This is something of a departure for me: baking without the traditional ingredients. I have recently been accumulating cookery books with a “healthier” slant that are aimed at replacing potential allergens or using alternatives to animal and hydrogenated fats and refined or high GI sweeteners.
I like to use natural ingredients that have undergone as few processes as possible and food that is in season. That said, I do get through a lot of white flour, refined sugar, dairy products and baking margarine. I don’t have an allergy to wheat, gluten or dairy so I don’t have to avoid it, but I know there are a lot of people who do.
I like to eat healthily but also believe that as long as you are eating it in moderation, home baked sweet food is fine. I don’t buy packaged cakes or desserts and I try to use spelt flour, brown sugar, honey, olive oil, and non-hydrogenated margarine, etc whenever possible.
One of the problems I have with the “healthier” alternatives is that there is often disagreement, which can change from time to time, as to whether or not they are better than something they are replacing. Agave syrup, depending on who you ask, is either a miracle sweetener or just as bad as white sugar. Mine said it had a low GI, which I think makes it better. I have been buying it for years, believing it to be healthier but then discovered that Gwyneth Paltrow tells you to avoid it…
And then there is the cost of the alternatives. I think you pretty much need Gwyneth’s money to use some of the alternatives on a regular basis. My friend brought me some coconut butter which I used in this recipe but at around £9 for 200g it is not cheap: you could buy at least 3 or 4 kilos of butter or margarine for that. But at least the ingredients are now widely available.
This banana loaf is just as delicious as a regular banana loaf. In the past recipes using healthier alternatives have often been accused of lacking in taste but this really isn’t the case.
If you are looking to eat more healthily or have any allergy issues, this is a good place to start. I have adapted this recipe from the Babycakes recipe book by Erin McKenna. I used wheat flour but you could use spelt flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, or plain white gluten-free flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum instead.
300g SR flour or alternatives as above
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
125ml coconut oil
150ml agave nectar
150ml rice milk or other non dairy milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 large ripe bananas, mashed
Set the oven to 170ºC and grease a loaf tin with oil.
Put the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix to combine.
Add the oil, agave nectar, milk and vanilla extract and stir until smooth.
Fold in the mashed bananas until they are well distributed.
Pour into the tin. If you think you have too much mixture you can always make a few muffins as well and they make good testers!
Bake for around 35 minutes or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Leave the Banana Loaf in the tin for at least 20 minutes before turning out.