minutes to 45. It’s hard to tell if the cake is done because the apple chunks will wipe any mix off a skewer, but the middle should spring bake when you touch it and the cake should be nice and domed. The edges should be just beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin. Cut into slices and eat warm, but it’s great at room temperature too. Best eaten within two days, any longer and the top will go slightly soft from the juice of the apples. IMG_6873 

Wholemeal Strawberry Cake with Brown Sugar

Wholemeal and Low Fat

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It’s been almost an entire month since I started this blog. The idea to start a blog actually came to me a year ago, but it took me this long to actually get there. Part of the reason it took so long was the feeling that I wasn’t ready. I’d just got the camera for my birthday, and had only really worked out how to charge it properly. I’d been baking regularly for at least two years, but I still hadn’t mastered things like a simple sponge or perfectly frosted cupcakes- something I thought was the hallmark to becoming a food blogger. I was also incredibly busy in my final year of school. The main reason it took me so long though, undoubtably, was my complete lack of computer knowledge. I have zero understanding of the simplest forms of technology. 

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For example, in starting this post it took me ten minutes to work out the sizing of the photographs. (I didn’t actually figure it out, I just kept clicking ‘new post’ until for some reason the photos took up the entire screen length again…). Over the past year I fell in love with some beautiful blogs featuring breathtaking photos and delicious looking recipes, but I just could never imagine having the technical abilities to achieve that kind of thing myself. But I decided to try anyway. 

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Since I started one month ago, I’ve learnt more things about food, photography and blogging than I did in an entire year. Every time I get a view from a new country, I feel a little thrill! Someone in Portugal is looking at my cookie recipe! It’s the best feeling. Every time I feel disappointed with my photos because they don’t look like the ones on pinterest, I remind myself that those photographers were like me at some point. I’ve got to start somewhere. 

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 This strawberry cake is a one month celebration cake. It is nutty from the whole wheat flour, sweet and jammy from the strawberries and crunchy sugar topping. The brown sugar in the cake gives a sweet caramel flavour to compliment the fruit topping. If you don’t have wholemeal or whole wheat flour, plain works fine as well. I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and decided to bake it as-is, with wholemeal flour replacing the barley flour. It’s originally a Martha Stewart recipe I’m pretty sure, so I’ve linked to that as well.

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Wholemeal Strawberry Cake: Adapted from here

Either 180g (1.5 cups) plain flour, or substitute half with wholemeal (90g or 3/4 cup)

180g (1 packed cup)brown sugar, + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for topping

85g (1/3 cup) butter

1 large egg

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla paste

120ml (1/2 cup) milk (I used low fat and it tasted fine)

450g (1 pound, 16 ounces) strawberries, hulled, washed and cut in half

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Preheat your oven to 180C or 365F and line a 20cm or 9 inch cake pan with baking paper. Beat together the butter and brown sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat together slowly until combined. Sift in both flours and baking powder and stir just to bring the batter together. Pour into your cake pan and smooth it evenly with a spatula. Carefully place your strawberries on top of the cake in an even layer. (You may have to overlap a few to get them all in, but try your best because they shrink!) Sprinkle over the granulated sugar and bake for ten minutes. Reduce the temperature to 160C or 340F and bake for 40-50 minutes longer, until a skewer inserted comes out with a few loose crumbs on it. Dust with icing sugar. 
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