A guest Post by Meg at After-noon - the Baking Blog
Born in South Africa, I was first introduced to the world of baking by my mother, who used to make the most incredible and imaginative birthday cakes for me and my younger siblings. From princess cakes to pirate ships, nothing was impossible and beyond the realms of imagination.
We used to holiday on the beautiful Garden Route, where we’d visit my aunt and uncle who lived in a little stone cottage in the middle of the forest. It was a wondrous place. Their home, which had no electricity and no visible neighbours, was surrounded by enormous yellowwood trees, wild bramble bushes and mushrooms, and was only accessible by a long dirt track. There were rumours that wild elephants still roamed the forest. These elephants had been hunted to near extinction by that time, but they still left occasional signs of life.
Our holidays were a mixture of long hours spent on wild, remote beaches and exploring the forest. One afternoon, we had just gotten back from a day out and there was a package left at the door of the cottage. It was filled with beautiful little fairy cakes and, from what I can remember, they were the most delicious cakes I’d ever eaten. I wanted another, and another, and another. My aunt said they were made by Mr Kap, a woodcutter who also lived somewhere in the forest.
I imagined him as a wiry old man with a moustache, brimmed hat and a gnarled walking stick. The magic and mystery of those cakes, I think, might have been the catalyst for my lifelong love of baking.
And so I started making scones and crumpets at weekends for my family. And later, fudge and coconut ice that I sold at school for extra pocket money.
Nowadays, it’s about trying to take simple, fair, good-quality ingredients and turn them into wonderful things. Ethical values, like choosing organic, Fairtrade and free-range produce, have become a big part of my daily life. And again, perhaps it’s about the stories that are being told.
As well as enhancing the quality, taste and nutrition of our food, choosing organic supports the earth, animals and humans alike. We support ecosystems and organisms, from the smallest ones in the soil, to bigger ones like the birds and the bees. Animals get fairer, more natural living conditions. And we get to look out for farmers, workers, distributors and traders too.
Passing on healthy, natural resources to future generations is part of it, of course. And, like my memories of my mother’s baking – and those cakes made by Mr Kap who lived in that forest on the Garden Route – we might just inspire young people to make good things and care about where it comes from.
I'm sharing my recipe here for the Best Ever Banana Bread - enjoy!
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (250ml) caster sugar
2 cups (500ml) plain flour, sifted
2 large Organic/free range eggs, lightly beaten
4 over-ripe blackened bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 125ml boiling water (stir well!)
100g dark chocolate chips
60g walnut pieces (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C
2. Generously grease a 900g loaf tin and dust with plain flour
3. With an electric or hand-held whisk cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until fluffy and pale.
4. Slowly add beaten eggs until combined and then the mashed bananas.
5. Next sift in the flour, baking powder and a pinch of sea salt and mix until combined.
6. Slowly add in the bicarbonate of soda dissolved in the water and mix well.
7. Lastly, fold in the chocolate chips until evenly dispersed.
8. Pour into the prepared tim and scatter the chopped walnuts on top.
9. Bake for 45-60 minutes, checking the cake after the first 40 minutes. If it's becoming too dark on top, cover with foil for the remainder of the baking time.
10. Once a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
11. Serve thick slices, still warm, with lashings of salted butter.
Serves 10 -12
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