Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Banana and Coconut Loaf – the silver lining in the brown paper bag

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Elena and Ivan from Melbourne commented a couple of posts back (Cherry Clafoutis) that they had bought cherries from one of the ‘pram ladies’ in Dublin. That simple remark brought back some memories for me. There’s not so many of them around now, but when I was a little girl shopping in Dublin with my mother, these pram ladies were like a mobile department store.
Overripe bananas - perfect in so many ways! 
They wheeled their goods around the city centre like a flock of latter-day Molly Malones. They were to be found in great numbers in and around Henry Street, Moore Street and Mary Street and the sing-song cry of the flock went something like “apples’n’oranges-foive-fur-fiv-deee... twentypee-de-bah-nah-nahhhhhs”. As you approached, they’d drop their voices, cast their eyes left and right and ask somewhat shiftily, “D’ya want bananas/flowers/bangles/wrappin’ paper/fireworks/whatever you’re havin’ yourself, love?” as if offering contraband. And in some cases, perhaps they were. You could always tell if there were police in the area and in what direction by a sudden tsunami of enormous black prams rushing away from them.
One thing was pretty certain though. If you were buying fruit, no matter how carefully you watched the vendor select it, sometimes some less-than-perfect specimens would sneak their way into your brown paper bag to be discovered only when you were on the bus, miles away. Then you were stuck with your wormy apples, rotten peaches, or over-ripe bananas.
Wormy apples and rotten peaches are no good to anyone. Over-ripe bananas offer a silver lining because they are perfect for making Banana and Coconut Loaf.

For 1 loaf you will need:
... to pre-heat the oven to 180°C
100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 ripe bananas, mashed
250g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
50g coconut

Topping (optional)
50g chopped nuts
About 2 tablespoons runny honey

1          First, lightly butter and base line a 2 lb loaf tin. To base line a tin, sit it on greaseproof paper or baking parchment and using a pencil, trace around it. Cut out the shape just inside the pencil lines. Lightly rub the inside of the tin with butter and position the paper in the buttery base. This makes it easier to remove the cake from the tin when cooked.
2          Now, whisk together the butter and sugar until paler in colour and fluffy. Then add the eggs a little at a time, beating well between additions. Add the mashed bananas to the egg mixture and beat until just combined.
3          Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and coconut and fold these dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just incorporated. To fold, take a spatula or a metal spoon and cut through the centre of the batter. Move the spatula or spoon across the bottom of the bowl, and back up the side and across the top bringing some of the cake mixture from bottom to top. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Keep folding the mixture and turning the bowl until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter.
4          Transfer to the prepared loaf tin.
5          The optional topping: If you want to gild this rather homely lily, sprinkle your choice of chopped nuts down the centre of the cake and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of runny honey over them.
6          Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. A cocktail stick inserted in the centre should come out clean. If there is batter clinging to it, pop the loaf back in the oven for a further 10 minutes then test again. Leave to cool in the tin. While you can eat it straight away, this cake is best wrapped in clingfilm and left for 24 hours before eating. A wonderful alchemy takes place and it becomes more banana-y and moist and utterly delicious.


If you cannot like coconut, replace it with chopped walnuts, or a handful of raisins.
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