Banana and coconut bread (dairy-free; vegan)

Iced_home-made_banana_and_coconut_bread
Banana and coconut bread. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Summer has been slow to start here in central Scotland but it’s getting warmer at last, and we’ve had a beautiful blue sky day here today. With the increase in temperature, I find it becomes difficult to keep fruit a room temperature and resort to putting things in the fridge which inevitably means loss of flavour. Bananas really don’t keep for very long before they over-ripen and I prefer to eat them a little on the under-ripe side so I seldom want to eat them over the summer months. If the skin turns too yellow and brown-speckled then I know the texture is not going to be to my liking and the banana is destined for the baking bowl or a smoothie.

Iced_and_sprinkled_with_toasted_coconut_banana_and_coconut_bread
Iced and coconut sprinkled. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This week’s recipe is my turn-to bake for using up over-ripe bananas. Easy to make, it improves with keeping, and also freezes well. I call it “bread” because it has a lower fat content than a cake recipe, although I usually serve it with an icing on top. Uniced, it is delicious spread with your favourite margarine or nut butter. If you have a glut of ripe bananas, peel them and pop them in a freezer bag. They keep in the freezer for several months and, once defrosted, will be easy to mash up and add to cake mixes in the future.

Overhead_banana_and_coconut_bread_with_one_slice_off
Just one slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I found this lovely old loaf tin in a bric-a-brac sale recently. It’s been well used but I like the design on the metal-work. Lined with a paper tin liner, it bakes up a treat and has got many more years of baking life in it I’m sure.

English_1950's_steel_loaf_tin
My new/old loaf tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For the bread, I use a combination of coconut-based ingredients: yogurt, sugar and oil, but it works just as well using a plain dairy-free yogurt or a light soft brown sugar, and your favourite plant-based margarine or butter if you prefer things less nutty. I also use wholemeal spelt flour but traditional wheat flour would be fine too. Add some chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit for extra sweetness.

I have been working on a gluten-free version using coconut flour but I haven’t been able to get the right combination of other flours to give a moist crumb – coconut flour has a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture and can give bakes a dry texture. I’ll publish an update when I achieve something I’m happy with, so watch this space.

Ripe_bananas_coconut_oil_coconut_sugar_coconut_yogurt
Ripe bananas and coconut products. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Ingredients

Serves: 8

  • 2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (you need about 250g mashed banana for good flavour and texture)
  • 100g dairy-free coconut yogurt
  • 100ml dairy-free milk
  • 200g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 15g baking powder
  • 50g solid coconut oil
  • 100g coconut sugar

For the icing:

  • 125g icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 30g toasted raw coconut chips, to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C fan oven, gas 3. Line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix the banana with the yogurt and milk.
  2. Put the flour in a bowl and sift the baking powder on top. Mix well then rub in the coconut oil and stir in the sugar.
  3. Make a well in the centre and stir in the banana mixture to make a smooth, thick cake batter. Spoon into the loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Banana_and_coconut_bread_mix_before_and_after_baking
    Before and after baking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. When cold, wrap and store for 24 hours before serving for better flavour and texture. To ice, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in 3-4 tsp warm water and the vanilla to make  smooth spreadable icing. Spread over the top of the loaf and sprinkle coconut chips.

    A_slice_of_iced_home-made_banana_and_coconut_bread
    Ready for the eating. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb ruminations and recipe ideas

Homegrown_forced_spring_rhubarb
Spring rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

At last, my forced rhubarb was ready to pick this week! Now I feel the season of Spring has begun. Long before all other fruits in the garden are even formed,  forced rhubarb gives us a flavour of all the sweet delights yet to come.

To me, rhubarb is associated with fond memories of my childhood. My grandparents used to grow “forests” of the thick, leafy stems in the summer – no summer holiday was complete without one of Grannie’s rhubarb crumbles.

If you fancy having a go at growing your own, now is the best time of year to buy yourself a  rhubarb plant (or “crown”) and get it in the ground ready for next year.

Forced_rhubarb_ready_for_picking
My first rhubarb harvest of 2017. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Rhubarb grows best in an open site, ideally in the sun, but it will grow anywhere. It likes a good mulching and needs plenty of soil depth as the roots, once established, run deep. Give it a good feed once in a while and it will do well. It is very easy to grow and a single plant will provide a good yield for a small family. Rhubarb is really a vegetable, but most of us regard it as a fruit because we serve it mostly for pudding. Only the stalks are edible – the leaves are high in oxalic acid and are, subsequently, very toxic.

Hold yourself back and avoid picking any stems in the first year of planting a new crown. In the second year, pull a few stems, leaving about half of the plant untouched. Once a plant is established – after 3 years – you can pick as many stems as you want. A rhubarb plant can be “forced” at this age, ready for an early crop in spring. You can buy special rhubarb forcers – very tall, slim, terracotta pots – which go over the crown in late winter. These are very expensive; I use the tallest pot I have and this works fine – as you can see in the image above. Although the pot covering doesn’t produce really long stems, they are good enough for me. I’ve put the pot back over the crown again, ready for the next batch of stems to grow – usually the plant produces four good batches of stems before I leave it to recover and rejuvenate for next year.

I have 3 rhubarb plants in the garden now. Each year, I rotate a plant for forcing, and the other 2 are left for summer eating rhubarb, and for freezing. Here are a few tips and ideas for cooking and serving rhubarb:

  • High in acidity, there are a few flavours that help temper the tartness of rhubarb: ginger, cinnamon, orange rind and juice, coconut, banana, angelica and liquorice.
  • Trim the leaves from spring rhubarb and discard, then rinse the stems well and slice off the base. Cut into 3cm pieces for really quick cooking, but leave in longer pieces for gentle poaching and using to top tarts or desserts. Spring rhubarb takes barely 4-5 minutes to cook. I usually place the pieces in a frying pan and sprinkle with sugar and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of water. Once it begins to steam, cover with a lid and cook gently.

    Chopped_fresh_rhubarb
    Preparing spring rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  • For a tangy sweet and sour sauce, cook rhubarb in a little water with sufficient sugar to make it edible, then add a dash of raspberry or balsamic vinegar. Served cold, it goes well with roast duck, smoked mackerel or pan-fried herring.
  • A favourite simple dessert of mine is to mix mashed banana, coconut (non-dairy) yogurt and vanilla extract together and layer in glasses with poached, vanilla sugar-sweetened rhubarb. It is absolute deliciousness guaranteed!

    Poached_rhubarb_with_banana_coconut_yogurt_and_vanilla
    Rhubarb, banana and coconut pots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  • For an easy pastry, bake-off a sheet of (gluten-free) puff pastry and allow to cool, then top with thick (dairy-free) custard and lightly poached stems of sweetened rhubarb. Always a winning combination…..rhubarb and custard.
    Rhubarb_and_custard_tart
    Rhubarb and custard tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    I have posted a couple of other rhubarb recipes in my blog over the months, here are the links Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) and Rhubarb and custard ice lollies (gluten-free)

    3_stems_fresh_spring_rhubarb
    Tender pink stems of forced rhubarb. Image: Kathryn Hawkins