The use of whole-grain flours in baking is becoming increasingly popular, and while much of the focus has been in relation to dieting fads and the need for gluten-free alternatives, I enjoy them for the different textures, flavours and levels of complexity that they bring.
With a similar ethos, Kim Boyce's book, Good to the Grain, is a wonderful collection of recipes based on a number of different whole-grain flours. It's a great introduction to working with some of the more obscure varieties with plenty of simple, everyday recipes featuring well-considered flavour combinations.
Always a tough choice on what to bake next, this week's toss up between banana walnut or gingerbread cake was happily resolved by simply combining the two. Warm and spicy with a deliciously rich and moist crumb, this is a lovely option for using up those sad-looking bananas, which have sat in the fruit bowl that little bit too long. The quinoa flour has a very particular flavour, which may not be to everyone's taste, but it adds a nice earthiness that is well rounded by the toasted walnuts and cinnamon. I also really like the idea of black pepper in baking, as it's not something I often think to do, and I believe it works well here with the bitterness of fresh coffee and warmth of aniseed.
Playing around with different flavours is always great fun, so if you're looking for a new way to liven up that everyday banana cake, why not give this spiced walnut version a go?
SPICED BANANA WALNUT CAKE (Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce)
- 150 g walnuts, plus an extra handful for the topping
- 150 g dates
- 150 g plain flour
- 75 g quinoa flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp aniseed
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tsp coffee, freshly ground
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp, nutmeg, freshly grated
- 115 g butter
- 75 g dark brown sugar
- 90 g caster sugar
- 2 overripe bananas (around 300 g)
- 2 eggs
- 80 g sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C and toast 150 g walnuts until lightly golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool then roughly chop half, and grind the remainder to a fine meal. Toast the aniseed until fragrant and grind to a powder. Roughly chop the dates and steep in hot water for 5 minutes before draining well.
Sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and spices and add in the ground walnuts. In a separate bowl, blend together the butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add the bananas and mix to incorporate then add the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla, mixing until combined, followed by the flour mixture. Finally, stir through the dates and roughly chopped walnuts. Pour into a lined 20-cm round tin and sprinkle with a handful of finely chopped raw walnuts. Bake at 180°C for 50-60 minutes until golden, and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan then serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of sour cream on the side.