Along with a few other fruits and vegetables, bananas are a staple in my home. They’re a must for smoothies and more importantly, they’re a great source of energy for bike rides. Bananas are also potassium-rich which means that they can help stave off muscle cramps during or after a ride.
The only thing I don’t like about taking bananas along on bike rides is that they sometimes get mushy in my jersey pocket, rendering them almost inedible. Most people might not mind this but I happen to prefer my banana on the barely-ripe side, as in no dark spots or bruises. For this reason, I’ve started to take prunes with me on my rides. Yes, prunes. I know they get a bad rap because of their very, let’s just say, fast-acting nature. But, they contain more potassium than bananas and are much easier to carry. And just in case you’re wondering…there’s no prune effect if you eat only a few at a time. I think you know what I mean. 🙂
But even though I’ve substituted prunes for cycling, I haven’t adjusted my banana purchases accordingly. Hence, the latter would end up forgotten, sitting on the counter uneaten, rotting. This week I was determined not to waste anymore so I decided to make banana bread.
Quick breads are so gratifying to make since they require no advanced skills. My early forays in the kitchen included easy recipes for zucchini and banana bread. It made me feel so good to be able to make “bread”. While the the recipes I used were good at the time, none has been memorable enough for me to hang on to. Until this afternoon.
I found a recipe in one of my Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks that seemed perfect to try. The book has a variation on banana bread that contains chocolate and since I had all the ingredients I got to work.
This is a definite keeper. The bread was moist, cake-like, not overly-sweet and a pure delight to eat. The soft inside was a nice contrast to the crusty outside. More importantly, the prominent banana flavor was unmistakable in every bite. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the addition of chocolate and I was happy to see that it did not compromise the balance of the other ingredients. Rather, it provided just a slight chocolate finish which elevated this bread from ordinary to truly exceptional. My previous banana bread recipes have also been oily and this wasn’t at all. The use of plain yogurt did the trick in providing additional moisture in a very healthy way. Leave it to the folks at America’s Test Kitchen to deliver a winning recipe.
Banana Chocolate Bread
- 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
- 1 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped coarse
- 10 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) grated bittersweet chocolate
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 very ripe, soft, darkly-speckled bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Toast the walnuts on a baking sheet for 5-10 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside.
2. Whisk all the dry ingredients together, including the grated chocolate, in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Mix the mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter and vanilla with a wooden spoon in another bowl. Lightly fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Transfer batter into the greased and dusted loaf pan.
4. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool in the pan for five minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.