Homemade banana bread is the best thing to come of overripe bananas. Though they may start to attract pesky fruit flies, do not throw away these baking gold mines. Overripe bananas are easier to mash and sweeter compared to those typically eaten out of hand – the starch turns into sugar as it ripens making for a more intense flavor. Add chocolate chunks and walnuts to this already favorite bread and it becomes a delicious breakfast or midday sweet.
One of the best perks of visiting my parents is delighting in the vast counter and overall kitchen space in their home; a stark difference to the triangular shaped nook in my Manhattan apartment full of miniature sized kitchen equipment (dishwasher not included). The haloed KitchenAid stand mixer did nearly all of the work for me, making this recipe a breeze and quite fun to prepare. A hand mixer or whisk gets the job done equally as well with a bit more effort.
Making healthy recipe substitutions at the expense of taste has become a “bad” habit of mine when baking. It is certainly not for every palate, but from time to time I like to use a little less sugar or a bit of whole wheat flour instead of all purpose for what the recipe calls. Cook’s Illustrated found that substituting anything more than 25% whole wheat flour for all purpose flour results in a texture that is displeasing to most tasters; a good rule of thumb. One of my favorite tricks to cut on saturated fat in baked goods is to use an overripe banana instead of a stick of butter. Surprised? It works like a charm when used as half. Given that the featured recipe is already banana bread, my substitutions fell only within the flour, using 1/2 c whole wheat flour and 1 c all purpose. A nominal difference in terms of nutritional benefits, but a few extra whole grains never hurt anyone.
For all intents and purposes of a party, housewarming gift, holiday, etc., I do not recommend making noticeable ingredient substitutions to bolster health. Unless it is the party theme or you are a savvy swapper, the dessert may fall victim to a courtesy “mmm.” I speak only from experience (while also shaking my head in thought of the pagach, a traditional Slovak bread, I made last Christmas Eve).
Banana Bread with Chocolate Chunks and Walnuts
Adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2001
1 1/2 c all purpose flour (or 1/2 c whole wheat and 1 c all purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c semisweet chocolate chips (or chunks)
3/4 c walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 c mashed ripe bananas
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 9x5x2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan.
- Whisk first 4 ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt) in medium bowl to blend.
- Combine chocolate chips and walnuts in small bowl; add 1 TBSP flour mixture and toss to coat. (Coating the chocolate chunks and nuts in flour will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bread while baking)
- Prepare batter: Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in mashed bananas, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat in flour mixture.
- Layer in pan: Spoon 1/3 of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of nut mixture. Spoon 1/3 of batter over. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture. Cover with remaining batter. Run knife through batter in zigzag pattern.
- Bake bread until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. *Frequently check the banana bread as it starts to appear done. Just a few extra minutes can make all the difference between a soft, moist bread and one that is still tasty, but more dry than preferred
- Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool.