Easy recipe for a moist banana nut bread topped with toasted walnuts – made with chestnut flour and decorated with more walnuts and figs. Reduced in sugar and inspired by the French-style cakes seen in Parisian bakeries.
The wind has helped bring Autumn to Paris with skydiving leaves. At many metro exits, guys are selling roasted chestnuts on their familiar beaten-up trolleys. As that first smell of woodsmoke hit me in the garden today, my thoughts returned to chestnuts. With three bananas looking at me in the kitchen, rather heavily speckled and brown, it’s always a perfect excuse to conjure up this moist banana and chestnut loaf.
Types of Banana Bread
The kids love banana bread for breakfast: you may have tried this banana chestnut coffee cake recipe, inspired by a UK celebrity chef with the coffee but, in the end, it needed LESS THEN HALF of the sugar.
If you know my recipes by now, I’ve been so inspired by French pastry chefs. Ever since I learned that too much sugar kills the flavour of pastries and cakes, I consistently reduce sugar. As bananas are naturally sweet enough, even adding a little soft brown sugar is treat enough. Although I have added sugar in the recipe below, many times I make this without adding any sugar at all – although I appreciate it’s an acquired taste. I’ll leave that up to you!
Are Chestnuts and Conkers the Same?
The conkers from horse chestnut trees are not edible – unlike the sweet edible chestnuts so popular in France.
The edible chestnuts are so popular in both France and in Corsica. As you may know, my husband is Corsican, and they love using chestnut flour in many recipes (have you tried this Chestnut Flour Tart with Pumpkin and Mushrooms? It’s Autumn on a plate!)
It adds that nutty intrigue and so that it’s not overpowering, use a a mix of plain flour with the chestnut flour, depending on the recipe. In this recipe, I add an extra two tablespoons of chestnut purée, which just adds that extra chestnut flavour and makes this cake extra moist.
Just so you know, chestnut flour does tend to make cakes rise less, so although it doesn’t look the most photogenic of cakes, the taste is what counts. It’s so good!
What is a Popular French Cake?
I find a French “cake” rather amusing since it can be a bit confusing. The French call a Cake (pronounced KeK) – but it’s not a round cake as we know it like a sticky orange caramel cake, or chocolate ginger passion cake. It’s appearance is more like a loaf in shape, as the cake is baked in a loaf tin. French cakes like chestnut cake in Corsica are popular and so merging the two with British banana bread meets together in this moist banana chestnut loaf.
If you look around the patisserie windows around Paris, you’ll see that many French pastry chefs top their cakes with fancy frills. They are topped with the likes of quartered fresh figs, walnuts, candied fruits like orange or cherries. Even the barest has a honey glaze on it. So it’s rare to see a bare, naked-topped French cake in any Parisian pâtisserie. If you do see one, tell me and I’ll eat my cake!
As a result, we often get mixed up between banana bread, banana cake and banana loaf. I’m calling it a loaf but perhaps I should say cake, like the French? Does it really matter? Just try it and you’ll decide for yourself.
Healthy Banana and Walnut Bread Recipe
Super moist and reduced in sugar, this is our healthy version of Banana bread with nuts. Made with chestnut flour and topped with walnuts which toast in the oven while baking. Decorate with a brushing of melted honey or apricot jam, even more walnuts, figs or dried apricots.
Moist Banana Chestnut Loaf
- 3 bananas very ripe
- 2 organic eggs
- 50 g (1.75oz) soft dark brown sugar
- pinch fleur de sel salt
- 100 g (3.5oz) plain flour (all-purpose)
- 50 g (1.75oz) chestnut flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- 85 g (3oz) unsalted butter melted
- 2 tbsp sweetened chestnut paste (I use Clément Faugier)
- 30 g (1oz) walnuts
Glaze & Topping (optional)
- 2 tbsp honey to glaze
- 2 fresh figs chopped
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/340°F (gas mark 3). Lightly oil a 450g/1LB loaf tin.
- Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl, then mix together the eggs and sugar until bubbly. Add the salt, flours, baking powder, and cinnamon, if using. Add the melted butter and mix until smooth.
- Pour in the batter in to the loaf tin. Top with walnuts and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. If not, bake for another 10 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin then tip the loaf out on to a wire rack to cool further.
- To decorate, gently heat the honey and brush it on the top of the loaf, adding extra walnuts.
Delicious served warmed with a scraping of butter or chestnut spread.
This recipe was first published 21 October 2017 but is now updated with a recipe card and updated text/photos.