Friday, April 23, 2010

Domestic Heaven: Dark Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Is there anything that says "domestic bliss" like banana bread?  I think not.  And dark chocolate chunk banana bread?  Well, that's gotta be domestic heaven.  Plus, this version is egg- and dairy-free, so not only can you enjoy the delicious baked bread, you can also lick your batter-covered spatula (love that) free of worries about the dangerous bacteria that linger in raw eggs.

Calling this "bread" is a bit generous, since with 1/2 cup of sugar, it's more cake-y than bread-y.  But in my mind, a health-full life includes some indulgence.  And as this recipe only has 3 tablespoons of canola oil, and as dark chocolate is so full of antioxidants it's practically a vitamin itself, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without a ton of guilt.  

This is a quick, delicious version that also happens to be vegan (as I mentioned), inspired by Robin Robertson's version from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  (Not surprisingly, 1,000 Vegan Recipes is a mighty tome, and worth a perusal or purchase.  If you're trying to eat more plant-based meals, or just eat more veggies, the book covers everything, and is a great resource to have.)

Here's what you need:

Dry ingredients:
-- 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
-- 1/2 c. sugar
-- 2 teaspoons baking powder
-- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-- 1/4 teaspoon salt
(-- options: 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg)

Wet ingredients:
-- 3 ripe bananas
-- 1/3 c. soy or almond milk
-- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
-- 3 tablespoons canola oil

-- 1 (3-3.5) ounce organic dark chocolate bar, chopped (or 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips)
-- 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped and toasted (optional)

Here's what to do:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degree and lightly oil a 9-inch loaf pan.
2.  Chop your chocolate bar into chunks.  If you're using walnuts, chop 'em, and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (You don't have to toast them, but it adds a wonderful flavor.)
2.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  (Add some cinnamon if you're fan, and/or freshly grated nutmeg.)
3.  Put all the wet ingredients into a blender (or food processor), and blend well until nice and smooth.
4.  Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir gently a couple of times to combine.  (They won't be totally combined, and that's what you want.  Over-mixing = tough texture.)
5.  Add in the chocolate chunks and nuts, and fold gently just until everything is combined.  Remember -- don't over-mix or you'll get a brick of banana bread.
6.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it evenly.  Pop it into the oven to bake.  Bake until firm and until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  For me, this took 35 minutes.  (The original recipe called for 50 minutes.)  So check your bread after 30 minutes, and then keep an eye on it until it's done.  
7.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool for as long as you can stand it before diving in.  


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