It starts of so raw, so wet behind the ears, a little green even. It’s even a bit of an outcast; unpleasant, avoided and neglected. But it will right itself, that’s for sure and it will even affect the ‘rightness’ of those around it. In a couple of days it starts to grow up; it comes of age as it were. Now it is popular. One of the go-tos for the energy seeking, it begins to show its true potential, its character. Within no time at all it is king of the pile, but it doesn’t last long because as it starts to age blemishes begin to appear on its once perfect skin. It’s now starting to deteriorate at a startling rate, once strong and steadfast it begins to haunch a little, to soften and emanate a fragrance as a warning that it’s not going to be around for much longer. And to its final days, it’s a mere shadow of its former self; its colouration undetectable from its previously brilliant yellow past. Again, it becomes an outcast and mustn’t be allowed to mingle with the others. It is criticised for its appearance, its stench, and its age and is on the verge of being assigned to a place of no retrieval.
But then, a stranger comes along and rescues it. The stranger sees much hope for this aged wonder; it has wisdom, character, and an ability and potential that its younger form could only dream of. And it is now time to unleash it. The baker is going to get funky with this banana.
It’s in the title – breathtaking. I can’t recall the number of banana cakes and breads that I have made, but they have ranged from ok to good. This one is the best, and I have to thank Momofuku Milk Bar for the basis of the recipe which I have slightly modified to bring out the best in the banana. And when I say a ripe banana I am talking about the ones that are dark, dark brown, intensely pungent and almost bordering on a paste.
Breathtaking Banana CakePrint
- ■ 200g butter | Cubed and at room temperature.
- ■ 1 large egg |
- ■ 120g buttermilk |
- ■ 20g grapeseed oil | Important to use a neutral tasting oil. Groundnut oil is another good one.
- ■ 3 ripe bananas | If you think they are overripe, they are perfect.
- ■ 240g plain flour |
- ■ 3g baking powder | A smidgen under ¾ of a teaspoon.
- ■ 3g bicarbonate of soda | A smidgen under ½ of a teaspoon.
- ■ 2g sea salt | If flaked, crush before adding.
Heat the oven to 170 deg. C (340 deg. F).
Take a 28cm*18cm baking tin (about 4cm deep) and lightly grease the bottom and sides with butter. Cut a piece of baking parchment to the size of the tin base and then line the base with it – the butter will ensure it stays in place.
To a kitchen mixer bowl add the sugar and butter and then on medium speed beat it using the paddle attachment until light and fluffy – the colour should be a very pale yellow. Stop the beating, scrape the sides of the bowl, put on a low to medium speed and add the egg. After about 30 seconds add the buttermilk in a thin stream so as not to redecorate your kitchen. Mix for a further minute and then in a thin stream add the oil. Now put the mixer on medium to high speed and beat until the mixture is homogenous (posh was for saying mixed properly). Try for 5 minutes and if not looking right keep mixing until it is. We are forcing the oil in to a mixture that already contains fat (butter) and thus the need for some heavy handed work.
Next, turn the mixer speed to low and add the whole ripe bananas (if they are paste-like then just scrape them in). Mix for about 30 seconds, or until all of the banana has broken down.
Now, mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt in a separate bowl and then gradually add to the mixing bowl. As soon as all the ingredients have come together the batter is ready.
Put the batter into your lined baking tin, spread evenly and give the tin a couple of taps on the bench top just to make sure. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes to start with, after which test it; the outsides should be springy and the inside just cooked (so it doesn’t wobble). If not, then bake further until it is ready.
When ready remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes at which point turn out onto a wire cooling rack, carefully peel the baking parchment away and leave until completely cool…or if you are a sucker for warm cake cut out a piece and devour.