You know how everybody seems to have a wonderful banana (quick) bread recipe, I mean the kind made with baking powder or baking soda?  Ever notice though that there aren't very many recipes around for a yeasted banana bread? Why do you suppose that is?

I've been making this for a very long time and actually prefer it to a banana quick bread as it's much kinder to the hips and it's much more pleasurable to make (for me anyway). Do I really need to say too, that it tastes pretty damned good? I know many of you love cinnamon and it's probably my favourite spice after chilli, but beware that cinnamon is known to impair yeast activity, so don't go overboard with it in your yeast bread recipes.

isn't she lovely?

Granted, these aren't the prettiest loaves I've ever made - because of the high sugar content, both from the bananas and added brown sugar, they tend to darken very quickly. Hmm... I seem to be on a burnt bread bender!

But, if I may paraphrase a certain food blogger buddy, looks are all well and good, but, it's the taste that lingers in the memory. Still, if the colour bothers you, loosely cover the loaves midway through baking, with a sheet of kitchen foil.

oops! a little too long on the tanning bed!

The wonder of these loaves is that they possess the coveted texture of brioche - that flaky, deeply golden crust and tender, rich yet airy crumb, without the calorific heft of brioche. And, dare I say that they smell even more maddening? Imagine if you can, cinnamon scented butter caramels and you would almost be there. This gorgeous bread comes a close second after my beloved flax seed loaf.

the wholewheat version that will never make it to print

I've tried making a 40 % wholewheat version of this, but I really feel that it's one of the few breads that should be all white. The bananas make this a loaf that can hang around your kitchen counter for days before it begins to dry out and while it's delicious enough to eat innocent of even butter, spread with chocolate, lemon curd or orange marmalade, it is a revelation. Or, you could always take the bus back to Butterville ;)

Prep 3 1/2 hours  Cook 30 mins  Makes 2 small loaves

500g (5 level teacups) bread flour
4 Tbsp soft brown sugar
1 1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 level tsp salt
2 1/2 level tsp instant yeast
3 very ripe medium Cavendish bananas
100 ml (1/2 teacup) water, milk or soy milk
3 Tbsp flavourless vegetable oil
A little melted butter to brush loaves after baking (optional)

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir with a whisk. Stir in the yeast until well distributed.

Briefly blitz together the banana and liquid and pour mixture into flour mixture. Mix on speed two (low) for 3 minutes. Scrape dough off hook and down into bowl. Cover bowl and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Add oil to dough and knead on speed 2 for 8 - 10 minutes. Scrape dough off hook and out of bowl, onto a lighlty greased surface. Shape into a tight neat ball. Grease inside of bowl and turn dough around in it. Put dough in bowl, seam side down and cover. Leave to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Grease and line a 10 cm (4 in) by 23 cm (9 in) loaf tin. Turn dough out of bowl and divide equally into two pieces. Cut one of the pieces into 3 equal pieces. Keep the other piece covered. Roll each of the 3 pieces from the first portion of dough into thick ropes about 30 cm (12 in) long. Place ropes on parchment lined baking tray and braid as in pictures above. Starting from the middle ensures an even shape.

Pinch ends firmly together and tuck neatly under braid. Cover with a clean, tented plastic grocery bag and leave to proof for 40 - 45 minutes. Do not overproof or braid will spread out too much and collapse when baked.

Take the remaining piece of dough and roll into a log about 1 1/2 times the length of loaf tin. Shape dough into an 'S' and put into  baking tin. Cover as for braid, and proof for 1 hour. Preheat oven for twenty minutes at 190 C (375 F).

Put braid into oven. Fifteen minutes later, put tinned loaf in beside braid. Remove braid after 25 minutes total baking and cool on a rack. Remove tinned loaf after 30 minutes total baking. Remove loaf from tin and cool on rack. Wait until loave are cool before slicing with a sharp serrated knife.