Friday, March 9, 2012

Get Down With the Brown (Ale Banana Bread)

Is there a better time for banking than a grey, wet Sunday afternoon? Autumn has hit like clockwork. The last weekend of February was spent sitting on a beach with temperatures in the high 30’s. The rain hit almost as soon as the pages of the calendar were flipped over to March 1st.

Summer is all about barbecuing, cooking outdoors and it’s not conducive to baking. No one wants the oven on when the whole house already feels like an oven. Autumn is perfect to get back into baking mode. When it’s wet and windy out, there is nothing like filling your house with the delicious aroma of something baking to send those change-of-season blues away.

A couple of weeks ago the Brooklyn Brewery tweeted a link to this recipe for Brown Ale Banana Bread. It caught my interest. I’ve made banana bread (and muffins too) with beer before quite a few times. In the past I’ve always used a hefeweizen. With the banana and clove flavours you find in a hef it seems like the perfect beer for banana bread, and it always comes up a treat. This recipe grabbed by interest, however, because I really love brown ales. They have lovely caramel, coffee flavours and I could see how that would work in banana bread.

So, the first weekend of Autumn and the planets all aligned. We just happened to have four over ripe bananas in our fruit bowl, waiting to be baked with. We had also done a bit of a brewery tour the day before, which included Mornington Penninsula Brewery where I managed to get the last bottle of their very good brown ale. Sunday was cool and dreary and absolutely perfect for baking. 

I did make a couple of adjustments to the original recipe, as I didn’t have the exact ingredients and wanted to add a couple of things, but it still turned out to be a fairly delicious loaf of banana bread.

How come you taste so good…

1 3/4 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter, margarine or oil
180ml (about half a bottle) Brown Ale
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2cup walnuts

I added half a cup of walnut pieces. I love walnuts in pretty much anything, but especially in banana bread. (Added bonus - they’re good for you too.) I also added half a teaspoon of mixed spice, probably out of habit. We didn’t have any normal sugar, so I used brown – seemed fitting. I also only had wholemeal flour, and no butter, so used margarine. The way I see it, this is practically a health food. 

 …just like a banana bread should.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celcius. Prepare a loaf tin by lining with baking paper.

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking power and soda, salt, spice, walnuts) together in a large bowl.

I had three medium bananas and one smallish one. So, I mashed the three medium and sliced the small one into 'coins'.

Add the other wet ingredients - eggs, melted margarine, beer - to the mashed banana and mix. Then, add the wet to the dry and fold through until combined. Try not to over mix, but make sure you don't have any hidden pockets of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, and place the banana 'coins' on top. Bake for 45 - 50 mins. Do the skewer test to make sure it has cooked through. 

 I was pretty surprised at how light and fluffy this turned out, considering I used wholemeal flour and sticky brown sugar. I expected it to be much denser. Its also very moist, but not overly sweet. The flavor of the beer is not strong, there is  a subtle  caramel taste and perhaps some yeastiness. It definitely is more brown in appearance than any other banana bread that I’ve baked.

I haven’t actually had any of this with beer yet. It would probably pair pretty well with more brown ale or a porter. Anything a bit darker with those nice coffee/caramel flavours.

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