17 Ways To Pimp Banana Bread

Everyone’s gone mad for banana bread – according to Google Trends, online searches for recipes have soared by 84% in the UK, and 54% worldwide since lockdown began. If you’re looking for ways to jazz up your next bake, here’s what the professionals advise…

Rupert Willday, Charlie Bigham's 

“Banana bread is a classic bake and its simple recipe makes it a good one for experimenting with. Instead of a traditional loaf tray you could use large muffin cases and top each dollop of mixture with cinnamon sugar, which will give them a deliciously crunchy topping. Banana bread crumbles are another recipe reinvention; fill small ovenproof dishes with your mixture, top with your favourite crushed nuts, a biscuit and a knob of butter before baking. When the crumbles come out of the oven, serve warm with ice-cream. You could also swap out regular butter for a crunchy peanut butter, as the blend of salty-sweet flavours contrast well. Sticking with spreads, you could swirl in 2-3 tbsp of your favourite chocolate, hazelnut or caramel spread through the mixture as these flavours all complement the sweetness of overripe bananas.” 

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Alexandra Dudley, Come For Supper

“There are few smells as inviting as the smell of a banana loaf rising in the oven and as cakes go it’s certainly one of the more virtuous ones. Keep yours on the wholesome side by not adding sugar and using a good quality dark chocolate – 70% or higher. Guittard or Valrhona are best. Also, use olive oil over butter, not so much as a ‘healthier option’ but because the combination of olive oil and chocolate is delicious. Go for a light olive oil (save your best cold-pressed bottles for dressings) – you’re after a subtle flavour not a peppery one, and more than anything the olive oil adds a wonderful moistness to the cake. In my book, the best banana breads are slightly squidgy in the centre.”

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Alex Head, Social Pantry

“For the ultimate morning pick-me-up, slather espresso butter on banana bread. This makes a delicious indulgent weekend brunch or afternoon treat. To make the butter, mix two espresso shots, 2 tbsp of icing sugar and 125g of soft butter until smooth. Add more coffee and sugar to taste. Serve alongside the banana bread and a cuppa.”

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Alex Claridge, The Wilderness

“Pimp up your banana bread with miso chocolate frosting. Melt 100g of chocolate in a microwavable bowl stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Add 2 tbsp of miso to the melted chocolate. Mash 200g of butter and 400g of icing sugar together, then whip with an electric beater or wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Add 5 tbsp of cocoa powder, then the melted chocolate mixture and mix together. Spread it over the top of the banana bread or slice the loaf and use like butter.

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James Cochran, 12:51 

“I like to top mine with rum syrup. Make the syrup by combining 2 cups of dark rum and 4 cups of sugar and bring to boil. Add a cinnamon stick and let it infuse overnight. Once your banana bread is baked, prick holes across the top with skewer. Pour the rum syrup onto the banana bread and let it soak in. Enjoy in a few hours, when it’s sticky and boozy.”

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Mary-Jane Paterson, Rhubarb Rhubarb

“For the ultimate banana bread topping, add 1 tbsp of crunchy demerara sugar mixed with 1 tsp of cinnamon and sprinkle it on top of the mixture before baking for 45 minutes. It should rise well, still have a crunchy topping and taste like banana heaven.”

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Heather Kaniuk, Smart Patisserie

“This is a lovely lightly spiced vegan banana loaf which is moist and not too heavy – and perfect if you can’t find eggs. The oats on top add fibre and a crunchy texture, but you could use nuts or seeds instead. Preheat your oven to 165°C. In a bowl, mix together 350g of rapeseed oil and 420g of sugar until blended. Add three mashed bananas and mix. Next, add 420g of flour, 1 ½ tsp of baking powder, and ½ tsp of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into a greased and lined loaf tin and sprinkle the top with ¼ cup of oats. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, ensuring a skewer comes out clean.”

