Monday, 18 February 2013

Banana and walnut loaf with salted caramel topping

Busy people (especially mums) may come across this blog and wonder how 'a busy full-time mum of two... blah...blah' has time to fit baking, photography, and blogging into a day that is filled with appeasing a tantruming 2 1/2 year old and consoling an upset, teething 6 month old. The answer is (in case anyone is wondering that, maybe you're not) that it is INCREDIBLY HARD!! To all mums out there who think "I wish I could fit in making a cake into my day, she must have it easy" or who struggles to open a jar of Lloyd Grossman's best, let alone make a homemade pasta sauce - I DO UNDERSTAND! I feel your pain as I struggle too. That is what this blog is about!

So why do I do it to myself? I do it because it keeps me sane. I have to do it. Don't get me wrong, I love looking after my children. But it is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. Before kids, I was a massive self-pleaser (if you know what I mean!). Having one was hard work, but having a second child has blown my mind. How do people with 3 (or 4? 5??) children do it? Geeeeez.

Anyway, I just wanted to respond to anyone who gets annoyed with this blog, and thinks that I am some type of smug domestic goddess. It's not about that. It's about me hopefully inspiring one or two mums (or dads - or singletons for that matter) out there to make something from scratch that is fairly easy and will turn out well. Not every day (you don't have to be a sadist like me). But maybe just at the weekend. Or maybe just once in a blue moon. That's OK too.

So, this cake is the thing that kept me sane today. It was a high point. The low point was having actual poo smeared on my face after the Toddler had an accident of the number 2 variety. He is on 5th - and final - potty training attempt.

Anyway, it's an adaptation from a Skye Gyngell banana bread recipe, married with a fabulous Lorraine Pascal recipe for salted caramel sauce. It so works. It makes me happy. I hope it makes you happy too!

You'll need a 20 x 10 cm loaf tin. Grease it with butter and line the bottom with greaseproof or baking paper. Preheat oven to 190 C.

125 g butter, softened
250 g plain flour
2 ripe bananas
50 g of walnuts, chopped roughly, (plus 6 or 7 more for the topping)
300 g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
125 ml of whole milk
Generous sprinkling of light brown sugar

For the salted caramel topping:
100 g butter
85 g light brown sugar
85 ml double cream
1 1/2 tablespoons of golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Mash your bananas with a fork. Beat the butter (softened) and sugar together with an electric whisk. Then incorporate the 2 eggs, one at a time. Add your mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Sift (yes I actually did sift!) the flour, bicarb, salt and cinnamon into your mix, folding with a metal spoon as you go. Then fold in your milk, again, gradually. Tip the tasty batter into your loaf tin and sprinkle the top very generously with brown sugar. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes before loosening with a knife and then letting it cool on a cooling rack. Wait till it's cool to top with the caramel sauce. Or just have it like this...

To make the topping, melt the butter, syrup and sugar together over a medium heat, stirring to melt the sugar granules. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cream and then the salt. Stir well and warm through. Then let it cool, stirring occasionally so it doesn't form a thick skin. It thickens as it cools so it is better to wait for 1/2 hour before pouring it on the cake. To 'ice' the cake, simply pour over and then decorate with walnut halves. It forms a pool around the cake but that is no matter, I think it looks nice.

As you can see from the photo, it makes more than is required, so you could just let the cake sit in a puddle of sauce (no bad thing), or just pour on as much as you require and save the rest in the fridge, either to serve with the cake or to have with ice cream. It's also good as a dunking sauce for fruit!

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