The slip­pery the ba­nana the bet­ter

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BA­NANAS are quite lit­er­ally slip­pery things. Peo­ple tend to have very dis­tinct pref­er­ences re­gard­ing their ripeness, ei­ther pre­fer­ring them prop­erly ripe or slightly green. Of course for the muchloved ba­nana bread, a sta­ple of the South African bak­ing reper­toire, the riper the ba­nana, the bet­ter.

That does not mean that one can­not make them with slightly less ripe ba­nanas, but riper ones mash just so much eas­ier and have that heady smell of rich, ripe fruit. In any event, it is pos­si­ble to pop over-ripe ba­nanas into the deep­freeze, skin and all, for when next you plan to bake a loaf.

Ba­nanas may well have been the first fruit cul­ti­vated by man: wild plants that pro­duced pre­dom­i­nantly ined­i­ble fruit (in their un­cooked state) had to be crossed with an­other va­ri­ety to cre­ate a ster­ile plant that pro­duces dessert ba­nanas as we know them to­day. His­tory tells us that it was Alexan­der the Great that brought ba­nanas to the west from the In­dian Set oven to 180 C. Sift to­gether: 2 cups cake flour ¾ cup nor­mal white sugar ¾ tea­spoon bi­car­bon­ate of soda ½ tea­spoon salt Mash 3 to 4 ba­nanas with a potato masher

Mix in ¼ cup plain yo­ghurt, 2 large eggs, 6 ta­ble­spoons (90g) melted and slightly cooled but­ter, and 1 tea­spoon vanilla val­leys in 327 BC, and that they were only in­tro­duced to Africa by Is­lamic con­querors through Mada­gas­car around 650 AD.

The word ba­nana is said to be cred­ited to the Ara­bic word for fin­gers — banan — and to­day there are nu­mer­ous prod­ucts made from it; even a flour which I have not yet used, but which sounds in­trigu­ing as a pos­si­bil­ity to sub­sti­tute the nor­mal flour in a ba­nana bread. ex­tract.

Mix very lightly into the dry in­gre­di­ents, even if there are slight traces of flour left. Spoon into two small bread tins (only greased at the bot­tom — this helps the bread cling to the sides while ris­ing) and bake for 45 min­utes to an hour. Most ba­nana breads ben­e­fit from be­ing kept in an air­tight con­tainer for a day or two, dur­ing which time the flavour intensifies and im­proves.

Highly af­ford­able in our coun­try, we still do not beat coun­tries in the East African high­lands, such as Uganda, Bu­rundi and Rwanda, where the per capita con­sump­tion is around 45kg.

Ba­nana breads or loaves are clas­si­fied among those easy-tomake breads that use bak­ing pow­der or bi­car­bon­ate of soda as a rais­ing agent, whereas nor­mal bread proves from a fer­men­ta­tion process. Ba­nana bread — like rusks — sits com­fort­ably in that “not quite cake and not quite bread” space that South Africans like so much.

Also re­ferred to as tea breads, ba­nana bread and its cousins such as gin­ger bread, date loaves and Bos­ton tea loaves are ex­cel­lently suited to a spread of thick but­ter and a cup of strong tea. Most of these are made by first cream­ing the sugar and but­ter to­gether, then adding the eggs and lastly the dry in­gre­di­ents.

This recipe by EG Cramp­ton uses yo­ghurt as the acidic cat­a­lyst nec­es­sary to get the bi­car­bon­ate of soda to do its leav­en­ing job. She says that one can add 1¼ cup of wal­nuts to the mix, but I find that too Amer­i­can a vari­a­tion and have made it with­out; rather add an ex­tra ba­nana if like me you love ba­nana bread with a re­ally force­ful ba­nana flavour.

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