The humble loaf is never going to get the recognition given to flashy cupcakes or decadent gateaux. Loaves are like nurses or nuns – reliable, sturdy, perhaps a little bit worthy, a little bit ignored. Loaves are the jeans-and-a-t-shirt option in a cupboard full of party dresses. Show a child an opulently iced cupcake or a lightly buttered slice of loaf and you can bet your best apron the loaf will get left on the plate.
But no matter how pretty a party dress is, you don’t always feel like wearing one. I’ve always had a soft spot for fruit loaves, studded with raisins and rich with spices, or squidgy banana bread sprinkled with walnuts. It’s rare to find them in modern cookbooks- they belong to the days of PTA recipe collections or Grandma’s handwritten notebooks – but the decadent Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook has several tucked inside its choc-dipped pages, so it may only be a matter of time before loaves are the new cupcakes or macaroons.
The Small Girl and I were playing with some old cookbooks last week and one of them opened at a page I’d never seen before. There, in plain black and white, was a bran loaf recipe. I fiddled about with the ingredients to make it a little less stolid and this is what I came up with. When I took it to lovely Joan’s for morning tea the Small Girl ate slice after slice.
A Lovely Little Loaf
This contains no eggs or butter and you could probably use soy milk if you want it to be vegan/dairy-free. I made the mistake of cooking it in an extra-large loaf tin, so it looks a little flat. A standard size one would be better.
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup baking bran
1 cup dried fruit (I used a mixture of raisins and chopped up dates)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a large loaf tin. Line the bottom with a strip of baking paper (baking paper is God’s gift to bakers – I always regret not using it).
Mix the dry ingredients together until combined, then pour in the milk. Stir well and scrape into the prepared tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool for five minutes, then turn out onto a rack. Eat with lots of cold, unsalted butter and marmalade, or take to Joan’s and spread it with thick, creamy Piako yoghurt.
Oh yes ..being the recipient of this delicious loaf I can say you will be rewarded with knowing how good it is by the very brief time it takes before it is nothing but a few crumbs left on the plate.