Everyone’s had that problem: a massive pile of spotty bananas sitting on the counter, attracting an ever-increasing army of annoying fruit flies. I think banana bread’s massive popularity can mostly be attributed to the fact that it offers an ideal solution for this universal problem: an excess of overripe bananas.
However, I personally think banana bread has so much more to offer than just a way to use up unappealing squishy bananas. A slice of banana bread is everything I want in a midweek breakfast: it is convenient, packable, non messy, super healthy (thanks to whole-wheat flour and honey) and delicious in its own right.
I remember the first time I encountered banana bread (warning: I am about to get super wordy. You can skip down to the recipe if you aint got no time for my endless blabbering). Growing up in Egypt, banana bread wasn’t at all part of our culture, and most people would probably never have heard of it. Being the bookish little girl that I was, one Thursday evening I was sitting in my room in our countryside cottage-style weekend house in the serene district of Sakkara, devouring a Sesame Street book before I went to bed (I would say I was around 6-7 years old. Gosh. Food memories are always the strongest for me). On one of the pages, there was a recipe for banana bread (Big Bird’s Banana Bread if my memory serves me correctly haha), and the moment I read it and saw the little illustrations of a loaf of brown cake with swirls of steam coming out of it, I became instantly obsessed. I had a tendency to become instantly and intensely obsessed with things (I may or may not still have this tendency).
I ran to my mother’s bedroom and told her that we HAVE to make this IMMEDIATELY. Luckily for me, my mama was always tremendously encouraging of any creative endeavor my sisters and I came up with. Being in our weekend house in one of the most rural parts of the country, we didn’t really have access to any grocery stores or supermarkets, so we always packed an embarrassing amount of everything we needed to take with us from the city before we headed there for the weekend. To my luck, we happened to have a perfectly overripe bunch of bananas sitting, sadly disregarded on the kitchen counter. My mother promised we would make it tomorrow.
The next day, my sister and I helped put the ingredients together and filled up our cake tin with the batter, then headed to the pool for a dip while the banana bread baked. When it was ready, our wonderful nanny brought it out to us by the pool to snack on, and I remember thinking I had never experienced such a sweet and intoxicatingly warm aroma ever before. The banana bread was tragically rubbery and dense, but we devoured every last piece with pure delight.
Now this recipe I am sharing with you guys is a far cry from that disaster of a first loaf I made: it is light and moist with a super tender crumb and is spiced up with classic Chai spices (Chai is that traditional Indian tea mixed with a bunch of gorgeous warming spices) for a wonderfully aromatic loaf. I wanted to come up with a recipe that is healthy enough to constitute a nourishing breakfast, without compromising on flavor or texture, and I think I’ve managed to achieve that.
The best part about this recipe is how forgiving it is: I’ve made it with three bananas and I’ve made it with four. I’ve made it with brown sugar, coconut sugar and I’ve made it with honey. I’ve made it plain with just vanilla and I’ve made it full-on spiced, and it has never let me down. Every one of those times it turned out beautifully and was thoroughly enjoyed till the very last crumb. I have always made it with butter, but I am thinking coconut oil would work just as well (if you do try it let me know!), and I might even add a bit of yoghurt the next time I make it to see how that turns out too. ALSO ALSO! how good would molasses be?? YUM! The one thing I want to stress on though is that you MUST use extremely ripe bananas. The spottier, softer and browner they are, the better!
TIP: If your bananas aren’t quite as ripe as you would like them to be, you can cheat by roasting them. Place the bananas whole, unpeeled onto a lined baking sheet and roast them for 30-40 minutes at 150 C/300F until blackened and totally soft. Clever, huh?
This Whole-wheat Banana Bread recipe is one that is perfect to have on hand for a busy week of work or school where you can simply grab a thick slice and be out the door, or even pack one with you to snack on later with a cup of tea or coffee as a pick-me-up. Feel free to change up the spices as you please, as well as use whichever sweetener you prefer.
Tip: slathering on some Homemade Labneh is not the worst idea in the world.
- • 115g butter, at room temperature
- • 60-80ml honey, depending on how ripe your bananas are, OR 130g brown sugar/coconut sugar
- • 3-4 medium overripe bananas (about 400-450g after peeling), mashed
- • 2 eggs
- • 1 tsp. vanilla extract or seeds from ½ a vanilla pod
- • 340g whole-wheat flour
- • 2 tsp. baking soda
- • ½ tsp. salt
- FOR THE CHAI SPICES (use as many or as little as you like, or omit for a plain loaf)
- • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- • ½ tsp. ground ginger
- • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- • ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
- • ¼ tsp. ground star anise
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350F)
- Grease a standard 23cm (9”) loaf pan with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter with the honey/sugar with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until light in colour and fluffy. Add the mashed banana and mix till combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix till combined (don’t worry if the mixture is looking a little split at this stage, it will come together once you add the dry ingredients.)
- In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices (if using). Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in 2 additions, mixing between each addition, until smooth and well mixed, Scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Don’t over-mix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 60 minutes, until it is risen and deep golden brown, and a skewer (or thin sharp knife) inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before unmoulding. Once cooled completely, you can store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. If the weather is super hot, it is better to store it in the fridge after the second day and reheat slices as needed.
• You may add any mix-ins you like as well, such as chopped nuts, dates, chocolate chips etc..
• Make sure you use VERY ripe bananas. : If your bananas aren't quite as ripe as you would like them to be, you can cheat by roasting them. Place the bananas whole, unpeeled onto a lined baking sheet and roast them for 30-40 minutes at 150 C/300F until blackened and totally soft.
• If you have any frozen bananas lying around in your freezer, these work really well too. Just thaw and mash!