I make this the first time on holiday at the beach. I had my sourdough starter with me (doesn’t everyone take their sourdough starter to the beach? Yes, he comes on holiday, mostly for pancakes but you never know). I’m not totally obsessed though – I had flour with me but none of my usual at-home stock of multigrains or spices or nuts. So it was overripe bananas, sourdough starter, flour and a little salt and that’s all. And it was spectacularly good.
So of course, when I got home I had to try to go one better. In the weeks since, I’ve tried adding kibble and adding nuts and adding cinnamon and nothing has come near that beach perfect banana-y but not overly sweet crusty and chewy bread, toasted with butter and nothing else. Simple and divine. Overcomplication is the enemy of some recipes.
It starts with a standard fed sourdough starter. My usual method is to feed a cup and a half of starter with a mug of baker’s flour mixed with a mug of water. A cup and a half of it put back in a container with a loosely fitting lid in the fridge, and the rest (about a cup and a half full) left in a bowl covered with a tea towel on the bench overnight or for a few hours.
With clean hands, into the starter, squoosh 4 big over-ripe bananas. You want them well squooshed in but not blended.
Add a teaspoon of salt and enough baker’s flour to make a smooth, soft dough. Knead briefly. Like all sourdoughs, there’s not much kneading involved, just lots of letting it take its own sweet time.
The dough is softer and moister than I am used to with my normal wholemeal or multigrain breads but it is still smooth and elastic like a good bread dough.
Put some mild flavoured oil (I use macadamia oil) in a bowl, roll the dough round in it, then leave to sit covered with a cloth, for the day or overnight. It will more than double in size and be soft and spongy. In warm weather at the beach it proved beautifully overnight but like all sourdough, it has its own temperament and in the cooler weather this week it took about 12 hours.
Flour the benchtop, knock the dough down and knead very briefly, then put it into an oiled tin. It’s a bit soft to bake freeform – it does cook nicely but it’s a wide flat loaf and I liked it better with a bit of height to the loaf. Slash the top of the loaf and let it prove again for one and a half to two hours – again it depends on the weather and the temperament of your starter. It will double in size again.
Bake in a medium oven for around 40 to 50 minutes, till the top is nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped. Take it out of the tin and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes to get a bit of crustiness to the bottom.
We ate it warm straight out of the oven, or toasted in thick slabs for breakfast. But it would probably go really well as a sandwich too, I’m imagining it with chocolate nut spread or honey and peanut butter.