Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I think that by the time you reach your mid twenties, if you're a baker, you must have a banana bread recipe. It's just one of those things, kind of like how everyone has a way in which they like their salad.

Well, here's how I like my banana bread: nut-free, fat-free (you read that right), moist, filled with chocolate chips, and covered with a beautiful cinnamon sugar crust. In fact, now that I've got this recipe, I no longer feel the need to try any other banana bread recipes, because this one is the one. It's like they say: sometimes, you just know.

And the great thing about this recipe is that it is very forgiving. I appreciate forgiving recipes. This is not because I am a klutz in the kitchen, but because no one wants cooking or baking to be a stressful activity. It's supposed to be relaxing. Forgiving recipes help you relax.

This recipe is especially nice because it is flexible in terms of the star ingredient: the banana. I have made this many times, and it seems that this bread works just as well with two bananas as it does with three bananas, or five; just scale up or down. The ripeness of your banana also doesn't seem to be a huge factor in the quality of the final product, so if you're a little impatient and can't wait for your bananas to get that spotted black, really ripe look (the paper bag trick never seems to work as quickly as I'd like it to), that's okay. A plain yellow banana should work just fine. Just remember to really mash the fruit up.

Lastly, because I've always liked the "crusts" of bread (I've never been particularly fond of the slightly boring texture in the middle of breads, cupcakes, or muffins), I tend to spread my batter out of a little thinner in pans. So while this recipe can be made in a loaf pan, I like to make it in an 8x8 pan, simply because I like edges and crusts more (especially this cinnamon-sugar crust). If you know you like more substance to your bread though, and you want more of a bread shape than a cake shape, bake in the appropriate sized pan.

This recipes makes two pans, which may seem like a lot, but then you should remember that it's incredibly healthy and can be easily frozen and defrosted or given away to friends. So, make the whole recipe. Don't scale it down. I actually scaled it up from the original recipe, since one little pan was never enough.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar

Adapted from Orangette’s recipe

5 ripe bananas (any size will do)
3 large eggs
1½ cup granulated sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar)
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups semisweet/bittersweet/dark chocolate chips

For topping:
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp demerara sugar (if you have it)
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Butter two 8-inch square pans.

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher (this can also be done in a food processor). Add the eggs, and mix well to combine. Add the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon, and mix till smooth. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and mix until just combined (don’t worry too much though; I’ve never had a problem with overmixing). Add 1 cup of the chocolate chips, and stir. Distribute the batter into the buttered pans.

In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the pans, and then top with the remaining ½ cup chocolate chips.

Bake for 35-40 minutes in the middle rack, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

This banana bread is delicious out of of the oven, delicious after it has cooled on the kitchen counter, delicious after sliced and toasted in a pan with a little pat of butter, delicious out of the fridge, and delicious out of freezer. (Yes, I've tried it all of these ways.) And really, I have to say, if you've never tried baked goods fresh out of the freezer, do it. It is amazing what a difference it can make. Sometimes I'll freeze my chocolate chip cookies or my cupcakes (sans frosting) and then eat them like that. The crumb texture doesn't change, but somehow the flavors are different. Certain flavors become muted when cold, and then when they hit the warmth of your tongue, they just explode; the difference is astounding.

Happy baking!

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