with a plain polenta crust

Gin and Crumpets Fixes It For You is back at the request of Alistair, who previously got in touch asking for a savoury muffin recipe. The result was Bacon and tomato muffins – breakfast in a paper cake case. This time, after another sojourn in Australia, he was after a recipe for banana bread: “Savoury muffins are dead to me. Banana bread is my life now. Especially with polenta on top.”

With polenta on top? I hit Google like a seek-and-destroy missile to see if anyone else was out there making banana bread with a polenta crust. I found nothing. Nada. Not even any heated chat about the rightness of polenta as a topping for banana bread.

I was on my own, with no signposts or hints of a path to follow. So I did the only sensible thing I could: I made a normal, run of the mill banana bread and sprinkled some polenta over the top of it.

The result was a very nice banana bread with polenta on top of it. The bread itself is quite cakey – I don’t think it’s really what Alistair is after, as he wanted a banana bread you could toast. Sticking a slice of this under the grill would dry out the moist squidgyness that makes it worth eating. It’s also fairly light for a banana bread. I used caster rather than brown sugar for a more refined sugar hit, vanilla extract for a top note of sweetness and poppy seeds because I love them in banana bread.

The polenta gives the bread a brilliant sunshine yellow crust and a contrasting sandy layer of crunch, but it’s like an empty handed guest at a party. You know you invited them, but now they’ve turned up without a bottle you’re not sure why.

So, Gin and Crumpets Fixes It For You is back and it’s also a failure. But I will not rest until I come up with a banana bread that you can toast and that has a polenta crust you can adore.

Banana bread with a plain polenta crust
Makes 12 slices


125g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
125ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g very ripe bananas (unpeeled weight), mashed
275g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp poppy seeds
4 tsp fine polenta (optional)


1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. Grease a 450g loaf tin with butter and line the base with parchment. Set aside.

2 Beat the butter, sugar and eggs together until light, pale and combined. Stir in the milk, vanilla extract and bananas.

3 Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Add the poppy seeds and stir to combine everything. Spoon into the loaf tin and sprinkle the polenta over the top. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

4 Cool in the tin for ½ an hour, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or cold in slices. It keeps for 4–5 days, wrapped and in a tin.

Tagged with: BakingBanana breadCakes

17 Responses to Experiments in banana bread 1: plain polenta crust

  1. Sally says:

    I’ve got a bag of polenta to use up so this is ideal. I really like new versions of banana bread – the poppy seeds sounds good. Have you tried adding alcohol? Bourbon is fab.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Bourbon sounds good! I’ve tried banana bread with rum – that was potent. I shall put ‘add booze’ on my list of things to try in pursuit of the perfect banana bread.

  2. SN1 says:

    Banana Bread with alcohol in it? G&C why did you not think of that first? You need to get on it!

  3. curlywurlyfi says:

    Oooh. I’ve got a v good banana bread recipe, also featuring poppyseeds (+ also nutmeg) if you would like?

  4. Alastair says:

    Well…. what can I say…. as the Alastair in question, I am so chuffed that you have once again helped me out. Despite what Lady G&C suggests, the banana bread was delicious. It came to me via her sister via a gannet like friend who left me a couple of slices, before she published this recipe. I sat down with a coffee (no flat white available unfortunately) and had one slice with butter and one with marmalade. Very tasty.

    Being rational, I should obviously actually say how it disappointed me, so that Dame G&C will persevere and continue sending me baking in cling film… but I can’t lie – it was fantastic, and I’d recommend to all.

    However, you are right, it didn’t stand up to toasting did it? wonder why? And the description of the polenta’s presence was right. But I still enjoyed it very much.

    Thank you Gin and Crumpets for fixing it for me.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Glad the banana bread got to you OK and SN1 didn’t take the opportunity to snaffle a few extra slices (not that she ever would, obviously). I will keep working on toastable banana breads – and other versions – for you.

  5. Lisa says:

    That looks fantastic. *drools*

    I have a lemon cake recipe that uses polenta/cornmeal that gets sturdier the longer you keep it. I don’t know if it would be of any use as a basic to tweak?


  6. Polenta crust on banana bread is a super idea! I made a huge loaf out of the Eric Lanlard book in December and not sure I can face it again just yet but I will definitely remember this idea.

  7. Lizzie says:

    Perhaps using a sturdier flour, like bread flour and kneading it well might make it more toast-able?

  8. I recently tried Eric Lanlard’s roasted banana muffins – the roasting add a whole new dimention!!

    Looking forward to trying the prefected version when it comes!!

  9. Gillian says:

    as Alastair’s sister, I feel somewhat obliged to try this, and with three youngboys under 8, I will get an HONEST opinion, and let you know their thoughts. Thank you Uncle Alastairx

  10. Gillian says:

    Well, made it, minus the polenta (which I know was the whole point of it but didn’t have any), but did 1/4 fkour as wholemeal and drizzled some manuka honey on just before baking – boys wolfed it down, as it was “uncle alastair’s recipe” and I didn’t say it had bananas in it! They said it was “delicious”! Thank you Gina and Uncle Alastair

  11. ginandcrumpets says:

    @Sarah and Brownieville Girl Erica Lanlard is clearly the man to go to for future banana bread experiments!

    @Lizzie, Yep, definitely going to try and reslly bready banana bread made with strong flour and yeast.

    @Gillian Glad the nephews all enjoyed Uncle Alistair’s Banana Bread – although, really, he should have made it for them and brought it round! Plenty more banana bread recipes to come.

  12. […] I began my experiments in banana bread to help Alistair find the perfect recipe for Australian-style banana bread with polenta on top, @curlywurlyfi tweeted me to say she has a recipe that’s all kinds of excellent (or words to […]

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