It’s not a secret. Believe me, we all do it. Sometimes we get lazy. Sometimes we are forgetful. Sometimes a prized ingredient is left unused in the fridge or on the counter, our best intentions for it simply no match for the exhaustion/excuses/whatever that has shown up in our lives since its purchase. Luckily enough for us, sometimes there is forgiveness for your oversight and redemption for your overripe food. At least, there is if you are lucky enough to forget about your bananas.
Banana bread is forgiving in the way few other foods are, since it asks you to start with a main ingredient that has definitely passed its prime. Since it is so forgiving, though, it may seem strange that I’ve only just now figured out how to make really good banana bread. It was not really a staple in my house growing up. We all liked it, but it was difficult to make simply because my family consumed bananas as easily and quickly as tree-loving monkeys. Bunches would disappear within days, which meant that bananas rarely got to the prime bread state. Certain members of my family actually prefer brownish bananas, and so no banana was safe from consumption until it was fully past yellow. Once in a while, my mom would manage to ripen enough bananas to the perfect shade of overripe and bake a loaf of bread. This was always pretty exciting for the rest of my family, but from my perspective it was almost worse than not having ripe bananas at all– I loved the smell of the bread baking in the oven, but was never able to eat it since was always ruined by the nuts my mom insisted on including. I grew up hating the idea of banana bread. Everyone else got to enjoy it, but if I wanted to, a large amount of nut-removal was necessary to get to the good parts. And who wants to bother with that? Not me.
Last weekend I went home last weekend for Easter and found not only one, but three fully brown bananas sitting in the kitchen. I expected my mom to have some grand Easter plan for them, since she is usually the holiday baking master. Luckily for me, though, she was too overloaded with other cooking responsibilities to deal with them. Banana bread could finally be perfect, nutless, and mine. I was pretty ecstatic. To make the joy last a little longer, I doubled the recipe with some bananas we had in the freezer and baked the bread in a pan for angel food cake. Catch a glimpse of the finished product in last week’s post. It is perfectly acceptable to freeze your ripened bananas if you are not ready to use them immediately, by the way– just peel them and pop them into a ziploc bag. When you are ready to use them, microwave until just gooey enough to mash, and then follow the recipe as normal.
I promise that the recipe below will make your brown bananas shine– it is moist with bananas but still solid, heavy yet pleasantly so, and the chocolate chips give it a pleasant sweet kick. For those of you who, like me, don’t do nuts in your sweet or savory goods, this bread will have you singing with nut-free joy. And for those of you who do? Well, I guess if you a threw a handful of walnuts into the mix in the safety of your own home, I can’t blame you. Just don’t bring your nutty banana bread over for tea.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Adapted from The New Revised and Updated McCall’s Cookbook
1 1/2 cup flour, plus 1/4 cup
2/3 cup sugar
3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup butter
1 cup very ripe banana, mashed (about 2-3)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, and the sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut your butter into very small chunks– I quartered the stick lengthwise and then sliced small chunks from that. Add the small butter pieces and mix until the combination resembles coarse breadcrumbs. When you have hit the breadcrumb stage, add the banana and eggs.
Add the chocolate chips to a separate bowl and toss with the reserved 1/4 cup of flour. This will help prevent the chips from sinking to the bottom of your bread. Add the chocolate and flour to the banana mixture and stir well to combine.
Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.