March 21, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Spring is here, friends. A string of powerful thunderstorms has contributed to spongy pine spores and chartreuse-colored pollen. Wild wisteria grows along the highways like kudzu and the Bradford pears that have really been pushing to come out since January are in full linen-white. My favorite is a delicate weeping cherry tree that has produced the most beautiful pale pink blossoms. Let's never go back to winter. Onward!
But with spring comes stress: deadlines, papers, grades, late nights, early mornings, too much coffee. We really should start having support groups for people who bear the brunt of their yearly workload during the months of March and April. So I've found that it's the little things that gently decrease the day's harsh demands: a conversation with good friends; the occasional glass of wine; a new pair of shoes (or four, let's be honest). Through the stress of spring, I have discovered that joy comes in tiny forms. Paying attention to that weeping cherry tree as it blossoms and bursts. Reading Southern Living on the porch without a blanket. Learning how to cook calamari with a certain redheaded fiance (so easy, it turns out). As cliche as it sounds, life truly is about the little things.

And hasn't everyone loved banana bread at some point in life? Banana bread is such a staple of eating. It is breakfast or dessert. It is healthy or chocolaty. I've made banana bread with wheat germ, honey, and coconut; strawberries and browned butter; chocolate chips and pecans; plain cinnamon. This version of banana bread that I share is really more of a banana bread template. I love the presence of dark chocolate in banana bread but for this one I used a combination of chocolate and peanut butter chips. Add nutmeg and honey for a sticky, rustic taste, or coconut for a true banana loaf dessert. Substitute 1/2 cup of flour for ground oats or 1/4 cup for a little wheat germ.
Bananas and dark chocolate: what is more comforting than an old standard? What is more assuring than a sweet bread that's done in a little more than an hour? And what is more delightful than sharing this sweet staple with friends and family? Tiny joys, folks.

Banana Bread

Dry mix
2 cups flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cinnamon chips, nuts, or combination

Wet mix
4 very soft, ripe bananas (mine were almost black)
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour a standard loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients until combined. In a separate bowl, combine wet mix ingredients and mash with a potato masher, until bananas are incorporated but still form large clumps. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix bowl and add wet ingredients. Stir with large rubber spatula until just combined. (Like biscuits, this quick bread will get tough if over-mixed, so keep it light.)
Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for about an hour, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool at least two hours. Serve warm or cold, for breakfast or for dessert. This bread is a heavenly accompaniment for coffee or tea, but can also be served for dessert with a side of fruit.

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