I'm not the world's biggest banana fan and don't usually eat them as-is - about the only time I enjoy them is if I do a running event (which I do every once in a while) and they give them out at the finish line. It's almost as if they transform into something spectacular when you're parched and exhausted (I'm sure all you banana fans will tell me how ridiculous I am in the comments, right?) but normally I don't like them - I think it's mainly the texture that gets me. Mr Cake loves them though, and we always have some in the fruit bowl. He prefers his on the green side, though, and it's pretty common that by the time he gets to the last one it'll be a bit too ripe. So I have been putting over-ripe bananas in the freezer for a while; just chucking them in. This week I realised it was getting ridiculous when I gathered them up and counted seven - obviously the signs were all pointing to a batch of banana coconut loaf. What else? ;-)
I love this recipe because a) it's so easy (you might notice a theme with all my favourites - I can appreciate that spending hours toiling over a beautiful Opera cake yields spectacular results, but for everyday baking it's got to be simple else I'll never make it off the sofa!) and b) it tastes fantastic. Instead of any dairy products it uses coconut milk (you can use normal milk and some extra vanilla (to boost the flavour) if you prefer), and though it's not vegan due to the eggs it's useful if you have lactose/dairy intolerances. The coconut gives it not only flavour but keeps it beautifully moist.
I think it's optimal to use fresh bananas - I don't think it tastes as good with my frozen-and-defrosted ones (though it is definitely still good, so a good way of avoiding waste) and it is best if they are a bit on the ripe side - the riper they are the sweeter it will end up, so if they're really ripe you could put a couple of tablespoons less sugar in the mixture (or just have it sweet!).
So where does the flavour go when you freeze them? Well, I don't have much experience with freezing bananas so I just hauled them out of the freezer yesterday morning, and dumped them in a pile on the bench. I even took a couple of pseudo-arty photos when I walked past 10 minutes later and they had condensated and frosted over. But when I came home from work...
Ewww! Worse; the camera was actually in the puddle, as I had just sat it on the bench after using it. Fortunately it just needed a quick wipe down. But I am guessing all the mess was probably half the flavour. :-(
Seven bananas (sans liquidy stuff) made two cups of mush, just enough to make a double batch - so plenty for my ravenous colleagues. Technically each batch takes a cup of coconut milk but I used one can and topped up with milk for the last 100ml, since it didn't seem worth opening another can.
There is pretty much no stage of this process that looks even remotely pretty; I'll try to choose something with a more attractive mixture next time! ;-) Don't you think the photo of the finished mixture (above right) bears a striking resemblance to a sloppy mushroom risotto?
It's a pretty generous mixture - well and truly fills a loaf tin - but doesn't rise very much, so don't panic, it won't overflow! I like to sprinkle threaded coconut on top before baking, so that it toasts and gets all crispy and delicious. If you do this it becomes more important that you bake it at a low temperature.
I baked my loaves for almost an hour and a half last night - I set the oven to about 150 C, so that the coconut wouldn't get too dark, and I think the freezing made the bananas less fibrous as well and that made it take longer than usual. I recommend even more than usual checking regularly to see if it's cooked, since the ripeness of your bananas can affect the texture of the mixture, so it could be very variable.
I was pleased with these - they were moist and delicious - but as I mentioned earlier they weren't quite as flavoursome as earlier batches I've made with fresh bananas. You might notice that when I put them in the box to take to work one already had a slice taken off it - that's because Mr Cake was highly disappointed that I was going to go and feed the lot to my colleagues, so I gave him a consolation slice. We left for work together at 8.15am and apparently he managed to hold out until 9am before scarfing it down!
Banana Coconut Bread (makes two loaves)
1½ cups flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup coconut milk (can substitute milk and an extra tsp vanilla)
1 tsp vanilla extract
(optional) threaded coconut to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 150°C. Lightly grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine flour, coconut and sugar.
In another large bowl or jug, whisk together banana, coconut milk, egg and vanilla. Add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle threaded coconut over the top if desired. Bake for 55-80 minutes until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.