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Vegan Banana Bread with Miso Caramel

Banana bread is a firm favourite in our house, delicious for a lunchbox or teatime treat and also a great way to use up those overripe bananas! For everyday family baking I prefer to opt for this healthier version over traditional banana bread recipes, which are often laden with sugar.  Made with spelt flour, vegan and free from refined sugar, it is not too sweet and comes with a little less guilt….just what is needed in January!

This bread can be enjoyed on it’s own but I discovered a recipe for vegan caramel on Gather and Feast  and thought that it would be a lovely addition. The vegan caramel was delicious, with the coconut sugar adding a toffee-like flavour. Obviously in an experimental mood, I decided to try adding miso to the caramel as an alternative to sea salt to counteract sweetness. I first came across using miso in sweet dishes after seeing Nigella Lawson‘s miso ice-cream recipe in her book Simply Nigella. Having fallen in love with Japan and its cuisine on a family trip there last year, I jumped at the chance to extend my use of Japanese ingredients to  my baking.  If you don’t regularly use miso however, feel free to add a pinch of sea salt to the recipe for the same effect! For a final flourish I topped with toasted pecans….enjoy!

Vegan Banana Bread with Miso Caramel

Ingredients for the Banana Bread:

  • 250g wholemeal or plain spelt flour (or you can use regular flour)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 80ml milk of choice (I used almond milk)
  • 2tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 120ml maple syrup
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 large ripe bananas

Ingredients for the Miso Caramel:

  • 35g coconut sugar
  • 15g coconut oil
  • 80g coconut cream
  • 1tsp white miso paste
  • handful of toasted pecans, chopped

Step 1: To make the banana bread, preheat the oven to 180°C/350F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Step 2: Place the bananas in an oven proof dish and roast in the oven for 10-15 mins while you are preparing the other ingredients. The roasting increases the sweetness and flavour of the bananas but if you don’t have time for this simply mash the bananas as they are.

Step 3: Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl

Step 4: In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla bean paste, maple syrup and lemon juice.

Step 5: Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Add the roasted/mashed banana and mix again.

Step 6: Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 mins.

Step 7: To make the miso caramel, place the coconut sugar, coconut oil and coconut cream into a small saucepan. Heat gently until ingredients are combined. Continue to heat for approximately 5 mins until the caramel has thickened enough such that it begins to coat the back of a spoon.

Step 8: When cooked, remove the banana bread from the oven and place on a wire rack. Using a skewer, pierce several holes along the top of the banana bread. While the bread is still warm, pour over the caramel sauce. (If sauce has cooled and thickened too much, either add a little boiling water or heat again gently). Top with chopped toasted pecans.

Cascading Peonies and Ballyfin

 

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Every once in a while a cake deserves a little more attention than a photo and quick mention on Facebook and Instagram. I’m sure all cake decorators can recognise the delight when the loveliest of clients walks through your door with a fabulous vision for their wedding cake, a stunning venue and a dream team of suppliers lined up. Such was the case for a recent order for a peony cascade cake at Ballyfin.  

The design and stature of the wedding cake was in no doubt influenced by its final setting in the palatial surroundings of Ballyfin Demesne. Built in the 1820s, Ballyfin is probably Ireland’s finest regency mansion and I have to confess that I had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to visit due to a little bit of personal interest…for much of the 20th century Ballyfin was run as a boarding school which was attended by my father in the 1960s. The eventual closure of the school led to a state of disrepair before an eight year restoration project resulted in it’s reopening as a luxury 5 star hotel in 2011. And it is not hard to see where the eight year’s went….the interior is breathtaking. From stunningly restored architectural detail to sumptuous furnishings and fine artwork, it is a luxurious step into another time and place. Quietly exclusive it caters to around only 10 weddings per year.

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(Images courtesy of Ballyfin.com)

The cake itself was from an original design by the fabulously talented Peggy Porschen, a design that my client had fallen in love with on a visit to the famous cake parlour in London. Four tall tiers were swathed in a sugar peony cascade matching the shades of pink in the bridal bouquet.

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Being displayed in the Rotunda room at the heart of Ballyfin, the cake was to be a centrepiece to be viewed while guests mingled over welcoming drinks (before of course being tucked into later!). A key to this design was therefore to ensure that the cake was of equal beauty when viewed from all angles, hence the continuation of the floral cascade around the back of the cake and neat little bows to hide the joins of the ribbon. The final flourish was to be a base of fresh roses and peonies by the amazing Joeanna McCaffrey flowers, sadly I had to leave before seeing this final detail in situ so I can’t wait to see the final photos!

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People have asked how many hours it takes to make sugar flowers and to be honest I lost track of these! Made over several weeks whenever I had time, over 700 peony petals were cut, veined and shaped, along with an array of peony buds, stephanotis, buds and leaves. Fixing the flowers on the cake took nearly four hours! It was my first time working with this many flowers and I was thrilled at the outcome of the challenge.

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My final glimpse of this cake  through the ornate doors of the Rotunda would be the first view seen by the bride and groom and their guests. I hope that this view, and the luscious layers of Guinness Chocolate and Lemon Coconut Raspberry cakes to be served later that evening, were well received!

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