A banana bread epiphany

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread (blurry)

If you squint, this banana bread doesn’t look much different from your average chocolate- and walnut-stuffed rendition. It’s perfectly moist. It makes a house smell like there’s something good about gray fifty-degree days in mid-June. But open your eyes, and you’ll see that the walnuts are actually coated in the chocolate first. Open your mouth, and you’ll get one fantasy bite after the next, all crunchy and chocolaty and soft at the same time.

Last weekend, we stayed with my aunt and uncle in Berkeley. In the morning, there was banana bread, which we toasted and slathered with butter using sturdy Swedish wooden spoons. The first day, I couldn’t put my finger on what was so delicious. But the second day, picnicking on the carpet at the Oakland airport, I realized the walnuts were actually individually coated in chocolate – an effect that, for whatever reason, absolutely makes a difference.

I’m not sure where my aunt’s bread was from – whether she made it herself or bought it somewhere – but an hour after our wheels touched down at SeaTac, I was at the grocery store, buying the ripest bananas I could find.

I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite banana bread. Can someone please help me articulate why it’s so much better than banana bread with chocolate and walnuts stirred in?

I’m convinced. I’m just not quite sure why.

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread

Chocolate-Covered Walnut Banana Bread (PDF)

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 loaves

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups whole walnuts (toasted, if you’d like)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (from 3 large, ripe bananas, a little more or less won’t hurt)

Melt the chocolate chips slowly over low heat in a small saucepan, stirring frequently. Add the walnuts and turn to coat all the pieces evenly. Spread the nuts out on a large piece of waxed paper so they’re not touching each other, and let cool until the chocolate has hardened.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8” x 4” loaf pans (or spray them with a baking spray that claims to do the same job), and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 1 1/2 sticks butter and both sugars together on high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until blended between additions and scraping the side of the bowl when necessary. Add the vanilla and the mashed banana, and stir until blended. Add the dry ingredients about a third at a time, mixing on low just until blended between additions, then gently stir in the chocolate-covered walnuts by hand.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, smooth the batter flat, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the tops are browned and beginning to crack and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool in pans until comfortable to touch, then remove from pans and cool completely on a cooling rack. Store up to 3 days at room temperature, well wrapped, or freeze up to 3 months.

chocolate-covered walnuts

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19 Comments

Filed under bread, Breakfast, Cakes, dessert, recipe

19 responses to “A banana bread epiphany

  1. Tes

    Yumm the bread looks delicious. I love those surprising walnuts to give extra crunch! Can’t wait to try it.

  2. hmmmm … let’s see … Cook’s Illustrated said that when making brownies, you should layer the walnuts on the top, not mix them inside the batter, because in the batter they absorb liquid and change both the batter and the texture of the nut. So maybe, the chocolate layer protects them in the same way? That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

  3. Steve

    Thats looks really good! The banana bread my mom made was always dark brown and choke full of walnuts. We would spread butter on it. I don’t know where the dark, rich color came from. In fact, she always called it nut bread. I think it had a lot of brown sugar in it.

  4. As a walnut hater, I’m always bummed to see walnuts in my banana bread. But I love the idea of chocolate and banana. Perhaps chocolate-covered almond pieces in banana bread?

  5. beth

    It has to do with the thin chocolate layer right on that thar nut. Like the choc. coated almonds in that Ben and Jerry vanilla ice cream. It’s like underlining something. Tis the litte touch than means so much and perhaps it can’t be completely explained.
    Must disclose that I am at Jess’s house and have had this bread so I speak from experience

  6. This is too funny! I was looking all over my favorite blogs for a great banana recipe. Perfect timing!

  7. maxinthegym

    Chocolate and banana is just an amazing combination :)
    Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing :D

  8. This just might be revolutionary! I needed a new take on banana bread. Thanks, Jess!

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  10. I just love when old things evolve into new and BETTER things! Thanks so very much for this recipe. I saved a couple of overly ripe bananas in my freezer (peel first, please!) just so I’d have them ready for banana bread. Now I’m extra glad I did!

  11. Hi Jess,
    Love the idea and can’t wait to whip up a batch. I found some old OVENEX loaf pans at a yard sale a few weeks ago and can’t think of a better use for them.

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  15. Oh my does that ever look pretty! I’ll have to give that a try next time!

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