Christmas and New Year celebrations are now a distant memory, but with many chocolate gifts piled up waiting to be eaten, and a still expanding waist-line, I feel the need to try and move away from cream and sugar at least for a little while.
Like many cooks, bakers and food-interested people out there, I received a new recipe book for Christmas from a very good friend of mine. Actually, I rarely get cook books given to me these days, not because I have so many that people are worried about duplication, but because being gluten free, friends want to avoid publications which are not diet-friendly. Although I absolutely understand their worry and really appreciate their sensitivity, I sometimes feel that (if I didn’t go out and buy them myself) I would miss out on so many fantastic recipes and ideas found in traditional ‘all-diet’ recipe books. I love the challenge of finding a dish that looks and sounds totally delicious, but is made with gluten-containing ingredients and trying to work out the best way to make a gluten free alternative.
The recipe book that was given to me is aptly titled ‘500 gluten-free recipes’ and is authored by Carol Beckerman and Deb Wheaton. It contains some really interesting recipes and inspiring ideas from savoury to sweet, meals to snacks and extremely healthy to cream topped puds. One of the things I like about the book is that it gives you a base recipe and then suggests a number of variations of ingredients to get you thinking creatively about the infinite possibilities of the dish and your own larder!
With so many new and exciting recipes to explore, and spurred on by my foray last month into the larder-exposing Random Recipe Challenge hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, I have decided to jump in feet first with my first cooking Random Recipe challenge, which this month is themed ‘new year, new book’.
The challenge (the randomness of which feels slightly daunting) is to grab one of your new Christmas cook books, allow it to fall open wherever it so chooses and make the recipe that your book has picked for you. Where did it take me?……….. Page 136……… ‘variations on banana, date and walnut bread’.
I chose banana, apple and ginger bread from the four options listed and flipped back a few pages to the associated base recipe. As instructed, I have followed the recipe as written, although chose to make a few very minor alterations to fit in with my available ingredients and to add additional moisture (as half way through making I was fearful of ending up with a disaster).
The recipe listed the need to use ‘dried apples’, which I took to mean the usual, slightly chewy variety that you find packaged in the supermarket. As I only had freeze-dried apples available, I have used these but reduced the quantity stated to allow for their weightlessness and tendency to absorb liquid. Because the mixture felt a little dry, I also doubled the quantity of buttermilk suggested, and for flavour and texture I added a dash of vanilla extract and some walnuts (which were listed in the base recipe). Strangely, the book’s introductory blurb for the dish states that there is honey in the recipe, yet none appeared to be listed in the ingredients. As I love the flavour and goodness of honey and figured that it would add a little extra moistness to the bake, I threw in a couple of tablespoons for good measure.
The end result? Delicious……….. Very moist……. Soft bread texture……..Full of sweet banana, with a crunch of walnut, a contrasting slightly sharp fruitiness of apple and finally a warming hit of ginger. This is definitely a sweet bread rather than a cake and was delicious with a spread of butter and served for breakfast.
The first batch (which was made in a loaf tin) disappeared so quick that I have already made a second lot – this time using mini individual loaf moulds. Perfect portioned bites of winter-warming gingery, fruity deliciousness that can be kept in the freezer (if they last that long) ready for when you need them. If you don’t want to freeze them, keep them in a tin for a few days (although trust me, they won’t last that long) and give them a few seconds in the microwave if you fancy them warm (which I thoroughly recommend).
This month, the Biscuit Barrel Challenge hosted by Laura over at ‘I’d Much Rather Bake Than….‘ is asking us to produce our little treats around the theme of ‘spices’. The ginger in this bread definitely adds something a little bit special (and unexpected) to the mix, so I am offering my spicy little loaves (which just about fit into the biscuit tin) as a January entry.
Banana, Apple, Walnut & Ginger Bread – gluten free (slightly adapted from 500 gluten-free dishes – Beckerman and Wheaton)
Ingredients (makes 1 x medium loaf or about 16 mini loaves)
- Base-line a non-stick 1 lb/450g loaf tin with baking paper, or get ready some mini loaf moulds.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add and beat in the vanilla extract and the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined.
- Add the honey and thoroughly mix.
- In a separate bowl, weigh and mix the flour, salt, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and ginger, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
- In a third bowl, mash 2 of the bananas with the buttermilk, then add to the egg mix and stir through.
- Add the apple, walnuts and flour mix and fold into the wet mix until just combined.
- Thinly slice the last banana and fold into the dough batter. Be careful not to over-mix.
- Spoon the dough into the loaf tin(s) and bake for about 40 minutes for a larger loaf (about 20 minutes for mini-loaves) until well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 5 to 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.