Sunday, November 27, 2011

Messing with a Classic (Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread)

Banana bread, it holds a mysterious power. Dense, moist, impossibly fragrant... I am hard-pressed to encounter one and not want to eat the whole thing. I had intended for today's post to be a variation on my mother's Blue Ribbon Banana Bread, I know I have the recipe somewhere. Unfortunately, fortune did not smile upon my quest and a quick Google search demonstrates that everyone and their mother has a recipe for Blue Ribbon Banana Bread. Which is the "true" version? The world may never know.

Blue ribbon added for effect

Unlike some, I'm not sure I consider the banana to be incontrovertible proof of our universe's divine stewardship, but get a few drinks into me and I probably would entertain the thought. Considering it's a domesticated species carefully cultivated and interbred for its specific characteristics over centuries, I think the Big Guy needs to share a little credit, but the color-coded for freshness quality is certainly handy.

I want to believe
Having just bid tearful farewells to our Thanksgiving guests, I was critically low on basic staples, even butter, but had exactly three quickly over-ripening bananas staring me down from across the counter. Luck was still partially on my side, however, as there was a bottle of Nocciolata unopened in the pantry. As a genericized trademark, most people are more familiar with chocolate hazelnut spread under the name Nutella, and if that's all you can find, go for it.

Speaking of mysterious powers: chocolate hazelnut spread is absolutely delicious. If you haven't tried it, there should be a trip to the grocery in your near future. It's sort of like a candy bar and peanut butter had a baby, then force-fed it Frangelico until Child Protective Services asked them to have a seat over there. In the very best way.

By your powers combined...
So, plan firmly in mind I started my chocolate hazelnut banana bread. It seems extremely popular for variations on this theme to go the marbled route, which I can't quite find fault with, but I'm lazy and wanted more Nocciolata in every bite, so I just blended the batter to uniformity. If you prefer marble, by all means make the recipe reducing the chocolate hazelnut spread to 3/4c and reserving until the end (make the batter using 1/4c of room-temperature butter), then scoop a cup of banana batter into a separate bowl, incorporate the chocolate hazelnut spread, pour both batters into the pan in alternating layers and swirl with a knife.

Completely baked

Chocolate hazelnut banana bread
Adapted from The Hungry Dudes

If my misadventures have taught me anything: if there isn't a sheet of parchment between your baked good and its pan, things can only end in tears. Similarly, I can't in good conscience bake a banana bread without giving it a crackly cinnamon-sugar crust. It's highly recommended. Finally, since I'm on a suggestion kick, if I wasn't making this as pantry-scavenging found art, I'd add a cup of chopped hazelnuts and a cup of chopped bittersweet chocolate bar to complete the effect.

2c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4c turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tbs baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3c sour milk (add 1tbs white vinegar to 1/3c milk, or substitute sour cream or plain yogurt)
1c chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella, Nocciolata, or similar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
Additional sugar and cinnamon, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350° F, grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan, line the bottom with parchment, and grease the parchment, too.

Vent your frustration, but don't go overboard
In a large bowl, sift the flour and whisk in the sugar, soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the bananas with a fork, then whisk in the milk, chocolate hazelnut spread, vanilla extract and eggs (adding one at a time).

Pour your banana mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. The batter will be fairly lumpy with chunks of mashed banana, which is entirely the idea.

Sweet tooth
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes (unfortunately, banana bread plays a long game), until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.

The worst wait of all
Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes and invert on a plate to unmold. Dive right in.



Lemon said...

This looks like a delicious recipe. The cake looks so good.

J said...

You're too kind! I really recommend giving the recipe a shot, the chocolate hazelnut spread sort of pools into a fudgy center that vaguely reminds me of molten lava cake.

Lisa said...

Sounds yummy - I'm going to give this one a go - thanks :)

J said...

Welcome, Lisa! I hope it works out well for you. I'm not going to lie, as you can probably tell from my second to last photo, mine cracked down the middle. My banana bread always cracks.

More eggs, do you think? Perhaps a bain-marie? Let us know!