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Cesar Fernandez, Miele

“The best thing about banana bread is that it is one of the easiest recipes to make at home. The cooking method couldn’t be easier, simply combine together wet ingredients on one side, dried ingredients on another and mix together at the end. The bananas need to be quite ripe, ideally completely dark. Never use under-ripe bananas as they will be impossible to mix into the cake batter. Mash them gently but not too much, having some chunks in a banana bread provides both texture and flavour to the final baked banana bread. Any type of flour would work, from plain to wholemeal, spelt, rye or oat flour. If the recipe calls for baking powder or bicarbonate of soda and you don’t have any at home, the best way to bring some lightness and fluffiness into the batter is by separating the eggs yolks and the whites, whisking the egg whites separately and adding them into batter right at the end of the recipe. Melted butter, coconut oil or vegetable oil are interchangeable. Do not use olive oil or rapeseed oil as they will overpower the flavour of your cake. Try mixing pumpkin seeds, oats, sesame seeds and a little sugar and sprinkling that on top of the cake before baking to add texture. Chocolate or unsweetened coconut are also options but can overpower the flavour of the cake in general.”

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Tarek Malouf, The Hummingbird Bakery

“Having shared our banana loaf recipe with home bakers on social media, there are  various ways people are jazzing up their loaves: adding chocolate chips, chopped walnuts and even Oreo cookie pieces, as well as spreading it with dulce de leche. Try whipping butter with icing sugar and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon (add both to taste) to create cinnamon butter – delicious served on a warm slice straight from the oven.”

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Manon Lagréve, Great British Bake Off

“Mix 125g of butter and 100g of sugar together. Add two eggs and 3 tbsp of Canadian maple syrup and mix again. In a separate bowl, add 1 tsp of baking powder to 175g of flour and mix together before adding to the rest of the mixture. Mash two bananas together with a fork in a bowl then add to the batter and give it a final mix. Line a loaf tin with butter and grease proof paper then add mixture, using your spatula to smooth the batter into all corners. Poke some leftover Mini Eggs into the banana bread batter. Cut a final banana in two and sit on top of the banana bread. Bake in a preheated fan oven at 180°C degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and add any extra chocolate on top for decoration.”

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Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery

“When it comes to storage, banana bread can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to two days. For longer storage, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, place in an airtight container, and freeze for up to three weeks. To use the frozen banana bread, remove it from the airtight container and transfer it to the refrigerator (still in the plastic wrap) to thaw for at least three hours or overnight, until the banana bread is soft again.”

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Justine Murphy, Mymuybueno

"You only need mega-ripe bananas and cupboard ingredients to make banana bread, so it’s really perfect for right now. Throwing peanut butter and/or chocolate chips into the mix is a really great addition to make it even more addictive. Banana bread is great on its own or slathered with peanut butter and strawberry conserve for a really wonderful treat.”

Visit MymuybuenoPrivateChefs.com

Niki Webster, Rebel Recipes

“Banana cake is a classic for a reason – it’s one of the best ways to use up sweet overripe bananas with their incredible natural sugars. But as a little extra, add caramelised bananas to the top of the cake. To make the caramelised bananas, add 90g of coconut oil to a small pan and melt the oil. Add 75g of maple syrup and slices of banana and fry in the oil in one side then flip over to caramelise the other side. Set aside. Top the batter with the caramelised bananas, then cook as usual.”

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Ben Tish, The Stafford London

“You could try making banana bread by adding used coffee ground to the cake mix, substituting some of the flour. It's a winner, it adds moisture and lends a subtle coffee flavour that works excellently with the banana. You can add a coffee-flavoured whipped cream into the centre of the loaf too..”

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Holly Thomson, Souschef

“Adding a grating of tonka beans into the mix brings a more complex tropical vanilla-coconut flavour. Edible rose petals are a beautiful way to decorate a simple cake – just drizzle your loaf in white icing, and top with a line of pink petals for dramatic effect. Or leave the loaf plain, and serve it warm with pure Sicilian pistachio paste, or hazelnut spread – a lovely update to classic chocolate spread.” 

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Adam Handling, The Frog

“Spreading chicken butter, which we serve at the restaurant, on banana bread makes it really delicious. To make it at home, blend together 120g of soft butter with 5g of seaweed salt and 100g of dried crisp chicken skins. To make the skins, set the oven to 180°C degrees, lay two skins from large chicken thighs skin-side down and scrape off any fat or meat with a sharp knife. Stretch the skins out flat on a greaseproof-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of flaked sea salt. Lay a second baking sheet covered with greaseproof paper, paper side down, on top of the skins. Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they’re golden and crisp. Let them cool before adding to the butter.”

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Paul Bough, Staub

“Cooking banana bread in a cocotte works really well, as the even heat distribution of the cast iron helps to get a really even bake. Try slices of dried banana added to the top for a crunchy texture or add dried fruits like apricot and sultanas – both which go well with banana – to the mix.”

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