I spent a month flashpacking in Australia last summer to study the effects of global climate change. I miss Oz everyday, and find myself consistently reminiscing about my days along the East Coast. I decided this week I wanted to bring Australia to my kitchen.
When I was in Straya (slang for Australia), the food and coffee was outstanding. Everything was farm fresh, free range, real ingredients, real vegetables. The Aussies eat breakfast like it is business. A staple to every breakfast menu was banana bread. I completed the Australian tour of banana bread, and found a few common themes in the variations. Honey was usually offered on the side to drizzle on top. “Why not butter on the side?” you ask. Well that’s because Australians do banana bread (as the Aussies say) “proper”, by grilling it on the griddle with butter.
Out of the one month I spent in Oz, I think twenty of my mornings started with banana bread. The most exquisite nanner bread was to be found near the end of my trip, in a microscopic cafe called Room 10 in Sydney. The cafe followed the common Australian themes, grilled with local honey. However, this cafe took it up a notch with the addition of ricotta cheese and sliced toasted almonds. I was in banana bread bliss, it was the best I ever had.
Banana bread is my thing. I used to make it every Sunday, until those delicious calories caught up with me and I had to reserve my baking for special occasions. If you ask me for a recipe, I start to sound like Bubba from Forest Gump, “Which kind? Key Lime Banana Bread, Peanut Butter Banana Bread, Coconut Banana Bread, Clean Banana Bread, Really Fat Banana Bread…” I have high banana bread standards, and the whole country lived up them.
Banana bread is possibly quite common in Australia because bananas are the most popular grocery item in the country. Australian bananas are mostly grown in Tropical North Queensland, the state that is home to the Great Barrier Reef. Bananas were brought to the region in the late 1800s by Chinese migrant workers and sugar cane cutters, called Kanakas, from Fiji.
Queensland, like Florida, is also dubbed “The Sunshine State,” with its residents and climate having many parallels. I felt at home in Queensland, I handled the humidity well and was accustomed to the barefoot, kicked back lifestyle. Banana Benders (a nickname for Queenslanders) assumed I was from there, too. Walking down the street, they shouted at me, “Ay there! A fellow Queenslander!” This was mostly due to the fact that I was wearing my Tarpon High “Maroon Mob” shirt in the middle of rugby season. The state’s rugby team is simply known as the “Maroons.” When I explained to them that I wasn’t Australian, and that it wasn’t even a rugby shirt, they’d reply, “No worries. If you don’t cheer for the Blues, we’ll take yer.” The Blues is the rugby team of New South Wales (Sydney’s state). Apparently the Maroons vs. Blues showdown known as “The State of Origin Series,” is the biggest sports rivalry in all of Australia. Another fact on Australians: they take sports as serious as breakfast, and rugby fans appear to be the most extreme. Had I been wearing a shirt that said “Blue Mob” in Queensland, I may not be here to write about it.
So in honor of my favorite Australian state, I have named my version of this amazing banana bread after its wonderful people, “Banana Bender Bread”. I adjusted the bread recipe to be gluten-free and added my own twist with the addition of toasted coconut.
In making this recipe, I advise you to use local honey, so you get all of honey’s health benefits. I always get my local honey from Struthers, a road side stop on State Road 60 on my drive between Tampa and WPB. Struthers Honey operates by the honor system, where you grab your own honey bear and leave your money in a box.
To get the real taste of Straya, have this bread while sipping on a Flat White, Australia’s version of the latte. This recipe is fair dinkum, if you have it for brekkie you’ll be chockers ’til the arvo. (That’s Aussie slang for “This recipe is the truth, if you have it for breakfast you’ll be full until the afternoon.”)
Banana Bender Bread
Gluten-free banana bread, grilled and topped with Australian inspired delights.
- 3 medium bananas
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup cane sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter milk
- 2 cups gluten-free flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts For the toppings:
- ricotta cheese
- local honey
- toasted coconut
- toasted sliced almonds
For the Banana Bread:
- In a mixer, combine bananas, butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and butter milk. Mix thoroughly.
- Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
- Slowly add flour mix into the mixer until all ingredients are combined.
- Add chopped walnuts and continue to mix until combined.
- Pour batter into lightly greased loaf pan.
- Bake bread at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.
- After bread is baked, and can be pierced with the knife coming out clean, allow to cool for 1-2 hours.
- Slice banana bread and butter both sides.
- Grill slices of banana bread on grilled or frying pan.
- Place grilled bread on plate and top with ricotta cheese, drizzled honey and toasted almonds and coconut.