Perfecting Banana Bread

This week I started following some advice that I read online somewhere. The article was about how to stay on track with your goals. The advice was to schedule it on your calendar. Treat the goal like a meeting and block of the time to work on it.

I’ve been all over the place lately and haven’t been doing the things I said I wanted to do. Life has been hitting me pretty hard and its impacted my motivation so I decided to tackle my must-do and want-to-do lists with the approach recommended. I scheduled everything in either 30-minute or 60-minute increments. It is the 4th day and it has been working well. I’m getting more done and doing the things that I must-do and want-to-do.

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Today during my Lunch & Shower time I decided to work on my chocolate banana bread recipe. I’ve been wanting it to have more chocolate flavor and increasing the amount of chocolate helped, but it isn’t where I want it to be. I know that coffee/espresso enhances chocolate flavor so I decided to add that to my recipe.

I like to prep all the ingredients before assembling so I got started with that. Sugar and butter in a bowl. Flour, salt, and baking soda in another. Wet ingredients in a 3rd. That’s where I ran into a problem. I may have waited a day or two too long to convert my overripe bananas into banana bread. They were not good. Off on an unplanned trip to the grocery store.

My grocery store doesn’t stock overripe bananas. It stocks green and bright yellow bananas. I picked a couple bananas that had some slight spotting and headed to check out. Something to keep in mind when making banana bread is that you don’t need the peel to be mostly brown. Ripe yellow bananas work just as well. As long as you can mash them, they work.

Got my bananas so now its on.

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I start by beating the butter and sugar until small pebbles are formed. It should look something like this.

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Next step is to add in the liquid ingredients and blend followed by the dry ingredients. I stop the hand mixer before all the dry ingredients are blended in fully and finish up by hand with a spatula. Each step should look something like this.

 

The melted chocolate goes in next. I scoop a cup or so of the batter into the melted chocolate and stir to combine fully. You have a couple options for how to proceed from here.

Option 1: Traditional marble instructions call for layering the two batters and then using a knife to swirl the layers into a marble pattern. I decided that was too much work so I go with the next option.

Option 2: I add the chocolate batter to the bowl with the rest of the batter and use my spatula to blend it, but not fully.

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Option 3: Just add the melted chocolate to the batter and beat to combine. Marble is for looks, not taste. You do you.

Now that all the ingredients are combined I dump it in a buttered and floured 8×4 and bake it in the oven. Don’t want to hassle with buttering and flouring your 8×4? Cooking spray does the trick too.

Banana bread is the best on the first day and still warm. Yes, you should cool it, but the crusty crunch of the crust and soft warmth of the bread is amazing. Well, it should be. This loaf not so much. Too much coffee flavor overwhelmed the chocolate. Not the effect I wanted. I used a tablespoon of coffee. Next time I’ll try it with a teaspoon. Or I might switch to espresso powder. Probably will try both because I want the recipe to be accessible.

The base recipe I started with was published in Cooking Light over 10 years ago. I don’t think my modifications would qualify this recipe for Cooking Light. I’ve added back some fat and with it came a richness that I like.

I’m sharing the recipe I made because I want to share the process of recipe development. There are plenty of final recipe versions out there for readers and my hope is that my experimenting will give readers the confidence to try changing recipes on their own. Follow along and see how this recipe develops.

 Chocolate Banana Bread with Coffee – Take 1

  • 1 cup (225 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (half stick) room temperature butter
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon strong coffee
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour (or cooking spray) 8×4 loaf pan. Don’t have an 8×4 loaf pan, use whatever size you have.

Combine 1 cup (225 grams) sugar and room temperature 1/4 cup (half stick) butter in a large mixing bowl. Forgot to put out the butter before you started? Cut it into 8-slices and then cut those slices into 4 spaced out on a plate. I set mine on the stove near the draft from the oven heating and they are usually soft enough by the time I’m done measuring out the rest of the ingredients.

Combine 2 cups (250 grams) flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk or spoon to combine. Sometimes when I’m on a healthier kick I’ll do 1 cup of all-purpose and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. It makes the loaf denser which I don’t mind.

Combine 3 ripe bananas, 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, and 1 tablespoon strong coffee in a medium bowl. Use a fork, potato masher or pastry blender to mash the bananas and mix with the other wet ingredients. I don’t notice a taste difference between sour cream or yogurt. I use full-fat sour cream because that’s what I have on hand. I do notice the bread has a richer flavor when using full fat, but the recipe works just as well with reduced or no-fat sour cream or yogurt.

Melt 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips. I use my 2-cup glass pyrex and microwave them for 60 seconds. If you are using a plastic Pyrex or bowl you’ll need to reduce the microwave time.

Now that all the ingredients are prepped we can move onto mixing. I use a hand mixer. If you have a stand mixer, use it. Get your money’s worth. Cream the butter and sugar together

Cream the butter and sugar together. Should take about 1 minute; longer if your butter isn’t at room temperature. Add banana mixture and beat to combine. Add flour mixture and beat until most of the flour mixture is combined. Finish by hand with a spatula.

Marble options: Add 1 cup of the batter to the Pyrex/bowl with melted chocolate and stir to combine.

  • Option 1: Layer 1/2 plain batter on the bottom of 8×4, followed by a layer of chocolate batter and finish with remaining plain batter. Use a knife to swirl batters together in the pan to create the marble.
  • Option 2: Add chocolate batter to plain batter and hand mix with a spatula a few times to create the marble in the bowl. Do not overmix or you’ll end up with no marble.

No marble option: Add the melted chocolate to the batter and stir to fully combine.

Loaf goes into the oven for 1 hour, 15 minutes. The first time you make it you’ll want to check it about 5-10 minutes early to account for your oven temperature variability and if using a different size loaf pan. It’s done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes and remove from loaf pan. Finish cooling on a wire rack.

Normally I would say yummy goodness awaits, but this recipe was too coffee for me. I’ll be adjusting the amount of coffee next time and let you know how it goes.

Happy Baking everyone!

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