I must admit to being a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to baking. Baking, as we now know, is not my forte and it is only with practice that I have even come to like it, let alone produce edible things. I rarely ever stray from the tried and the tested – even though lately I have started to find myself in the grip of inspiration gawking at pictures of delicate macaroons, eclairs or non-bake desserts such as panna cotta. Nevertheless, when it comes to desserts it is hard from me to depart from strict guidelines of recipes and let my imagination run wild for fear of spoiling the result completely. I am now quite good at tweaking my favourite easy recipes and still I would not dare to create something completely from scratch. Let’s face it, I’m no Nigella.Another area where my narrow mindedness as a baker truly shows is ingredients, namely those for ‘special diets’. Flour comes from wheat and that’s that. The occasional polenta cake is called that for a reason. Well, that’s all changed since I moved to Liverpool and started living with my lovely housemate Gemma, who is wheat intolerant and does her baking with spelt flour. Gemma claims that wheat can be substituted with spelt in any recipe, and I am intrigued.
Before I venture on the thin ice of bread baking, I wanted to give spelt flour a trial run on something that will not go wrong no matter how hard you try. Banana bread. There is undoubtedly something satisfying about a loaf that can be whipped up in 20 minutes and even several days later keeps as moist and rich as it did on day one. Furthermore, the basic recipe practically screams for tweaking, and the options are almost endless: cocoa powder and chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, honey, coconut, vanilla essence, mixed spices, poppy seeds… The list could go on forever. What I wish to share with you today is my ultimate recipe for banana bread: chocolatey, full of juicy rum raisins and sharp crystallised ginger – feel free to tweak it as you wish. I have used spelt flour found it to no adverse effect on the flavour or texture whatsoever. So, to conclude, be very afraid, I plan to be a very adventurous baker from now on!
Spelt and Ginger Banana Bread (23cm loaf)
2 shots of rum
150g spelt flour
25g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
150g caster sugar
4 bananas, the browner the better
100g chopped crystallised ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
First make your boozy raisins: bring the rum and raisins to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to steep for about an hour or until the raisins have absorbed the rum, then drain.
Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a loaf tin or line it with baking parchment and get started on the dry ingredients. In a bowl that will accommodate the flour combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt. In a larger bowl cream the butter and sugar until light yellow and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the mashed bananas and make sure everything is combined well. Finally add the vanilla extract, drained raisins and chopped ginger. Then gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing well all the time to eliminate lumps.
Transfer to your loaf tin and bake on the middle shelf for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. When it’s done a skewer will come out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack before you get stuck in.