Baking, for me, has always been therapeutic, it was probably the main reason I started to take it seriously in the first place. In a story I have recounted more times than I can count, baking became an escape from a job I thoroughly disliked (suing people for a living definitely didn't make me happy) and baking was my reaction, it was what I thought about as I was sending out summons, whilst I was being sworn at over the phone, it was what made me happy. After The Great British Bake Off, the story of which im sure you dont want to hear again, I decided that I would try and make baking my living: and remember this was after the first series, it wasn't clear to me if being on the show would be a kickstart to any form of career, it definitely felt like moving to London and quitting my job was a big risk.
Many of my friends who worked in the food industry and baking in particular told me that baking for a hobby and a career were two very different things and I have definitely come to learn that. Baking isn't my escape anymore, it's my constant and I am forever grateful that is the case, but I so very rarely bake for just myself anymore, because the mood strikes. Baking is now my job, when the oven is on the cake or cookies that come out of it are for a magazine article or a book or maybe even a TV show, so when I get a rare opportunity to slow down and bake for pure pleasure, I relish in it.
I have recently moved into a new flat and after the slightly stressful (read scarily expensive, London rents are so ridiculous) move, things are slowly finding their new homes and I am falling back into my work rhythm. After finishing a project a day earlier than expected I decided the new flat needed christening with something delicious, work baking doesn't count, and I wanted something easy but comforting and not much else can fit the bill so well as banana bread, okay maybe apart from a warm chocolate chip cookie, which I think is the answer to most problems. Instead of the classic banana bread that I make regularly, I ended up making a loaf spiked with coffee and cocoa nibs and it's definitely worth a try, whilst it might not seem the most obvious combination it works so well. This is the sort of cake that I want toasted, spread with a little salted butter and served with my morning coffee, it is sweet but not cloying, and the coffee and the cocoa nibs just work so well together!
Sometimes an idea pops into my head and it sits there for a few days, scratching away, begging to be tried, and this recipe started out exactly like that. I had finished a week of testing fruit recipes for a project and was left with a bunch of bananas slowly starting to head towards banana bread territory and, after unpacking another box from my move, I found my tonka beans and cocoa nibs, the idea of adding these to my recipe popped into my head and wouldn't go away.
I, of course, tweeted about the idea because, have we met, I have a slight social media addiction! My friend Chloe suggested that I should try the bread with coffee instead and that initial idea was, very temporarily, shelved and I settled on trying an espresso and cocoa nib banana bread and I'm rather pleased with it, the coffee isnt super strong and the mix of the nibs, coffee and banana is delicious!
Espresso and Cocoa Nib Banana Bread
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp ground coffee
25g cocoa nibs
250g ripe bananas (weighed without skins)
100ml sour cream
185g light brown muscavado sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
150g unsalted butter, melted
1. To make the banana bread, grease a loaf tin with a little butter and line with a strip of parchment paper, so that the ends hang over the long sides of the pan (this makes removal of the cake a lot easier) and preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F.
2. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, coffee and about 2/3 of the cocoa nibs into a bowl and whisk together to combine. (see tips for adjusting strength of the coffee in the cake)
3. Place the banana into a large bowl and use a fork to mash, until just a few small lumps remain. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together until smooth and uniformly combined.
4. Pour the flour mixture over the banana mixture and gently fold together, mixing until the flour is just combined, but being very careful not to over mix, as this will make the bread chewy and tough. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and top with the remaining banana, simply sliced through the middle and placed on top, cut side showing. Sprinkle the remaining cocoa nibs on top of the cake, avoiding the banana.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out just about clean.
6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before carefully inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Kept wrapped in clingfilm in a sealed container this cake will keep for up to three days but can also be frozen for up to a month (I like to freeze it in individual slices and then I can have a piece whenever I fancy).
Tips: If you want the coffee flavour to really punch you in the face then I would suggest adding two tablespoons of hot water to the coffee and stirring together before adding to the wet ingredients, this way the flavour will soak into the bread a lot more.
If you want to try this recipe and cant find cocoa nibs I get mine from Sous Chef