Banana Bread

Do you ever forget that you have a few bananas still sitting in the fruit bowl or on the counter?  At our house, sometimes they seem to get over-ripe before we manage to eat them all.  What do you do with them?  Maybe smoothies.  Bananas do freeze well, so you can pop them in the freezer (probably better to peel them first, if you are planning on doing smoothies - it's a bit hard to peel a frozen banana...) and add them straight to the blender instead of ice.

I usually end up making banana bread when ours are so dark and over-ripe that nobody will eat them.  If I only have one, it goes into the freezer, peel and all, until I have enough to do the bread.  When using frozen bananas for quick breads, you will need to thaw them first, so it works ok to freeze them whole.

Banana bread is something that I remember my mom making more after we moved to Russia. She took an old Better Homes and Gardens recipe (the one I have now is from the New Cook Book, published in 1996, but her cookbook is significantly older.  I'm not sure exactly which edition it is, but I believe the recipe for banana bread is the same) and improved upon it by adding milk chocolate bars that already had either almonds or hazelnuts.  The combination of banana bread and chocolate might sound odd, but it is really good.

I actually took her recipe a little further by using half whole wheat flour and instead of milk chocolate, I add dark.  It's richer and works better with the banana flavor, I think.  Also, since I tend to buy plain chocolate bars, I add in a decent amount of chopped walnuts.  Between the whole wheat flour, bananas, nuts and dark chocolate, this bread is actually (maybe) one that can be considered a fairly healthy snack or quick breakfast.

The recipe also doubles and triples well, so if you have a large family or you want to give some away (and make people love you forever), just double or triple all the ingredients and divide equally between loaf or muffin tins.

So here's what you will need:
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 medium over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and grease a loaf pan.  Set it aside for the moment.

If you have an assistant that needs a job, mashing the bananas is perfect.  Just put the bananas in a bowl and give them either a fork or a potato masher and let them go to town.  

Meanwhile, you can be combining the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Make a well in the middle.

Bulldozer was happy to help with this step as well.

Next, take the bowl of mashed bananas and add the sugar, egg and cooking oil.  Stir well to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour all at once and stir until just combined.  It will be lumpy, but you want to make sure that you've gotten all of the flour moistened.

Fold in the chocolate and nuts.

Scrape the batter into your prepared loaf pan.  It also works well in muffin tins or small cake forms.  Bulldozer likes to put a little batter into a teddy bear-shaped tin so that he  will have his own special bread.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.  I would start checking the bread after about 40 minutes, since all ovens are different.  Mine usually takes no longer than 45 minutes to bake.

Let the pans rest for about 10 minutes on a wire rack and then turn them out onto the rack to finish cooling.

If you can stand to wait (baking this bread will make your house smell awesome!), wrap the cooled bread in foil and leave overnight.  That lets the flavors come together and the bread slices more easily after resting overnight, too.

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