Thursday, 28 May 2015

Banana Chayote Squash and Mango Bread

Banana Chayote Bread
Living in Jamaica in the 1970s proved challenging for someone who liked baking cakes and breads. The importation of many items that used to be readily available in the 1960s, ceased, and one was forced to turn to making do with local ingredients that were not really made to do the same things. One had to figure out how to use things of similar texture but which had a different taste, in recipes. This bread is a result of that time when the motto was “Tun you hand” or make do with what you had. Fortunately, bananas, spices, coconut oil were readily available. All purpose flour and granulated or “white” sugar were luxuries to be had at supermarkets by buying “under the counter” or if someone would bring it back from a monthly shopping trip to Miami. These items were also available at US Dollar based stores in tourist areas on the North Coast, established for tourists and expats to purchase items. If you really wanted the items badly enough, and had a couple of US Dollars to spare, the items could be had a grossly inflated prices if you were prepared to drive from Kingston to the North Coast often. Brown sugar was often all that was available in ordinary grocery stores, and the flour readily available then was known as “counter flour” which I suspect was bread flour. This is why I have added flax and oatmeal as that type of flour is heavier, and more dense and glutinous than the lighter, all purpose variety. Zucchini could be grown there but I suspect that not many people thought about doing that even though it used to be readily available in supermarkets just a decade before. In its place, I have used the Chayote Squash or Cho-Cho as it is known in local Patois. This member of the squash family is grown and eaten throughout Central America and the Caribbean, and it became the substitute when “American” apples were no longer imported. The texture of the raw Chayote is like that of a Pear but the vegetable itself is tasteless. It does however take up the flavor of whatever juice or sauce in which it is cooked. Soaked in apple juice for 1-2 hours, it became pieces of “apple” used in pies, crumbles etc. All in all, as challenging as those times were, doing without a lot of things probably resulted in my making a healthier version of the bread!

The chopped dried mango makes a nice contrast

The Mango makes a nice contrast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup oatmeal
¼ cup flaxmeal
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
Dash of Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 medium ripe banana, mashed (about 1 cup)
Thumb sized piece of root ginger, peeled and finely grated
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (In Jamaica I used a small sour orange, known in local Patois as the “Civil” Orange, possibly a corruption of the term for Seville Orange. We used it to make Bitter Marmalade)
3/4 cup peeled, seed removed, coarsely shredded Chayote squash
1/2 cup chopped dried mango
Chayote cut open



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one loaf pan and set aside. I also line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt
3. In a separate bowl, add the Lemon juice, zest, grated ginger, chopped dried mango, and shredded chayote squash to the mashed bananas. Doing this prevents the mashed banana from turning brown, and also helps soften the chopped, dried mango pieces.
4. In a large bowl, use the whisk attachment of your stand mixer to mix the eggs. Add the sugar and oil and whisk until it takes on a pale color, and is mixed. Change to the paddle attachment for your mixer. Add in the banana mixture and mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon or on low speed on your stand mixer until no flour remains. 
5. Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan. Bake until a bamboo skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then remove the bread from the pans and place on wire rack to cool completely before serving. Slice and serve. The bread keeps well when wrapped and frozen. Thaw just before use by reheating slowly in a microwave using low power.

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