Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's TableThis year’s UK Master Chef series on the television has been fantastic. The final five were all incredibly creative and really put through their paces as the competition ruthlessly progressed. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here if you haven’t watched the final episode to crown the winner.)  Of the final five, I was really inspired by Emma whose love of middle eastern spices and modern use of ingredients mirrors the zeitgeist made mainstream by Ottolenghi.

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's TableYou may recall that Adagio Tea sent me a sample pack of their gorgeous teas to try. I wrote about their artisan teas in last month’s IMK post. They have a huge range and their green teas alone are worth a look at. Their Masala Chai is quite incredible – it has the deep flavour that I remember from my childhood and is chock full of whole spices like cloves, cinnamon bark, cardamom seeds and ginger as well as black Ceylon tea.

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's TableSpurred on by Emma’s creations on Master Chef, a LOT of dangerously dark bananas and Adagio’s Masala Chai, I adapted my go-to recipe for Banana Bread from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. It’s a recipe I have been making for years and it never lets me down. It’s particularly devilish and delicious when made with chocolate chips instead of fruit, but that is another story!

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's TableBecause I had so many bananas I used them all and in retrospect, it was too much and caused the loaves to become heavy and sink in the middle when cooling. In the recipe below, I have written the amounts as they should be and not as I did this time.

I quite often use frozen bananas but let them thaw and drain off the liquid before mashing and mash the bananas coarsely as this enables the loaves to remain lovely and moist. I prefer to use light brown sugar for a deeper more caramel flavour too.  Steeping the fruit in very a very strong solution of masala chai gives them a haunting flavour when you bite into a plumped up morsel. I have enhanced that with a little cardamom stirred through the batter too.

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's TableThe icing. Oh my God, the icing! It’s just sublime. I wanted to compliment the heady banana and masala chai flavours of the loaf and put this icing together. The flavour reminds me of coconut burfi or penda (which my father adored) – Indian sweets as Jake refers to them…

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's Table

I really like using coconut powder as you can get the depth of flavour you want and also the thickness by adjusting the liquid to powder ratio. A further rummage in the pantry led me to the gorgeously fragrant rose petals I bought recently on a foray into Shepherd’s Bush with Elaine and a bag of pistachio nuts.

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing | Selma's TableI ended up with a Magic Carpet Banana Bread! I think Emma would approve!

Masala Chai Banana Bread with Coconut Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing

  • Servings: Makes 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from “Banana Bread” How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

My loaf tins are standard 900g/2 lb loaf tins. Measurements may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, but  they should be approximately 23cm x 13cm x 7cm  or 9″ x 5 ½” x 3″.

INGREDIENTS

  • 150 g mixed dried fruit (like berries, cherries, figs and sultanas)
  • 75 ml of very strong brewed Adagio Masala Tea Blend
  • 175 g Plain/AP flour
  • 2 ½  tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder or 2 drops of cardamom essence
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 150 g light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Coconut, Cream Cheese and Cardamom Icing

  • 3 Tbsp coconut powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp warm milk
  • 1 x 180 g pack of cream cheese
  • 1 x 250 g tub of mascarpone cheese
  • 5 – 6 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 3 drops cardamom essence or the powdered seeds of 2 cardamom pods
  • chopped pistachios (optional)
  • edible dried rose petals (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Steep the dried fruit with the hot masala chai for an hour (or microwave on high for 2 minutes and steep for as long as you can)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 170C/325F and either pop a paper case into each of two loaf tins or line with two strips of parchment paper. Put the butter in a heat proof bowl and place in the oven to melt. Check after 3-4 minutes.
  3. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. Mash the bananas, coarsely, and set aside.
  5. With an electric mixer, beat together the cooled melted butter and the sugar until creamy and caramel in colour.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time and make sure to beat well after each one.
  7. Add the bananas and the vanilla extract and mix well and finally, stir in the drained fruit.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes. Test with a wooden skewer which should come out moist but not with batter clinging to it. Let cool completely before icing.
  9. While the loaves are baking, make the icing: stir the coconut powder into warm milk until smooth.
  10. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the cream cheese and the mascarpone with a rubber spatula then add the coconut mixture and stir in. Sift in the icing sugar, mixing well and taste after you had added 4 Tbsp – it may be sweet enough. Stir in the cardamom essence or the powder and set aside in the fridge. When the loaves are cold, spread with the icing and top with the chopped pistachios and rose petals if using them.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Basic Buttermilk Muffins with Variations

basic-buttermilk-muffins-with-additionsI am always surprised at how many people buy those cakey muffins at coffee shops to take back to their desks, either in the morning or at break times. Or the people who buy them in packs from the supermarkets – you know the ones full of preservatives and correspondingly long sell by dates. Muffins are so easy to make with the added bonus of being fresh and with ingredients that you are able to control and can pronounce the names of. In less than 45 minutes you can be sitting down to a warm freshly baked muffin and a cuppa, smug in the knowledge that you have 11 more to pack into lunch boxes or dish up as an after school snack with a glass of milk for the kids. They can be as healthy or as sinful as you like. It’s entirely up to you and what you have in your larder/pantry. I haven’t tried to freeze them, mainly because they don’t last that long – I used to always pack extra for Jake to share with his lunchtime gang. If you try freezing them, let me know in the comments and I will edit this post to include your thoughts, with a credit to you of course!

basic-buttermilk-muffins-with-additionsI haven’t made muffins recently but I had three very ripe bananas that needed using up and found myself pulling out the muffin pan…these ones are banana, cinnamon and chocolate chip.

