Dec 022012
 

Banana chocolate-chip bread

As I have said here before, there is something eminently comforting about a loaf of quick-bread. When one finds oneself in the throes of a Banana Corollary situation and is simultaneously in need of some comfort food, banana bread is an obvious choice. I previously only jonesed for a good loaf of quick-bread when battling a cold or some other malady, but in the final weeks of my pregnancy I could. not. get. enough of the stuff, which perhaps explains why Leah was a little yellow when she made her grand appearance.

There are two things that banana bread should be and a third thing that is awfully nice, but by no means required. They are, respectively: excessively banana-y, super-moist, and chocolatey. You’d be surprised how many recipes fall short in the required categories. So, at thirty-eight weeks along and sporting more than a few water-polo-balls’ worth of bulk in the front of my abdomen, you can imagine that I didn’t want to waste time on sub-par banana bread recipes. Another recipe I’ve tried (from Cook’s Illustrated) delivered on the banana front but was excessively fussy (don’t tell a woman who’s full to the brim with child that she has to microwave bananas and then reduce the juice on the stove-top: I can assure you that the last thing she wants to do is be on her feet longer than she has to. She just wants to eat banana bread) and it was frankly not as good as this recipe that I’m going to share with you.

So the next time you find yourself in need of a quick-bread fix, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. I think you’ll find — like we do — that it never lasts long!

Note: February 23rd is National Banana Bread Day in the US! Mark your calendars and use up those brown bananas!

Also note: dairy-free variation at the end of the recipe!

Banana chocolate-chip bread


Banana & Chocolate-Chip Bread
Loosely based on a recipe from Love & Olive Oil
Makes one loaf

Notes:

  • If you have something more awesome than the standard paddle attachment for your mixer, such as the Beater Blade, you don’t have to bother mashing the bananas ahead of time. Just crank the mixer up to a respectable speed and it will pulverize the nanners for you.
  • Need to hasten along the ripening of a banana (or three)? Put it in a paper bag. The fruit gives off ethylene gas as it ripens, which helps it ripen even further when trapped in the same bag.

You will need:

  • 1 3/4 cup (210g) all-purpose flour or a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and white whole-wheat
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (see variations below for dairy-free)
  • 3/4 cup (5.75oz) sugar, either white or packed brown (or any combination thereof; I favor half granulated, half light-brown. You’ll get a better rise if you include some brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) buttermilk
  • 3 heavily speckled or black over-ripe bananas, mashed (see notes)
  • 1 cup (6oz) chocolate chips or chunks, preferably Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

To prepare:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a 9″x5″ or 8″x4″ loaf pan or four mini-loaf pans for baking by greasing and flouring them. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand-mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for several minutes until the mixture is light-colored and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  3. Pour in the buttermilk. The mixture may start to look curdled at this point; that’s ok. Add in the bananas and mix well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in increments, mixing well in-between additions. Once all the flour is added, pour in the chocolate chips and mix.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes in a 9×5 pan or 70-80 minutes in an 8×4 pan or 35-45 minutes in mini-loaf pans, until well-browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack.

Variations:

  • If you don’t have an acidic milk like buttermilk or milk with lemon juice added, use 1 tablespoon baking powder instead of 1 teaspoon baking soda.
  • To make this dairy-free: substitute an equal amount of walnut oil, coconut oil, or other lightly-flavorful oil for the butter. I don’t recommend using lard or veg shortening because they don’t impart enough flavor. Swap out buttermilk in favor of soy-, almond-, or coconut-milk plus one teaspoon of lemon juice. (Or, mamas, if you’re lactating and you know the people who will be eating this won’t be weirded out by this, yes, you can use breastmilk with a little lemon juice added.) Chop up 6 ounces of semi-sweet dairy-free chocolate (Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet — in the yellow package — is a good choice). If you’re also avoiding soy (including soy lecithin), I recommend Enjoy Life semi-sweet mini-chips (I have found them at Kroger, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and military commissaries).
  • To make a chocolate banana bread: omit the chocolate chips and add 1/4 cup sugar (1.75 ounces), 1 banana, 1/2 – 1 cup chopped toasted nuts (I like hazelnuts in this) and 3/4 cup (2.65oz) sifted natural cocoa powder. Do not use Dutch-processed cocoa powder because the chemical leavening will not work: you’d have to do some sort of switch to baking powder instead of soda and I honestly don’t know the quantities you’d need to do it. Because the cocoa adds so much acid, buttermilk (or soured non-dairy milk) is not necessary, so you can use regular milk (or non-dairy milk) if you want.

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