February 24, 2012

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I'm not up for a long post today, so let's get right down to business. Banana bread. Via Melissa Clark's book Cook This Now, this banana bread is a play on the traditional recipe with a few key tweaks. It is deeply moist and fragrant with olive oil, banana, and yogurt. An equal mix of whole wheat and white flour adds a pronounced earthy wheat flavor and a nubby crumb. The loaf is strewn with bittersweet chocolate chunks. And if you haven't tried the combination of bright, zippy lemon zest and brown sugar, I am here to tell you that it is great. This is a tempting cake, not too sweet, that will keep for about a week if well-wrapped.

The pictured loaf was from the most recent time I made it. Distracted, I forgot to add the eggs ... not the first time I've left out key ingredients while baking. Improbably, it still tasted great, albeit drier and denser than usual. Like most quick breads, this recipe is rather forgiving (maybe one reason why I like making quick breads!) and easily adaptable. I always have white whole wheat flour on hand, so I substitute an equal amount of that for the whole wheat and white flours. I've tried making this with butter, but I have come to prefer the savory richness of olive oil here. I've also omitted both the lemon zest and the chocolate, and while I think it's fine without the lemon zest, I think the chocolate is essential. Have fun. Try to remember the eggs.

Olive oil banana loaf with lemon zest and chocolate
adapted from Melissa Clark, Cook this Now

According to Clark, the key to an intensely banana-y bread is very ripe bananas. As in, you should be able to smell the vague smell of decaying bananas when you walk in the front door. The problem is, I find that I have to plan at least a week ahead of time to get bananas to this point. Sheesh, bananas!

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9x5 loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine and whisk the following:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour / 145 grams
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour / 136 grams
  •  3/4 cup dark brown sugar / 163 grams
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
2. In a separate bowl, combine and mix the following:
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I've also used virgin olive oil)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed, VERY ripe bananas (~3 or 4 bananas)
  • 1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and fold with a spatula until just combined, taking care not to over mix. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until dark golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. 

4. Transfer to a wire rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, invert loaf from pan and cool completely.