Almost instant banana bread

Banana bread

I have a real problem with throwing bananas away. I like them when they are already quite spotted, so for me, the line between perfectly ripe and brown and shrivelled is not that big. Added to that are the bananas that travel around in a bag in case of toddler snacking needs and emerge a bit bruised from the experience, but otherwise edible, and there are often bananas that are a bit past it in our house.

When this happens, I like to make them useful, and make banana bread, or banana muffins. Not everyone enjoys the smell of banana cake. It is certainly distinctive. I’ve read that bananas that ripen on the tree smell quite different, and that there are many varieties of banana, with different scents.

I like to think that baking with a very ripe banana recaptures some of those tropical aromas and complexities. For me, it’s a buttery, fruity smell, reminiscent of toast and apricots and flowers.

Banana bread is a quick bread, meaning that it’s not structured the same way as a cake, and is risen with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) rather than eggs or yeast.

Bananas add a lot to a muffin or quick bread mixture. They bring sweetness, allowing you to cut back on the sugar. They help bind things together, removing some of the role that eggs would usually play. They provide a flavour in their own right, and some added liquid for moisture.

As banana bread is a solution to a fruit problem, I like the recipes to be as quick and easy as possible. I have posted on here before about my go-to banana muffin recipe. I have also tried a banana cake recipe, made in muffin cases, which uses dates as the sweetener, and seems to work well for my toddler.

More recently, I’ve been looking at ways to make banana bread in my Thermomix (or food processor), without getting any other dishes dirty, and having some success.

Behind the recipe

This is a cake made much like a muffin, with oil, not too much sugar, and leavened with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). The usual direction for this sort of recipe is to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately, and then combine them together very gently, even leaving in a few lumps so as not to mix too much.

While this will probably give the optimum texture, a great virtue of these recipes is speed and convenience, so if you can apply a little power with a blender or food processor (I use my Thermomix), it makes these even more feasible on a weeknight (or during naptime).

As a quick bread only needs the ingredients mixing briefly together, it’s important to not overmix using the motor. If needs be, stir the last bit together by hand. It also helps to layer the ingredients in. Start with the liquid ingredients on the bottom, including the bananas, and put the dry ingredients on top, finishing with the flour. This way, the flour is the last to be mixed in. You can also leave the flour not quite combined, or with some flour still remaining around the edges, and fold the last bits in while scraping down with a spatula.

There is no need to mash the bananas, as they will just be pureed with the other liquid ingredients at the bottom of the bowl. Pulse the blades of the blender or food processor so that you don’t mix more than you have to. Then scrape down and combine the last bits with a spatula.

Scrape and pour into a lined loaf tin (I use these Lakeland tin liners for extra speed) and bake for anything from 45 minutes to an hour – it should be risen with no wet mixture remaining.

Almost instant banana bread

Banana bread. Hastily made in the Thermomix, not too sweet. Adapted from @smittenkitchen

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s jacked-up banana bread.


  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas (230g peeled weight)
  • 75g sunflower oil
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 200g plain flour

Add the peeled bananas, broken into pieces to the bottom of the processor bowl. On top, add the sugar, oil, egg, vanilla essense and bourbon/rum. Mix the flour, the bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt in a small bowl and add on top of the other ingredients. This helps to make sure the bicarbonate (baking) soda is evenly distributed, and to make sure there are no lumps in it. There may not be time for these to be thoroughly mixed in otherwise, and lumps of bicarbonate of soda taste revolting.

Pulse or mix on a medium speed until just mixed together. Scrape down the sides and mix any remaining flour in by hand. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour at 180C/160C fan. I often use two 1lb loaf tins (as above) and bake for 40-45 minutes.

This will keep, wrapped up, for several days, and freezes really well.

Mini chocolate walnut cookies

There’s something in the air about miniature desserts. Dan Lepard profiled mini-cakes in Sainsbury’s magazine last month. Yotam Ottolenghi wrote a piece for the Guardian‘s weekend food column on miniature financiers, mini cheesecakes, mini cookies. Could the mini-dessert become (gasp) the New Cupcake? (or the new whoopie pie, by now). But foolish food trends aside, there is something quite compelling about demolishing a little cookie or a baby cake, in its entirety.

Mini chocolate walnut cookie on Flickr

Although this might look large, this is an espresso cup and saucer.

It was this that attracted me to Heidi’s Itsy Bitsy chocolate chip cookies when they appeared on her blog. I returned to the recipe recently when I wanted to make some cookies, and only then remembered that I had adapted it to be almost a one-bowl recipe, if you have a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can head over to 101 Cookbooks, and Heidi has great instructions for making this by hand. But I love the simplicity of this method, combined with the cute-factor of the tiny cookies, and the amazing toasted flavour that comes from the walnuts and the crisp edges. These are not chewy chocolate chip cookies – they are crisp little discs, with a nubbly quality from the nuts and chocolate rubble – perhaps invoking a souped-up hobnob? They are flavourful, but not cloying; crisp but not too crumbly or greasy – ideal cookie jar-cookies in other words.

Mini chocolate walnut cookies:

(adapted from 101 Cookbooks’ Itsy Bitsy Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Preheat the oven to 180°C /160°C fan / 350°F.

  • 140g dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks cooking chocolate, 72%, but something sweeter would also work)
  • 70g walnuts

–> Break the chocolate into pieces, add the walnuts and process to rubble in a food processor.

  • 140g wholewheat self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

–> Add to processor with the nuts and process again to mix everything together, and grind the chocolate and nuts a little finer.

–> Empty the processor contents into a separate bowl (you’ll add them back later).  Add to this bowl:

  • 110g rolled oats

–> Add to the empty processor:

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 120g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 120g caster sugar

–> Process together until fairly smooth and creamy. Add

  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla

–> and process again until smooth, scraping down the sides to make sure it is combined fairly evenly.

–> Return the chocolate, nuts and flour to the processor.

–> Process fairly briefly to mix everything together – you don’t want to overmix, or the gluten will start to develop and the cookies will get tough. Scrape down with a spatula to make sure there are no more floury patches.

Either refrigerate (for up to two days) or use immediately. Scoop off teaspoons of mixture, roll into a small ball, less than an inch across, flatten a little with a fork and bake at 180C/160C fan for 10-12 minutes, until slightly cracked around the edge and crisp. They will crisp up further as they cool.

[Refrigerating chocolate chip cookie dough is a NY Times recipe trick, attributed to Maury Rubin of City Bakery, and it does seem to develop a bit of extra flavour, but these are fine without it as well.]