Friday, June 10, 2011

Cocoa Swirled Banana Bread

Is there such a thing as baking phobia?  If there is, then I think I have that syndrome.  

Back in high school, we were asked to surprise our parents by doing something special and unexpected for them.  Given that we did not have an oven (or a working one, at least), I went to my aunt’s house and decided to surprise her and my uncle.  So, while they were taking their afternoon nap, I got busy in their kitchen trying to make some cookies, whose recipe I found in my aunt’s recipe box.  I cannot remember anymore what kind of cookies they were, all I remember was that they were very plain…no nuts, no chocolate chips.  As you probably already guessed, they did not come out right.  They were flat, hard, and they stuck to the cookie sheet. From that point on, I said, baking is not for me.  Never again! 

Fast forward to the 21st century (wow, I am part of that generation that hop scotched between two centuries), I am still intimidated by baking.  I am just now starting to try my hand at it again.  Some turn out to be a success, and some don’t.  I am still trying to understand the logic, the science, and just the plain common sense behind it all. 

Recently, I thought I would attempt to make banana bread.  When I was a kid about 5 or 6, my aunt (the one I surprised with the cookies) loved to bake, and banana bread was one of the goodies she always made.  I was always given the task of mashing up the bananas for her, and I remember enjoying being assigned that task.  As she went through the process, she was teaching me the basics of baking, and without realizing it at that time, that was my introduction into cooking.  But unlike her, I did not get a knack for baking.  I guess after that failed attempt with those cookies in high school, I asked myself, in case of a crisis, which skill would you rather have, baking or cooking everyday meals?  While I love cakes and pastries, I thought to myself, man cannot live on cakes and pastries alone.  So between the two, I chose to learn how to cook everyday meals. Now I know, never say never.  So, I said I will give baking another try.   Not only is banana bread a comfort food for me, but it also brings back beautiful childhood memories.  Although baking is not my forte, I realized that baking taught me patience and perseverance.  Patience because after all the preparation and hard work, you have to wait for it to come out of the oven, and as if that wasn’t enough, you have to wait for it to cool before you can eat it.  Perseverance because, if at first you don’t succeed, just do it again.  Hmmm, now it makes sense why there are baking classes for kids.  Boy, it took me this long to figure that out.

This recipe is from the back of a Challenge Butter box.  It sounds so delicious that I just had to try it.  Somehow, I think my expectations were too high.  It did not come out as moist as I wanted it to be and it did not come out as sweet as I wanted it to be.  I guess I should have waited another day for the bananas to ripen to get them really sweet….and there goes my lesson in patience.  -GG-


5 very ripe bananas
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
½ cup (1 stick) Challenge European Style Butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts


1.  Peel bananas and place in a sealable plastic bag.  Squeeze and flatten the bag to mash the bananas.  Freeze sealed bag of bananas until solid*. 

2. Thaw the bananas and pour into a fine mesh strainer placed over a small saucepan. Strain the banana pulp for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and collecting the liquid in the pan (approx. 1 ½ cups pulp and ¾ cup liquid).  Set pulp aside and cook the liquid over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half.  Blend banana liquid and cocoa powder and set aside.
3.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously butter a 8 ¼ x 4 inch loaf pan (or line the pan with parchment).

4.  Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda.  Blend dry mix and banana pulp into butter mixture.  Stir in nuts.

5.  Remove about a cup of batter and combine with cocoa mixture.  Spoon the cocoa batter alternately with the plain batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Swirl batters together using a knife.

6.  Bake for one hour or until center tests done.  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes then remove from pan.  Allow to completely cool before slicing.

*Note:  Freeze/thaw cycle releases liquid.  Alternatively, the bananas could be heated in a microwave for 4 to 5 minutes to release the liquid before straining.

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