I don't really do New Years resolutions and definitely don't buy in to the whole dieting and getting fit in January thing, because quite frankly (for me at least) it is doomed to fail. January is the worst possible month to give up hearty comfort food and force yourself out into the cold to exercise...I simply try to keep up a good level of exercise and healthy eating throughout the year. Having said that, I have been craving a lot of soups and vegetables recently so clearly my body is in need of some healthier food after indulging over Christmas...so I have resolved to try and bake things over the next few weeks that contain healthy ingredients and are a bit lower in fat and sugar.
I was really craving some banana bread, but it being winter, the bananas I bought hoping they would blacken in a few days as they do in summer remained stubbornly yellow and I was getting impatient...I had a look online for tips as to how to get them to ripen faster and came across several people recommending that you bake them in a low oven for half an hour or so until the skins turn black and the insides soften, apparently this renders them perfectly sweet and mushy for banana bread. I was intrigued and had to give it a go, and it worked! You just line a baking tray with parchment paper and bake the bananas at 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 for about half an hour until they turn black (black bananas are really freaky looking!), then let them cool for about half an hour before using. It makes sense really, if you have ever tried barbecued bananas it is fairly similar. It will only work on yellow bananas though, not green ones.
Although plain banana bread is pretty unbeatable, I decided to have a bit of a play around with flavours and try something different, and what better flavour combination is there than banana, chocolate and peanut butter? I decided to create a marbled banana bread loaf, with one half flavoured with smooth peanut butter and the other with cocoa powder, the result is pretty darn delicious, you can taste all of the separate flavours but they also meld together beautifully, the top of the loaf is crunchy and the centre soft and moist and the smell while it was baking was phenomenal!
I used part plain white flour and part wholemeal spelt flour to make it a little healthier and although this loaf can't really be regarded as a health food as it still contains sugar and butter, it does contain good-for-you ingredients in the form of bananas, peanut butter and spelt flour and is certainly a healthier choice than many other cakes. I toyed with the idea of adding chocolate chips and cinnamon but decided in the end to keep things simple, I do however believe that a handful of chocolate chips added to the chocolate batter, and half a teaspoon of cinnamon to the peanut, would taste amazing.
(Please note: although I have provided a conversion from grams to US cup measurements I cannot guarantee the accuracy as I do not bake using cups, I thoroughly recommend investing in a digital metric scale, it is far more accurate.)
- 125g (½ cup + 1tsp) butter
- 150g (¾ cup + 2tbsp) light brown soft sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 large overripe bananas, mashed (about 350g (12 + ⅓ oz) peeled weight)
- 175g (1 + ½ cups) plain flour
- 100g (¾ cup + 1tbsp) wholemeal spelt/plain wholemeal flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 100g (3.5 oz/5 slightly heaped tbsp) smooth peanut butter, divided
- 2tbsp cocoa powder
- 4tbsp milk
Line a 2lb (approx 4.5x8 inches) loaf tin with greaseproof paper, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Gently melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly. Whisk the eggs and sugar together then mix in the mashed bananas and 60g (3tbsp) of the peanut butter.
Whisk together the flours and baking powder in a separate bowl then stir into the wet ingredients along with the melted butter.
Transfer half of the batter into a separate bowl. Sift the cocoa powder into one half and mix in along with 2tbsp of the milk. Mix the remaining 40g (2tbsp) of peanut butter and 2tbsp milk into the other half.
Dollop alternating blobs of batter into the lined loaf tin until you have used all of the mixture, drag a skewer or knife blade through the batter a few times to marble it then bake in the centre of the preheated oven for an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half until a skewer inserted to the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cover with foil if the loaf starts to brown too quickly.
Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack before slicing.