August 22, 2008

Bananas & Chocolate....Chocolate & Bananas

I grew up on Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. While other kids had slices of plain banana bread sometimes flecked with nuts, mine was studded with gooey pockets of melting chocolate and sweet tart bits of maraschino cherries.

The bananas in my kitchen are developing brown spots, this is Nature's reminder to get to baking. So I began thumbing through some of my cookbooks and landed upon Dorie Greenspan's Cocoa-Nana Bread from Baking From My Home to Yours.....WARNING...the batter is terribly tempting, luscious notes of dark chocolate mingle with sweet hints of banana....and better yet the scent perfumes the entire house!

Rich, dark and bursting with a bittersweet-banana flavor. This beautiful loaf is perfect for dessert dolloped with creme fraiche or simply served aside an espresso with a touch of cream. For something a bit more elegant, saute banana slices with a touch of butter, a sprinkling of brown sugar & a drizzle or two of dark rum, serve over a thick slice of Cocoa-Nana Bread and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and candied walnuts. Dare I tell you? I'm eating a slice now as I type, with a tall glass of chilled whole raw milk (Living in California makes it easy to shop for Raw Milk, but if you don't happen to have it that easy, a chilled cup of Organic milk will do!) Delicious! The perfect accompaniment to blogging about food.

Dorie likes to serve it for breakfast. Chocolate for breakfast, magnificent! Finally someone else who agrees. Why not? Afterall, there is a bit of caffeine in chocolate, forgo the coffee and have a slice of Cocoa-Nana Bread...or I suppose save it for dessert. Either way it's a brilliant bread, I think I will try to add a bit more banana in my next batch, although the taste is there it's not as prevalent as the chocolate, but it is there. My bananas were on the smallish side, so maybe 3 next time. Also, I think the flavor will develop more overnight. I always love quick breads the next day.

Chef Parks this bread is for you! Chef Robert Parks was my Pastry Chef in culinary school. His class unraveled the mystery of everything sweet from petit fours to pate choux to ice cream. His favorite combination of ingredients was of course Bananas & Chocolate or Chocolate & Bananas.

So whether for breakfast, a midday snack, or dessert. When you're nudged to do something with those spotty bananas, try this decadent banana bread.

Cocoa-Nana Bread
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

In my never-ending quest to make chocolate as acceptable as porridge at the breakfast table, I offer this coal-dark morning loaf. It's big and hearty looking, cracked and creviced along the top, with a tight, even crumb and lots of patches of soft melted chocolate bits. At first bite the loaf is chocolate-chocolate, and then the banana flavor kicks in--it's altogether winning and, while it may feel decadent to have it as breakfast, it would be just as winning, if a little less racy, as a P.M. treat.

Makes 12 servings

2 C AP flour
1 C unsweetened cocoa powder (I LOVE Green & Blacks Organic!!)
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 C buttermilk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1/2 C chocolate chips (I like to use El Rey's Bittersweet 61%)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9X5-inch loaf pan and place it on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other. (This extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from overbaking.)

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with ahand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about a minute, until softened. Add the sugars and beat for 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. At this point, the batter may look a little curdled -- it's okay. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the mashed bananas. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Still on low speed, add the buttermilk, mixing until it is incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover the bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting too dark, and continue to bake for another 40-45 minutes (total baking time is between 70-75 minutes), or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before running a knife around the edges of the bread and unmolding it. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

Storing: Wrapped in plastic, the bread will keep for 2 days at room temperature; wrapped airtight, it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer.

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