Well, that’s the Olympics over with for another four years. Shame really. I was enjoying it in the same way that I enjoy Christmas – there’s the long build up, the main event, and then the sad, regrettable end when you wonder how you’ll cope until the next one. With reports of sports clubs being inundated by punters wanting to replicate the prowess of their idols, it seems I’m not the only one bathing in the glow of the Olympics. I’m not sure if it was all the slow-motion montages of athletes jumping up and down in fits of joy or seeing 400-metre hurdler Felix Sanchez cry like a baby at his medal ceremony, but something about the Olympics made me want to become better at two things in particular – yoga and food photography.
Don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything – yoga and food photography haven’t qualified for Olympic contention. Can you imagine? “And Australia wins gold for the perfect photo of gluten-free banana bread!” Unlikely. But in the same way that Udain Bolt makes running the 100-metre sprint look like a walk in the park, my two hobbies both look deceptively easy and require daily practise in order to master. Okay, maybe they’re not as difficult as the modern pentathlon, but you get the general idea.
To help along my bid for self-improvement, I have converted our lounge room into a makeshift yoga-cum-photo studio. As well as getting in the way of the television, this results in me usually being in one of two positions. When I’m not standing upside down trying to perfect the downward-facing dog, you can find me loitering around the windowsill with a plate of food and a tripod or craning my head inside a light box trying to capture the perfectly-composed, lit and framed food photo.
Of course, I’m not doing this without the help of experts. For yoga, I am consulting Elena Brower, a New York-based yoga teacher who does brilliant online classes (did I mention I’m going to NYC next month?!). And to win gold at food photography, I’m consulting Helene Dujardin of Tarlette fame who has written a bible of food photography, Plate to Pixel. Helene says practice makes perfect, so I’m sure she’d be impressed at yesterday’s efforts of spending three hours photographing this banana bread in my pyjamas and forgetting to eat breakfast. You know you’re obsessed when natural light dictates when you eat. Don’t worry, I rewarded my efforts by eating the slice of banana bread in the photo. I tried all sorts of angles, inside, outside, with props, without props. You name it. At one point, I took the light box outside and was sitting on the gravel getting a very sore backside waiting for the clouds to float away and reveal some shafts of sunlight. If it was an Olympic sport, I would enter food photography in the “extreme” category.
I’ve written about banana bread before on Food Crush and ranted about the misuse of the word “bread”. While you can toast it, let’s not kid ourselves into believing this is bread. It’s cake. And if you eat it for breakfast like I did, you are eating cake for breakfast. Simple as that. I’m yet to figure out whether its huge popularity in Australia is due to its taste or possibly a case of very good marketing.
This is my first attempt at gluten-free banana bread. I am so happy with the results as I made up my own gluten-free flour mix from scratch. I altered the flour mix from the one I posted a couple of weeks ago on Food Crush as I was keen to see how the addition of brown and white rice flour and a bit of almond meal would impact on the end result. All I can say is you would never know this cake/bread is gluten-free. I think you could easily yield two loaves out of this mixture, but since I only have one loaf tin (and I like big cakes), I just made one big loaf. My oven is particularly hot (and fan-forced), so I tend to bake on a nice, gentle heat of 160°C over a longer period. My biggest tip with all baking is to befriend your oven and get in sync with its idiosyncrasies. It will make the difference between good and bad baking.
Gluten-free banana bread
300g gluten-free plain flour (see version 2)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (or baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon salt
50g cup walnuts, chopped
50g milk choc, chopped (I used Green and Blacks milk chocolate with toffee pieces)
100g caster sugar
300g bananas, mashed
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract