Banana bread is one of my favorite comfort foods. Moist and rich, it's just sweet enough to qualify as dessert, but not so cloyingly you couldn't happily enjoy a slice for breakfast. I prefer a pretty classic version with a dense interior and a crackly golden-brown crust. Each slice should be flecked with banana and, should you choose to freeze it (do it!), it should yield to your teeth with a satisfying chew.
While you can't beat the classic, you can add to your repertoire of banana bread recipes. And if my sole legacy in this world is providing more ways for everyone to bake banana bread, I'll be happy. In doing some research on the topic, I came across two interesting twists on banana bread: a chocolate-almond version from Odense Almond Paste and a toffee-rum version from an old Hershey's recipe. Loving the idea of both, I tweaked them to my liking, adding and removing some ingredients here and there and changing the ratio so they were just sweet enough.
The chocolate loaf is decadent and intense, tasting deeply of bittersweet chocolate and made even more moist with the addition of almond paste. It has a nuttier, richer flavor than most banana breads and veers close to cake territory. You can use any cocoa powder you like, but I recommend trying to find black or dark cocoa powder, as it'll up the intensity factor.
Instead of toffee, I used a soft block of caramel (which you can buy online here, or find soft caramel candies in a drugstore) in the rum version. I added more rum, because frankly that's never been a bad idea in my experience. Toasting the nuts gives the loaf more depth of flavor and a pleasantly crunchy texture, too. I worried that the caramel wouldn't melt properly, but it does so beautifully. The edges get gooey and crisp where the caramel peeks out, and every few bites has a ribbon of something that's creamy, sweet, and melty.
Banana bread happens to freeze wonderfully, and it's a fantastic baked good to have on hand for a quick weeknight dessert or snack to serve guests. I recommend making both loaves and freezing a few for the busy holidays ahead. I promise there will be at least one night where you will unwrap a slice, toast it, and curl up under a blanket praising your own baking skills.
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I like to use black cocoa)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chips)
- 7 ounces almond paste
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups very ripe mashed bananas
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, for enhanced chocolate flavor)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons rum
- 1 egg
- 1 cup very ripe mashed banana
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup chopped caramel (a caramel block or soft caramel candies)
What are you favorite banana bread add-ins? Let us know in the comments!