In my view, loaves are an under-estimated baked item. Loaves are quick and easy to make, very versatile and the mixture is forgiving – you don’t have to be too gentle when mixing up a loaf. Loaves are usually made by creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs and then the dry ingredients. I sometimes use a flavourless oil, such as rice bran, instead of butter. You can also vary the flavour of a plain loaf by swirling through jam or putting layers of cinnamon sugar or streusel through the loaf. A drizzle of icing made simply with lemon juice and icing sugar can dress up a loaf for a more special occasion.Banana loaf is probably the most popular loaf – a great way to use up those bananas which seem to languish in the fruit bowl. Try adding walnuts, chocolate chunks, chopped dried apricots or sunflower seeds to jazz up your banana loaf. Gingerbread is another favourite and keeps well in an airtight container. I love a rich, syrupy gingerbread and while delicious warm with lashings of butter, my preferred way of eating it is with thick wedges of blue cheese or strong cheddar.
When I make a loaf, after we have eaten a few slices hot from the oven, I let the loaf cool, slice it into thick slices and freeze the sliced loaf in a freezer bag. It is easy to pull out a slice or two of loaf as you need it. A slice of loaf is perfect in the school lunch boxes and makes a great afternoon tea treat. As with muffins, you can butter a slice or eat it plain.
Try toasting slices of loaf either in the toaster or in the oven to give a crispy exterior. Baked or toasted, a slice of loaf make a nice after dinner treat with some yoghurt. Or try slicing loaf into thick wedges, warm in the microwave and serve with custard or ice-cream for a more substantial pudding.
You can substitute loaf for bread (Madeira is particularly good), in bread and butter pudding or dip slices of loaf in egg and milk and pan fry in butter for a decadent version of French toast. And if you are feeling pushed for time, spoon the loaf mixture into mini loaf tins or muffin tins to speed up cooking time.
Try your own spin on some of the following recipes:
Apricot and Sunflower Seed Loaf
Coconut Ice Loaf
Moist Date Loaf
Chocolate Zucchini Loaf
Lemon Nut Loaf
Aunty Margaret’s Madeira Loaf
Lemon Syrup Loaf