Monday, 24 September 2012

Banana bread. Again.

There is an American writer - dead now - called Richard Yates. You will know him because he wrote a book called Revolutionary Road, which was made into a film with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet a few years ago - 2007 I think, or 8.

Anyway he wrote loads of books and I read them all. That's not a boast, they're mostly very short. But I did also read his biography, which was really long. And then I wrote a very long piece, almost as long as the biography, for The Independent about him, which I think they still owe me my £90 fee for.

The thing about Richard Yates, the reason why you don't know his name as well as you know other big American writers, is that he was just really obsessed with his mother. In every single book he wrote, there she is. Irritating, mad, feckless, vain, selfish, shrill, talentless, deluded. In Revolutionary Road she appears as an estate agent and because that's the only book of his most people have read, they think nothing of it.

But she's there, in all the others, lurking. And when you read one Yates book after the other, it ends up seeming really quite mad. After the third or fourth book you get a horrible psycho "ehhr ehhr ehhr" tingly feeling, like if you were to walk into the bedroom of a friend and it was plastered with photographs of you.

So the reason that Yates never really made it, died alone and mad in a tiny dirty flat, despite being a really terrific writer, was that he was unable to tackle the big themes that make you properly famous; instead he zeroed in, time after time, on miserable little people leading miserable little lives, every book, every page, stalked by his unbearable mother. Revolutionary Road was a hit by accident, while obsessing about how much he hated Ma, Yates also - almost as a side-line - struck a chord with discombobulated middle America. But it was a fluke.

I fell to thinking about Richard Yates and his unwitting, untherapised obsession with his mother when I found myself, almost trance-like, making yet another type of banana bread. Considering I am trying to get material for a book, it seems so mental and obsesseive compulsive to keep making the same thing over and over again with no reason, no explanation.

Although I suppose there is an explanation. And that is, banana bread is fucking delicious.

This recipe I found on a card in Waitrose, and it was originally a banana, chocolate and caramel cake, using a tin of Carnation caramel, but I got home and didn't have any caramel but did have a tin of condensed milk, so I used that instead.

I know it's just banana bread and I know there are already about fifteen recipes for it on this blog and I probably belong in a nuthouse but this is really terrific, all the same.

Banana and Condensed Milk Bread
Makes a 1kg loaf

75g butter
25g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 397g can condensed milk
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat your oven to 180c or 170c for fan ovens. Grease and line your 1kg loaf tin. You can get away with just lining the sides with one long strip of greaseproof paper, but you must grease the ends well.

1 Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy then add the egg - do not worry too much if this curdles -  followed by your can of condensed milk. Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture.

2 Fold in the banana and then pour into the tin. You can decorate this, if you like, bearing in mind that it is going to rise quite significantly. I dotted a spine of walnut halves down the middle, which then heaved away to the left - like a hip tattoo on a pregnant woman.

3 Bake for 1 hr

Eat, then ring your shrink.



  1. It makes me happy when you cook things that can't go in the book, because it means you'll post them on the blog instead. #fangirl

  2. Yum - but may be that IS the theme for your book? "Banana Bread - Again" what do you reckon? If there are that many versions of it...

  3. I think we all keep making banana bread because of endless bananas going black in the bowl. Why do we keep buying them is no one is eating them. This one sounds good but will probably eat most on the condensed milk straight out of the tin.

  4. I have never used condensed milk like this before. How can it be anything but good.

  5. Serious cultural question: when did banana cake turn into banana bread?
    Also like Yates and his obsessive creepy focus on the small stuff.

    1. ....when someone realised that you don't spread butter on cake.

  6. I didn't know that about Yates' mother. Guess I should read the biography. Recently rewatched the great Seinfeld episode (the Suede Jacket one) where Jerry & George go to dinner with Elaine's father, who is a monster, based on Yates (the scriptwriter dated Yates' real daughter). I think it took nine months and a lot of chasing to get a cheque out of the Independent for the one article I wrote for them. Assumed they were on the verge of going bust but, no, that was five years ago. Bill them again!

  7. Sounds gorgeous, but Prue Leith suggests a couple of drops of vanilla essence and, more importantly, a teaspoon of ground cardamom. The cardamom makes it taste extra amazing.

  8. I cooked this last night and it came out brilliantly. Definitely going onto the list of regulars for when I have bananas to use up. Thanks!

  9. Made this last night with my son (well, he made it, I drank tea and watched). Fantastic, thanks for posting it.

  10. I've been baking banana bread for years and every time I saw a new recipe for it I feel like I MUST TRY IT NOW. I get sucked in every single time. Just recently I made the very first recipe I ever tried (Nigella) again and was stunned by how good it was. And it's so simple and straightforward to make. I vowed to not waste time trying new bb recipes again.

    Until now..... I am so tempted to make this. I thought I would be able to resist, but the photo looks so good!!! And condensed milk- what an ingenious idea!!!!!!! Sorry for all the exclamation marks (going bananas etc.)

    Veronica x

  11. Hi Esther, love your blog! I am about to go and get the ingredients for banana bread but don't know whether to make this one or the one from Feb 2012. Both look and sound delicious. I keep re-reading the two recipes alternately and each one convinces me completely that it is THE ONE. Which one do you recommend THE MOST???

  12. I am in the California wine country sitting on a porch just like the one in The Waltons looking after my friends house. It is 5 miles from any shop but it has a church and a fire station across the road what else do I need right?
    I have been here 2 days and decided that I need to make one of your banana breads as I have a friend of a friend coming over for afternoon tea tomorrow.I am trying to make friends and she apparently hires out her home for photo shoots for bazillion dollars a day so must be fabulous and will think I am a fat pleb so I need to impress.

    But it is 5 miles to any shop, did I mention I do not have a car? Only my two feets.

    The good news is a neighbour just stuck his head over the fence to introduce himself "Hey lil lady!!" His name is Gene and he is around 170 years old. He owns some horses up the road and has what looks like most of their old teeth in his mouth.
    Gene is concerned that I don't have a car and is going to take me to the shop to get some groceries when the sun is a little lower (whatever the fuck time that is, I guess I will just sit here till he comes)

    Bread for Dory is such a crowd pleaser, but something tells me they don't have wholemeal spelt flour in this town. Therefore I am writing down the ingredients of every banana bread you have ever posted hoping that somehow I can find some ingredients and just throw it all together.
    See? They are all useful after all.
    If you have any tips between now and whenever the sun is at the right height for Gene to come and get me please let me know.
    Oh and there is no tin loaf here either just a pyrex dish.
    Yours, drunk on a porch and sunburnt

  13. Old man Gene turned up at 8pm absolutely steaming drunk. I only realised this when I got in his car for the most heart racing 30 mins of my life.

    Ran into Whole Foods and spent $100 on ingredients whilst chanting hail marys.

    My new fabulous neighbour cancelled her visit and I didn't make the banana bread. I spent the evening biting my nails and hiding all the kitchen knives under my bed.

    I got spelt flour, just not wholemeal spelt. I am hoping this works just the same. Will let you know once I get out from under the covers.

  14. when I found myself with some extra bananas and about half a can of sweetened condensed milk so I looked for a recipe and found this one. since I had only half a can of milk I needed to improvise. The milk adds sweetness and liquid, so I thought I don't mind it being a bit less sweet, especially as this one is described as being quite sweet, so I mixed it all up with the intention of dealing with the other problem at the end if the batter was in fact too dry. It was, so I just tossed in a second came out really good