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Smooth as a marble

Chocolate-banana bread is a success for baking-phobe

Chocolate-banana bread is a success for baking-phobe

March 18, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

The fact that I successfully baked chocolate-marbled banana bread is more than a minor victory for a person not known for her cooking.

Making this recipe, and making it well, provided some much-needed redemption for a major baking mishap that up until now left me sour on baking anything involving chocolate.

Now, my hope is that by sharing this recipe for chocolate-marbled banana bread, I can give others traumatized by bad baking the confidence to once again whip out the electric mixer.

While mine is a simple recipe, it's not exactly banana bread for dummies. Folks who already know their way around a kitchen might toss this one in with the other banana bread recipes in the box or make some simple tweaks.

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In fact, I made some changes to the original recipe I received by adding pepper, nutmeg, coconut extract and more chocolate. I also found that if you've got enough moisture from bananas, chocolate and other ingredients, you might be OK if you forget to add the low-fat yogurt. Walnuts are also optional.

All this food baggage was stirred up last month, when I was presented a recipe for chocolate-marbled banana bread. I committed myself to baking it by buying all the cooking gear and ingredients I lacked, then telling folks I would let them know how it turned out.

This recipe, through its use of bananas and chocolate, captured both my best and worst childhood food memories - Grandma Vivian's fresh-baked banana bread (that's the good memory), and a batch of chocolate birthday cupcakes gone horribly wrong (the bad).

For years, my grandmother has made what she calls a no-frills, no-fuss banana bread. Her MO is to use overripe bananas, brown sugar, vanilla extract and buttermilk or sour milk.

It is the ultimate comfort food. Had I a slice right now, I'd eat it with a cup of black coffee.

Sadly, Grandma's baking skills did not rub off on me. In fact, I have never done any serious baking since "the incident."

It was fifth grade, end of the school year. Back in those days, anyone with a summer birthday brought in a treat to share with the entire class. I decided on chocolate cupcakes simply because I liked chocolate.

I'm not sure why I decided to make them myself.

Everything seemed fine when I started, though it was the day before I needed them and there wouldn't be time for a "redo." Once everything was mixed - I was sure I had put everything in there - and the allotted bake time had passed, I had runny cupcakes.

So I baked them, again and again. Still, they were runny.

So, I thought they might set if I left them on the kitchen counter overnight, but they were still runny.

Perhaps, they might firm up by the end of the school day, when we supposed to pass out our goodies. But they were still runny. My classmates ate them any way, which meant they had semi-soft chocolate smeared across their faces and fingers.

The scene too closely resembled the time I volunteered to change my baby cousin. Ever since, I have been fearful of any baking that involved chocolate.

I think I have redeemed myself since "the cupcake incident," proven with this banana bread loaf. I had a lone taste tester, a girlfriend of mine who's allergic to raw bananas and coconut. She volunteered to taste, and finished a whole slice. She told me it was really good - down to the last bite.

I couldn't get a slice to Grandma Vivian, who lives in Bloomington, Ill., though when I ran the ingredients past her over the phone, she did say, "That does sound good, Tiffany."

Just don't ask me about how last night's Cornish hen turned out.




Chocolate-marbled banana bread



2 cups all-purpose flour3/4 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon nutmeg1/4 teaspoon pepper1 cup sugar1/4 cup butter, softened1 1/2 to 2 cups pured, ripened bananas2 eggs1/3 cup plain, low-fat yogurt1/2 teaspoon coconut extract1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chipsHandful crushed or chopped walnutsCooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and pepper, stirring together with a whisk.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter at medium speed for about a minute. Add the bananas, eggs, yogurt and extract, and beat until blended.

Add the flour mixture and beat until blended.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe container and microwave at high for 1 minute until the chocolate is nearly melted, stirring until smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

Spray a 8 1/2-by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Spoon chocolate and batter alternately into the loaf pan, sprinkling in walnuts intermittently between the layers.

Swirl the batters together with a knife and sprinkle a few walnuts over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan, on a wire rack. Remove from the pan and cool completely on the wire wrack.

-- Tiffany Arnold, adapted from a friend's recipe

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