Monday, March 18, 2013

Banoffee Irish Soda Bread

I guess it's one of the great contradictions of the American Experience that my great-grandmother did all she could to get away from county Sligo in Ireland, a land economically and politically oppressed by the British...and I, her great-granddaughter would become the consummate Anglophile.   Going to Sligo is on my 'bucket list,' but I've already lived in England for two years, which I guess that says something about my cultural priorities.

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about being so obsessed with British culture...but then I reflect how many of the great authors of the British canon I studied in graduate school were actually Irish.  George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Sheridan, Johnathan Swift, the Brontes, Samuel Beckett...

When I lived in England, I still remember marveling at the completely trivial and inconsequential things about the food that were totally different than U.S. food and hadn't been changed by globalization.  Things like salad cream, flapjacks (the British oat bars, not pancakes), vegetarian steak and prawn-flavored crisps...and banoffee everything.  When I was there, you couldn't get good pizza (although you could get some really bad pizza with sweetcorn and tuna, if you so desired) or bagels, but banoffee and sticky toffee pudding flavors were even available as low-fat yogurt flavors...

I recently finished a biography of the Anglo-Irish author Oscar Wilde. One of those great books that look oh-so-scholarly but are really all about Victorian sex scandals (hetero as well as homosexual) and prostitution. For those of us who need our Fifty Shades of Grey with footnotes to feel good about ourselves.  Anyway, Oscar Wilde said "nothing succeeds like excess," so merging the humble Irish soda bread with the very excessive British flavor of banoffee seemed appropriate for St. Patrick's Day. Now I just need to find a book group that likes to chat about 500-page Victorian biographies and novels, rather than Eat, Drink, Pray, Love.

Banoffee Irish Soda Bread

2 overripe bananas
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute...I used the Greek yogurt substitute) plus 1-2 tablespoons extra liquid
1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-3/4 cup crushed Health Bars


1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Mash bananas, egg, buttermilk, and sugar together.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together.
4. Incorporate wet and dry mixtures.  If the mixture is very dry, add water or milk until the batter is fully incorporated but not 'wet.'  The bread should form a ball shape and pull away from the bowl. Fold in the crushed Health Bars.
5. Bake free-standing on a baking sheet lined with parchment for 45 minutes.  The top of the bread should be firm to the touch, but still springy.


  1. "Excessive" is a good way to describe banoffee. I'm guessing it's one of those things that sounds horrible in theory but that you find is pretty good once you try it.

    Before I went to Japan, I had read that they put corn on everything, and it was my goal to have corn and tuna pizza when I was there. Unfortunately, it turns out that descriptions of their corn usage were exaggerations. I was please to find, however, that the chicken drumsticks there are huge like turkey legs.

  2. @flurrious--I don't find the banana toffee combo to be that weird, but tuna on pizza really freaked me out, given that I was never much of a warm tuna fish fan as a kid (I always think of the warmish tuna sandwiches in my lunch box). I never heard about Japanese chicken legs, despite having many friends who lived in Japan! That is so odd, because normally their portion sizes are much more human than our own...

  3. One of the interesting things about our generation is that we aren't really wanting for anything so we have this desire (and ability!) to go back to our roots without actually risking anything. I love the flavors of banoffee...and this bread sounds so delicoius!