I really hate wasting food, maybe it comes from growing up seeing sponsor-a-child commercials as a kid, or maybe I just love food too much to throw it away. Whatever the case, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out ways to use up neglected odds and ends.
But using up left-over ingredients is only a bandaid for the root problem: buying ingredients I'll never finish. Take banana bread for example. It's a classic way to polish off those stragglers at the bottom of your fruit bowl, but if you have to go out and buy a quart of buttermilk to make it, what's the point?
But before we get into the details, I want to share with you the key to making good banana bread: use ripe bananas. I'm not talking yellow with a light speckling of black, I'm talking a full on black banana that's a fruit fly away from the garbage can. Bananas ripened to this point are not only ridiculously sweet, they have a pungent banana aroma that gives our eponymous bread its flavor.
To maximize the flavor of the bananas in the bread, it's important to limit the amount of other liquids we add. Since bananas aren't exactly a juicy fruit, this can be tricky. What I've found is that they can be made juicy by cooking them. A brief stint in the microwave along with the butter and sugar will not only release a lot of banana juices, it also melts the butter in the same step.
Tossed in a blender along with the eggs, yogurt and vanilla and you have an emulsion that's ready to mix with the dry ingredients. The blending also purees the banana, giving the banana bread a uniform crumb with a pound-cake-like consistency.
As for the chocolate it's a personal preference. I grew up eating banana bread with chocolate chips in it. This time I decided to go nuts and added coco powder to the batter for a double dose of chocolate. It worked nicely balancing out the sweetness of the banana and chocolate chips with a mild bitterness that gives this banana bread a grown-up feel.
Speaking of grown-up, this banana bread is even better glazed with some dark rum right after it comes out of the oven;-)
- Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F (175 C). Use a paper towel to evenly spread some vegetable oil or butter along the bottom and sides of a 9" loaf pan, and then dust with flour. Flip the pan over over the sink and tap out any excess flour.
- In a large glass bowl, microwave the bananas, butter, sugar and salt for 3 minutes. Watch it closely and stop it for a few seconds if it looks like it's going to boil over. Let this mixture cool until it's luke warm.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, coco powder and baking soda to remove any clumps. Add the chocolate chips and then whisk the mixture together.
- When the bananas have cooled, put them in a blender or food processor along with the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extra. Blend until smooth.
- Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and fold together with a spatula until it's just combined, it's okay if there are still some steaks of flour remaining, but do not over mix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the banana bread on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely.