Ruby bakes with ba­nanas

Be­sides your bog-stan­dard loaf, how else can you make use of a bunch of mushy ba­nanas? Trans­form them into th­ese fin­ger-lick­ing frit­ters or a light sponge, fra­grant with thyme

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - By Ruby Tan­doh

Ba­nanas em­body the heights of my op­ti­mism and depths of my guilt – I buy them in the hope that some­time I’ll find room be­tween the cakes, breads and buns for a sim­ple piece of fruit. With­out fail they lan­guish in the fruit bowl, bloom fat brown spots, soften, wither and grow black. I throw them away in shame. It’s of ne­ces­sity, then, that I’ve learned to rec­on­cile ba­nanas with my bak­ing, re­viv­ing over­ripe ones with a dose of sugar or a spritz of lemon, mash­ing them into a cake, dip­ping in light bat­ter and flood­ing with caramel.

BA­NANA SESAME FRIT­TERS WITH BAL­SAMIC CARAMEL

Th­ese are the kind of no-fuss frit­ters you might find on the dessert menu of a Chi­nese restau­rant or cheap buf­fet eatery – it’s sim­ple com­fort food, deep­fried, sweet and mor­eish. You could use white sesame seeds, but the black ones look bet­ter, stand­ing in con­trast to the golden bat­ter. The sim­plest way to serve th­ese is with a lit­tle warmed golden syrup, but here I’ve sug­gested a sticky bal­samic caramel sauce, with a slight acid­ity to take the edge off the sweet­ness. Make sure you chill the flour and wa­ter in ad­vance as this will help the bat­ter to puff on con­tact with the hot oil, for a light, crisp coat­ing.

Serves 4

1.5-2 litres veg­etable or corn oil

150g plain flour, chilled

50g caster sugar

1½ tsp bak­ing pow­der

¼ tsp salt

40g black sesame seeds

175ml sparkling wa­ter, chilled

2 egg yolks

6-8 small ripe ba­nanas, cut into 4cm chunks

For the caramel

150g caster sugar

3 tbsp wa­ter

110ml dou­ble cream

35g but­ter

1 tbsp bal­samic vine­gar

A gen­er­ous pinch of salt

1 First, pre­pare the caramel. Com­bine the sugar and wa­ter in a small metal pan (avoid non­stick pans, which can cause crys­talli­sa­tion) and set over a high heat. Apart from oc­ca­sion­ally tilt­ing the pan to gen­tly swirl the mix­ture, don’t stir it. Just let the syrup bub­ble un­til it be­gins to caramelise, dark­en­ing to a mel­low am­ber colour. Warm the cream in a sep­a­rate pan or in the mi­crowave un­til it’s hot. As soon as the sugar has caramelised, turn off the heat and pour in the hot cream, whisk­ing briskly. Watch out for any sput­ter­ing or steam. Stir in the but­ter, then add vine­gar and salt to taste. Set aside. (You may want to re­heat it slightly in a wa­ter bath or mi­crowave if it sets too much prior to serv­ing).

2 Pour the oil into a medium pan (prefer­ably not non­stick) un­til it’s no more than ⅔ full. Set over a medium heat and pop a sugar ther­mome­ter in. Keep a close eye on the oil, turn­ing the heat down as soon as it reaches 180C–190C (350F–375F). Don’t leave the hot oil unat­tended.

3 In a large bowl, com­bine the flour, caster sugar, bak­ing pow­der, salt and sesame seeds. Stir the wa­ter and egg yolks to­gether in a sep­a­rate bowl then pour half of this mix­ture into the dry in­gre­di­ents, whisk­ing con­tin­u­ously un­til smooth. Whisk in the re­main­ing liq­uid, adding a lit­tle ex­tra wa­ter if nec­es­sary, to give a thick, though not gloopy, bat­ter.

4 Dip the ba­nana pieces in the bat­ter in batches, coat­ing thor­oughly, then care­fully put in the hot oil a few at a time. They may sink to the bot­tom of the pan be­fore ris­ing back up to the sur­face – keep an eye on them and give them a nudge with a metal spoon if they stick to the base. Fry for 2 min­utes be­fore gen­tly flip­ping them and cooking for a fur­ther 2 min­utes. The frit­ters should be golden brown and siz­zling. Re­move with a slot­ted spoon and pat dry with kitchen pa­per. Keep the cooked frit­ters warm while you fry the rest in batches, keep­ing the oil at 180C-190C all the while.

5 Serve the frit­ters with the bal­samic caramel and sev­eral gen­er­ous scoops of vanilla ice-cream.

Ripe ba­nana sits with thyme as nat­u­rally as straw­ber­ries with thick cream

BA­NANA THYME CAKE WITH LEMON GLAZE

It’s an un­usual flavour com­bi­na­tion, but ripe ba­nana sits with thyme as nat­u­rally as straw­ber­ries with thick cream. If you have any doubts, smell the two side by side – some­thing about the aro­mat­ics of fresh thyme mar­ries per­fectly with ba­nana’s creamy sweet­ness. A zesty glaze brings th­ese two flavours into sharp re­lief in this soft, fra­grant cake.

Serves 6-8

110g un­salted but­ter, soft­ened

125g caster sugar

2 medium ripe ba­nanas, mashed

2 large eggs

Zest of ½ lemon

2-3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

150g plain flour

2 tsp bak­ing pow­der

¼ tsp salt

For the glaze

75g ic­ing sugar

10-15ml lemon juice

Zest of ½ lemon

Fresh thyme leaves, to dec­o­rate

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line a 20cm round spring­form cake tin with bak­ing parch­ment.

2 Cream the but­ter and sugar un­til very soft and fluffy. Stir in the ba­nanas, eggs, lemon zest and thyme. It’s per­fectly nor­mal for it to have cur­dled a lit­tle by this point. Com­bine the flour, bak­ing pow­der and salt in a sep­a­rate bowl, then add to the wet mix­ture, fold­ing un­til just com­bined. Spoon in to the pre­pared tin and bake for 30-35 min­utes, un­til well-risen and springy to the touch. If a small knife in­serted into the cen­tre of the cake comes out more or less clean, it’s ready. Leave to cool com­pletely in its tin.

3 Once the cake has cooled, re­move from the tin and peel away the bak­ing parch­ment. Whisk enough lemon juice into the ic­ing sugar to give a smooth ic­ing that’s loose enough to brush over the sur­face of the cake. Use a pas­try brush to spread the ic­ing over the cake, then scat­ter with the lemon zest and thyme leaves.

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