I'm on record as favouring my bananas on the crunchy side. The less green and more brown they get, the more they veer into Tallboy's territory. So it was an easy decision on my part (at the behest of the boys from Bath) to take the last three spotty brown bananas in the fruit bowl and use them to make some banana bread.
This morning the postman knocked on the door and handed over a soggy padded envelope containing a bottle of something which had leaked all over the place, and an amazing Amazon package which contained a new book which had not leaked at all. This lack of leaking is only one of the many things to recommend this freshly-published book, "The Bread Revolution" by Duncan Glendinning and Patrick Ryan (the chirpy chappies from The Big Bread Experiment which aired last year).
The book is packed with photos, some to give context, some a bit of atmos, some for guidance and some just for the hell of it. I particularly liked the beardnet and the duck with a halo - my favourite image of all was the shot of the well-used loaf tins on the rack at the beginning. Despite all the pictures, the pages don't feel too busy and the recipes are well set out with plenty of thought put into their presentation; I couldn't find a point where you'd need to turn the page while you were in the middle of a recipe apart from the particularly detailed everyday white loaf walkthrough. The style of writing is accessible and clear, and quantities are given in a variety of formats. Where yeast is an ingredient, quantities are given for both fresh and dried (it's always been a bugbear of mine where only one type is given - if you're not a confident baker you can feel precluded from trying something if you don't have the right type and aren't sure how to convert).
One of the helpful things the thoughtful bakers have done is to reassure you at various points about the texture of the dough or about what's happening, which is so useful when you'd otherwise be staring down at the bowl in front of you and wondering "should it look like that?" or "should it be doing that?". There are also asides about how you could make changes. I liked the way that they've paired up many of their bread recipes with a meal recipe on the next page, so that you're not making your bread in isolation but can pair it with their suggestions or be inspired to come up with something yourself. They've also given signposts to suppliers (most of which are my faves too), talk about tools and discuss the delights of foraging. This is very much a book about real bread by people who care about it, but it's also not just a book about real bread.
So, banana bread. Well you've got to make something when you get a new cookery book, and I'd been eyeing the daily enbrownment of those bananas with despair for a little while, so it was an easy choice.
I'm also on record as saying I never make changes to a recipe I'm doing for the first time. Except sometimes I need to. Like today. In fact, this is possibly the most non-following following a recipe I have ever done.
For a start, I needed four squishy bananas. There were three in the fruit bowl. I nipped over to see if the Brazil Nut had any lurking in hers. "What, dark squishy ones? Yeah, I had a few. No one would eat them. I chucked them out last night..." OK, what would take the place of a squishy banana? How about the squishy pear which was the only other inhabitant of the fruit bowl? Go on, then. Ah, no pecans. No walnuts, either. OK well how about we go for a full-on squish experience and soak some sultanas in orange juice for a bit - who needs crunchy bits?
Plain white flour? Nah, I reckon I'll use my precious Fattoria La Vialla wholemeal - the mashed fruit looked pretty wet, and wholemeal can cope with a bit more moisture. Golden caster sugar? Nah, I'll just use the normal stuff in my jar with the vanilla pods stuck into it. Milk? I've only got soya milk, that will have to do. Two 1lb loaf tins? I haven't even got one 1lb-er. I'll stick it in a 2lb-er and bake it a bit longer then...
I mixed up my ingredient approximations as directed in the recipe, making a sticky cookie dough-like mess, then added my mashed nanas n pear. Oh, and the drained sultanas. This turned it into a much more recognisable cake mixture consistency which I shovelled into the liner in my tin and bunged in the oven, marvelling at how quickly it heats up when you're needing cake temperature compared to bread temperature.
I gave it 20 minutes longer than directed and left it to cool on a rack while the most delicious scent filled the house. "That smells nice," is what Tallboy's mouth said, while his eyes intimated an immediate and frenzied consumption of the whole thing.
The end result is delish - moist, banana-y and decidedly more-ish. I'm going to have another slice while I leaf through the book again...