If there’s one trait that I really, really dislike in myself it’s my propensity to waste fruit.
I totally blame Japan for this character dysfunction. I lived there for two years and during that time became far too used to unnaturally flawless fruit. Apples in my local supermarket would cost around £2 each – for a single apple; I kid you not – but they were, without exception, the crispest, juiciest, most appliest apples imaginable. Like, you know when you smell an apple-scented soap, and you immediately recognise the fragrance as apple even though you’ve never had an apple that tasted that, well, appley, before? Well, Japanese apples taste that appley – hyper-appliness if you will.
So indoctrinated did I become by Far Eastern fruity perfection that bog-standard British specimens – with all their bruises, blemishes and mealy-mouthed blandness – just bummed me out when I returned home. I still buy fruit – the government tells me I’m supposed to get my five a day, and so I do (my second least favourite character trait? My relentless conformism) – but at least half of it now ends up in crumbles, cakes or on the compost heap, which does rather defeat the point.
If there is one fruit about which I am particularly picky, it’s the banana: I can only eat them unbruised and tinged green and with the ends cut off (my Grandmother used to tell me that’s where all the badness was stored… Which makes me fear my fruit issues are in fact bordering on Freudian). As soon as the first brown spots appear, there is only one fate in store: banana bread.
And so we have an excess of fruit pickiness and a surplus of spotted bananas to thank for this outrageously decadent brunch dish. I first heard about banana bread French toast from my Iowan friend, Molly, and initially assumed it was just banana-flavoured regular French toast. Oh no… It’s actual banana bread, soaked in egg and milk then fried in butter and served with billowing piles of whipped cream. I have to admit, I was a bit scared to try it at first – it just seemed beyond decadent; the Marie-Antoinette of brunches. But once I’d committed, I thought “Sod it!” – let’s pimp this mutha up even further with a ton of chocolate chips and a jugful of homemade butterscotch sauce. Heart attack on a plate, but oh myyy, what a way to go…
I can honestly say this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten – somehow French toasting an otherwise quite stodgy banana bread (this is no reflection on the recipe; it’s just an inherently substantial cake) makes it ridiculously light and crispy. Seriously, you have to give this a go. I should caution however that it is incredibly rich (as if you hadn’t already guessed that from the description above); I have a pretty much insatiable appetite when it comes to sweet stuff yet even I was defeated. There goes my pitch for a Man vs Food spin-off show: Woman vs Dessert...
The final dish is inspired by several different recipes (such as this one from Just a Taste, and this one from Copy Kat) but the banana bread itself could only come from one source: Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. It was this recipe in this book that first ignited my love of baking. I can’t put it better than Nigella herself, who writes: “this recipe… fills the kitchen with that aromatic fug which is the natural atmospheric setting for the domestic goddess”. Oh Nigella… #TeamCupcake now and forever…
Make the banana bread at least the night before, though if you’ve had some knocking around for a few days (unlikely given how delicious it is even in its raw state) it’s a good way of using up any stale bits.
For those of you unimpressed with last week’s porridge blog post, I think this extreme banana bread makeover answers any charges of brunch complacency…
Choc chip banana bread French toast with butterscotch sauce
Serves 2 people blessed with iron guts, or 4 mere mortals
For the banana bread (adapted, barely, from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson) – make at least the day before:
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, melted
150g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed
150g dark chocolate chips or chunks
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the butterscotch sauce:
75g golden caster sugar
15g unsalted butter
50g light brown soft sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
75ml double cream
For the French toast makeover:
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
Pinch of cinnamon
Knob of butter for frying
Whipped cream and sliced banana to serve (optional)
1. Start by making the banana bread: preheat the oven to 170C and butter or line a 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin (I use one of those paper loaf tin liners). Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a bowl and combine well using a rubber spatula. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar until blended, then stir in the mashed bananas, followed by the chocolate chips and the vanilla extract. Fold in the flour mixture a third at a time, stirring well after each bit. Once the flour has been fully combined, scrape the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check after 40 minutes or so and if the top is getting a bit too brown, cover the cake loosely with foil. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin, then store in an airtight container.
2. When you’re ready to make your French toast, start with the butterscotch sauce: put all of the sauce ingredients into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 5-7 minutes until smooth and a dark golden colour. Set aside briefly to cool and thicken.
3. For the French toast: cut four fairly thick slices from your banana bread. Beat the eggs with the milk and cinnamon in a large-ish bowl, then melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Dip each slice of banana bread in the egg mixture, submerging each side in the liquid for a good 10-20 seconds so that it absorbs as much as possible. Put the egg-soaked banana bread in the frying pan (by now the butter should be sizzling), and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy.
4. Serve the banana bread French toast topped with whipped cream, sliced banana and the butterscotch sauce. Enjoy, then prepare to collapse in a sugar-induced coma…