It seemed rather fitting, in what will be my last online article as Food and Drink Editor, to return to the staple food activity of baking, a pastime which for many has been resurrected during this pandemic. Perhaps it’s the fond memories of baking with grandparents, or the messy flour fights in friends’ kitchens, maybe even the needlessly ambitious food tech bakes in school, but there’s a certain escapism in the art of baking. And that’s something we’re all seeking right now. But what exactly is it about whisking a load of ingredients together that’s making us all empty the supermarket shelves of self-raising flour?
The main benefit is, unsurprisingly, to our mental health. According to Goodnet, the baking process requires our full attention, its simple and repetitive nature creating a calming effect which clears our minds of negative thoughts. There’s something somewhat reassuring about working towards a tangible result, easing the uncertainty of current times. Baking is also a sensory activity, waking up the endorphins which have been supressed by recent months of imposed inactivity. And if we go a bit wild, even better! The creativity that comes with baking has been linked to our overall wellbeing, so why not adapt a recipe to make it your own? And of course, if you’re the type of person who prefers giving gifts to receiving them, sharing your baked goods with friends and family is guaranteed to bring happiness to both you and them (assuming you’ve baked something edible!), as well as boosting your confidence by providing a great sense of accomplishment.
A less obvious benefit is in fact to our employability, a heightened worry to students like me who are graduating in the midst of COVID-19. Although it may not be the first benefit of baking that comes to mind, according to Vitality Magazine, the skill can boost our performance at work because it’s a form of self-expression. The process helps us build many of the same key skills that employers seek, such as problem-solving, patience and adaptability. That’s my STAR answer sorted for future interviews…
I’ve been baking on a weekly basis since lockdown began so I’ve chosen my most successful recipe so far to share with you all. Whether you’ve baked just about everything and need some inspiration, or you’re thinking of joining the nation’s sudden baking obsession, this twist on the classic banana bread won’t disappoint. Unfortunately, in my haste to demolish it, the finished product didn’t get the chance to be photographed so you’ll have to use your imaginations!
Ginger and Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Serves 6-8 depending on how big you cut the slices!
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas
1tsp baking powder
140g self-raising flour
50g dark chocolate chips (I finely chopped a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk as I couldn’t get hold of chocolate chips and this worked well!)
50g finely chopped crystallised ginger (I’d never used this before but it comes in a jar and closely resembles jelly sweets!)
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/160°C fan
- Grease and line a loaf tin
- Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, making sure to first soften the butter in the microwave to avoid a painful arm workout (yes, I’m shamefully speaking from experience)
- Add the eggs and whisk
- Next, sieve the baking powder and flour into the mixture and add the ginger and chocolate chips
- In a small bowl, use a potato masher to mash the bananas, then fold them into the mixture along with the other ingredients you added in the previous step
- Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and bake in the oven for about 75 minutes, or until risen and golden brown – a knife should come out clean!
- Allow to cool before taking the cake out of the tin
- Put the kettle on and enjoy your scrumptious banana bread with a cuppa!