Food is a big deal in our house… Sandy and I are both extremely enthusiastic about using delicious ingredients in our cooking and baking. When our kids were born I had no doubt that they would learn to share our foodie enthusiasms – how could they not? Well, little did I know!! Both our boys are autistic – and autistic people can often have a very complex relationship with food.
This isn’t quite my usual Very Berry style I know, but I wanted to write a little bit about this because it is so little understood or appreciated by other people or even by health professionals. Most autistic people have sensory difficulties – it can be an extreme sensitivity to touch, or noise (even just certain types of noises), or it can be an under responsiveness to cold, heat or pain – there are loads more, which I wont go into now – but if you know an autistic person, this is a really interesting read, which gives an insight into how tricky it can be.
The senses of taste and smell are often affected and one of the reasons why this can be a particular problem for autistic children is because us parents (and other adults) understandably get so hung up on kids eating well – and it’s not just about nutrition, it’s a measure of good behaviour too. So, people see a brattish child having a tantrum and refusing to eat anything on their plate, where there is actually a child who is utterly overwhelmed by new smells, textures and flavours that are at best scary and stressful because they are unknown, at worst, actively unpleasant because the messages between senses and appetite are getting scrambled.
Years ago, whilst talking over our worries concerning our kids’ diet, I remember our paediatrician saying, well, they might not eat much, but at least what they eat is healthy, and I have hung on to that encouragement over the years. We have become masters of the art of sneaking ingredients into their diet (something we said we would never do!) – Sandy makes fishcakes which contain swede and boiled eggs, and I batch-cook tomato sauce which has secret carrots, garlic, onion, celery and chicken stock. But it makes sense to start with something they already like and build on it to extend their food boundaries. Baked goodies are always popular (within limits – nothing with icing and definitely not sponge cake or anything with chocolate – unbelievable I know!), which is why there are so many recipes for nourishing baked treats on this blog. Recently, I have been thinking outside the box a little, trying to work out ways of adding nutrition to their food using ingredients which are unfamiliar to me.
Our foodie tendencies are becoming focused on providing maximum nourishment for the whole family, so I was really glad recently, to be given a couple of packs of vegan protein powder from That Protein to try, because for a while now I have been wondering about how I could change my baking habits to add to the nutritional content of their favourite breakfasts and snacks. I’ve been doing some reading, researching and experiments, and I thought I’d share the first very small success with you – adding a little Happy Hemp powder to one of our favourite breakfast bakes – Apple and Banana Loaf.
I say a very small success because I have only added a very small amount of the powder to the recipe – afraid that my super-tasters will cotton on to my experiments… But the good news is, the hemp powder’s soft nutty flavour worked really well, and the loaf was greeted with the usual enthusiasm, and devoured – next time I am going to up the hemp content, but in the meantime, here’s the recipe for you – if you don’t want to use the powder (but why not give it a go?) just leave it out and substitute an extra 20g of plain wholemeal flour.
Banana and Apple Loaf
A hearty, deliciously fruity yeasted loaf, full of nutritious ingredients, using the one-rise method
– 7g dried (or fast action dried) yeast
– 150 ml luke warm water
– 2 ripe bananas
– 4 tbsp of apple pureé (equivalent of one large Bramley apple)
– 20g Happy Hemp powder with Baobab
– 280g plain wholemeal flour
– 150g plain white flour
– 1 tsp mixed spice
– 1 level tsp salt
– 1 tbsp honey
– 100g sultanas
- Line a 2lb loaf tin (the one I use is 24cm long by 13cm wide at the top and 6cm deep) with baking parchment. You can use a bigger tin but your loaf will be flatter when it comes out of the oven.
- If using dried yeast, your first step is to dissolve it in the water – omit this if you are using fast action dried yeast.
- Mash the bananas in a large bowl and stir in the apple purée.
- Add the hemp powder, both the flours, mixed spice and salt to the bowl. If you are using fast action yeast, add it now. Give the dry ingredients a stir to combine with the apple and banana .
- Add the honey and the water/water and yeast mix and beat together, then add the sultanas and stir until thoroughly mixed. The dough should be wet and sticky – somewhere between a fruit cake mix and a fruit bread dough. If it feels a little dry and solid add more apple puree if you have some, or a tablespoon or two of water.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared tin and smooth the top of the dough with wet hands. Put the tin inside a large polythene bag and leave in a warm place until the dough is teetering on the brink of rising over the edge of the tin.
- It usually takes about an hour for the bread to be ready to bake, so after about 40 minutes of rising time, pre-heat your to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
- When your bread has risen, transfer the tin carefully to the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes until the top of the loaf is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you give it a tap.
- Remove from the tin straight away and leave to cool on a wire rack. This is delicious when it’s still warm from the oven, and brilliant toasted too.
If your family like nuts and seeds, then these would also be a fantastic addition to this recipe – maybe 50g of chopped pecans, walnuts or pumpkin seeds. You can also omit the honey entirely, or replace it with 25g of sugar – whatever works for you.
For more recipes do visit my directory of Very Berry recipes.