Hurry Up Please, It’s Time! For a Rich Chocolaty Quick Bread, That Is.

During the pandemic, we’ve been honing our yeast bread skills at the café –– from sandwich loaves to braided challah. It’s all been fascinating, but last weekend I was craving a fast, simple quick bread that could double as breakfast and dessert.

With some large, very ripe bananas at hand, I decided to go with banana bread and kick up the flavor and texture with dark cocoa and chopped pecans. The recipe turned out so well, I had to share it.

This bread is ultra chocolaty, moist and decadent. It’s also “healthyish,” as Bon Appetit magazine might say, with its attention to healthy ingredients.

Chocolate Pecan Banana Bread

Ingredients

¾ cup white whole wheat flour

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ – 1 cup mashed, very ripe banana (about 2 medium-size bananas)

½ cup sugar

¼ cup olive oil

2 eggs

¼ cup reduced-fat coconut milk

½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup raw pecans, coarsely chopped

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or butter a 5 x 9-inch loaf pan. Add lemon juice to coconut milk and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the mashed banana, eggs, olive oil, sugar, coconut milk, and the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

4. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until all the ingredients are blended. Add a bit more milk, if needed, to moisten flour mixture completely.

5. Fold the chopped pecans into the batter, and spoon batter into the prepared pan.

6. Bake until a pastry tester inserted in center of the bread comes out clean: 45 to 50 minutes. Note: This bread takes longer to bake than other quick breads I make – it took about 47 minutes in my oven. After 25 minutes, the tester came out gooey, and I tented the bread with foil to keep the top from browning too much as it continued baking.

7. Run a knife gently around the sides to loosen bread from pan, transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool for an hour before slicing.  

Serve and savor!

We loved this bread with whipped cream cheese and orange marmalade for breakfast, and with fresh strawberries and tangerines for dessert. Let me know if you give it a try.

© Copyright M. Vincent 2021. Recipe and photos copyright M. Vincent 2021.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Muffin Day

MV_1045_PumkMuffins (640x480)

I’ve often wondered about those “days” in calendars or other publications that don’t correspond to established world holidays or celebrations. Who comes up with things like Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day? Old Maids Day? World Nutella Day?  As you might suspect, many were created by marketeers to promote products, services, issues or causes. Others, who knows?

This week I decided to make up my own. It was a cold, windy day in our generally temperate Southern California winter, and after a brisk walk by the ocean with my partner – shivering in several layers of clothing, plus hat, scarf and gloves – I was craving a tall hot coffee and a sweet treat to go with it.

I love the combination of pumpkin, classic fall-winter spices and dark chocolate, and muffins would be quick to bake …  A jar of pumpkin butter in the cupboard completed my inspiration. The result: a spicy, chocolaty, nutty muffin, low in fat and healthy too. A muffin that should have its day.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Muffin Day is a moveable feast. Celebrate it any day you like from now until spring, whenever it’s winter in your part of the world. The muffin recipe follows. The rest of the celebration is up to you.

Pumpkin Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (125 grams) flour: ½ cup whole wheat, ½ cup unbleached all-purpose
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½  teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼  teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/3 cup (about 66 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • ½  cup pumpkin butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (60 grams) dark chocolate chips (mine were 70% cacao)

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices (cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, if using). Add the brown sugar and whisk it in well. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine pumpkin butter, egg, almond milk and olive oil.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the pumpkin butter mixture into it, and stir just until all the ingredients are blended. (Don’t mix too long or vigorously or the muffins may turn out tough. Add a bit more almond milk, if needed, to moisten flour mixture completely.)
  5. Fold walnuts and chocolate chips into the batter. Spoon batter into a lightly greased 12-cup muffin pan.
  6. Bake until lightly browned and a pastry tester or toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean: 12 to 15 minutes. Take care not to bake too long. Let muffins cool in pan 1–2 minutes, then transfer from pan to a wire rack.

These muffins are best served warm. Stored in an airtight container, they stay flavorful for several days and can be reheated in the oven.

MV_0963_PumkMuffins on rack (640x480)

What’s your favorite unusual celebration day? Leave a comment. Comments on the muffins welcomed too.

Note: If some celebration days on your calendar or elsewhere leave you quizzical, see checkiday.com, a varied collection of “days,” several with information about their origins. Another good resource is nationaldaycalendar.com, which tracks fun, unusual days, weeks and months; I found World Nutella Day there, with a link to founder Sara Rosso’s interesting story about its kickoff and history.

Copyright M. Vincent 2018