This recipe is one that I have been using for many years – I have tweaked it and tweaked it over time to suit all the ingredient changes that I have made. Adding buttermilk or the more easily available yoghurt keeps the crumb really moist.

All you need by way of kitchen equipment is;

  • a regular 12 hole muffin tray and cupcake liners
  • two mixing bowls plus a smaller heatproof one to melt the butter in
  • electronic scales – if you don’t have one, please, please add it to your wish list as it is the most accurate way to measure out ingredients, especially for baking. If you set your mixing bowl on the scales and set it to zero then you can just keep adding your dry ingredients to it (re-setting to zero each time) which keeps the washing up to a minimum too.
  • a small hand whisk
  • a measuring teaspoon
  • a rubber spatula
  • a large spoon to scoop out the dry ingredients with and then to fill the muffin cups with.

The basic premise is to put all the dry ingredients into the larger mixing bowl and whisk well to aerate and combine. I add any dried fruit or chocolate chips at this stage too as the flour coating helps them not to sink to the bottom. Use a smaller mixing bowl for the wet ingredients. I mash my very ripe bananas straight into this bowl after whisking the egg. The buttermilk comes in a 300ml carton, and if you decide to use a yoghurt pot then just use that to fill the milk up in it – no need for a measuring jug! Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients. Stir lightly – streaks (but not large pockets) of flour are desirable. Scoop into muffin cups. Top with seeds or nuts if using. Bake. Cool and enjoy!

basic-buttermilk-muffins-with-additions

I am taking these over to the friendliest party around – Angie’s Fiesta Friday #26. Today we have two talented co-hosts who are not only fabulous and creative cooks but who can also spin a yarn or two. Prudy @ Butter Basil and Breadcrumbs and Jess @ Cooking Is My Sport.  Let’s party!!

Basic Buttermilk Muffins with Variations

  • Servings: 12 Muffins
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g plain/AP flour
  • 150 g golden caster/superfine sugar – you can just use the normal white version too
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 300 ml buttermilk (or 125 ml yoghurt/creme fraiche/ sour cream plus 125ml milk)
  • 80 g melted unsalted butter

Delicious variations- not ALL at the same time!!

General additions and subs:

  • sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans- as a topping
  • 125 g blueberries/raisins/ chopped dried apricots/chopped dates etc
  • 25 g coconut flakes – reduce flour by 25 g
  • 100 g spelt or buckwheat flour – reduce flour by 100 g
  • 50 g jumbo oats – reduce flour by 50 g

Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 80 g chocolate chips

Blueberry, Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins (Lovely with a little lemon and icing sugar glaze)

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 125 g blueberries

Carrot Cake Muffins (Delicious with a little honeyed cream cheese topping)

  • 125 g grated carrot
  • 80 g soaked and drained sultanas or raisins
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • Replace butter with 80 ml of oil

Coconut, Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 125 g raspberries
  • 25 g coconut flakes – reduce flour by 25 g
  • 80 g white chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F/. Prepare a 12 hole muffin tin with liners or grease them well
  2. Pop the butter in a heat proof bowl and place in the oven for 5 minutes (set the timer!!) while it is heating up.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, hand whisk the egg. If you are going to add bananas, add them now and mash with a fork – I like to leave them a little chunky . Add the buttermilk or yoghurt/creme fraiche/sour cream and milk mixture and whisk to combine everything.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, measure out the flour, the oats and or coconut if using, the sugar, the baking powder , the  salt and chocolate chips or raisins or cinnamon or lemon zest and poppy seeds if using. Whisk well to aerate and to combine all the ingredients. Make a well in it and set aside.
  5. Slowly pour in the melted butter onto the egg/buttermilk mixture, whisking all the while to mix in the butter evenly which will begin to solidify as it hits the cold liquid.
  6. Pour in the wet ingredients onto the dry and stir to mix. Do not over mix – leave some streaks of flour but not huge pockets of it!
  7. Stir in any delicate berries at this point.
  8. Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cups and top with the seeds or nuts if using.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Test with a wooden skewer (or a piece of uncooked spaghetti!) – if there is any batter clinging to it, pop the tray back in for a 2 or 3 minutes.
  10. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool off completely.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.