Chocolate chip banana bread

GUINEO! Shouted the lady from across the counter. Local fruits and vegetables were stacked by levels in front of her. The woman’s skin told stories of countless years picking crops in the field. Her forehead had lines of worry and a shine that could result from enduring more than five consecutive hours at an 86°F temperature. Her eyes were alert and cunning, glancing; searching. A moment of silence and the faintest hints of conversation traversed her venue. Below her, but just above the lines of avocados, her grandson spoke to her and she replied in kind. Suddenly, she looked at the costumers walking by and she returned to her former stance. Apologizing to her grandson, she wiped the sweat from her face and gave him a kiss just above his hairline. From a pile of boxes she procured small, clear-plastic bags that swayed in her hands as she shouted “GUINEO” again. She caught my attention.

I already had a bag of vegetables. Enough for three meals and a batch of sofrito, and to be honest, guineos (read: bananas, say: gui – neh – ohs) are my least favorite fruit. Before I could decide, she looked straight at me. “¡Pruébalos!” (Read: Try them!) She was already pealing a banana and before I could greet her, she handed me a neatly cleaned and pealed banana. Wait.

The banana peal was still green! In fact, the banana itself looked rather small, by comparison to a supermarket’s average offering. Sensing my reluctance, the woman, whose voice was now soft, perhaps maternally so, said: “I’ve had more than five costumers today saying they won’t buy these bananas, until they try them.” I followed orders, as I’m sure the others did before me. Soft, sweet, and delicately flavored. I was sold. As she bagged my purchase, we spoke about the history of her organically grown bananas and she gave me useful tips on how to store them. She charged me a dollar, nothing extra. I left booth #34 with deep respect for that woman, sixteen bananas, and something to remember. After all, that’s what food is all about: memories and the people you share them with.

Sixteen bananas is a lot to go on. Although banana is still my least favorite fruit, I really enjoy banana bread. I’ve given away a few of them and used the really ripe ones in this recipe. Hopefully, in the future, I will visit the woman and share a slice or two.

This recipe is diary and egg free, as I’ve been on a plant-based diet for some time now. I do not, however, limit all my recipes in this manner, because some of the recipes are made for my family and friends. Not for myself. Since I had so many bananas, I made both with diary and egg, as well as without diary and egg, so I included the alternatives in the Notes at the bottom of the post.

Yields: 8 – 10 thick slices.

Tools and Equipment

Mixing bowls

Whisk

Electric mixer (optional)

9 x 5 metal bread mold

Ingredients

1 1/2 C Unbleached flour

1/2 C Brown sugar*

1/4 C Granulated sugar

6 Small ripe bananas (or 3 regular ones)

1/3 C Chocolate Chips

1/2 C Toasted and chopped walnuts (optional)

1/4 C Toasted and chopped pecans (optional)

1/4 C Canola oil

1/2 C Soy milk, unsweetened *

1 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Baking soda

2 Tsps Fresh lemon juice

1 Tsp Mild vinegar*

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

1/4 Tsp Cinnamon (optional)

1/2 Tsp Salt

Pinch Cloves

Pinch Nutmeg

  1. Set the oven to 320°F and line the mold with a piece of parchment or grease.
  2. Combine soy milk and lemon juice in a cup and let it until required.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg together into a small bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, combine bananas, sugars, oil, and margarine, as if creaming using and electric mixer. If doing by hand, start with a fork to work everything together and then switch to a whisk until the sugar crystals are barely visible.
  5. Add vanilla extract and the soy milk and lemon suspension prepared earlier.
  6. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients in the larger bowl, and quickly fold in the nuts and chocolate – without over mixing (Read: as soon as you feel resistance from the batter, stop). Gently mix in the vinegar.
  7. Transfer batter to mold and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let it cool in its mold for thirty minutes and then let it cool out of the mold for at least an hour before serving. Or just have a pice of it warm, like I did. =)

Notes:

* Brown sugar can be switched for regular granulated sugar, but the bread will be sweeter.

For dairy + eggs version:

Switch the margarine for unsalted butter, and the soy milk, vinegar, and baking soda for 2 eggs at room temperature. Whisk the eggs and incorporate them into the creamed ingredients along with the vanilla extract in step #5 above. This will result in a yellower bread.

Valentine’s Pancakes on July

When is it the right time, exactly, for a romantic breakfast? This may not be a frequent question among singles, of course, but if you’re with your special someone, you might want to consider the following: breakfast is the most important meal of the day – and rightly so. Also, guys: just like a quick brush/breath mint before your first kiss, a surprisingly romantic breakfast might just tune your fair lady’s heart for the rest of the day or even the week. Foolproof: White chocolate + cranberries + pecans = awesome morning.

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Having recently been a relationship with many memorable moments, I find myself remembering those which revolved around the lady, and of course, the food. The one I remembered this morning, was a recipe I had made very close to Valentines Day. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon, when we decided to have a late, second, breakfast. The problem with midday, in general, is that: 1) most places stop serving breakfast 2) the lines are crazy long and in Puerto Rico, particularly, 3) diners suck. In fact, we don’t have proper diners. Denny’s® and IHOP® are the next best things to diners, and as I said: they’re packed at 12 PM. Anyhow, we ended up at my place, and I manned the kitchen while she watched a couple of Fringe episodes. To be honest, I had no idea what to cook, but I knew one thing: I had to impress. As a male and a Puerto Rican, the game is always on; every move is crucial in a relationship. That, at the moment, translated to: look like a pro while cooking, talk very little, and smile at her. In minutes, I managed a couple of ingredients from the pantry, and among other things, the nearly Valentine’s pancakes happened. Oh, and guys: Pancakes are incredibly simple to make from scratch and they yield awesome results. You have my guarantee. Also, you have an excuse to wash all the prepping dishes. Together.

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Though I was mostly alone this morning and it was, as opposed to that day, really early: I scourged the kitchen and managed to make these pancakes again. Rich, sweet, tart and, at times, crunchy – a delicious way to start any day. I mean, these pancakes could have been called white chocolate, cranberry pecan pancakes, but like the memories, we chose the name together. I will keep it that way. Anyhow, whether it’s for two on Valentine’s Day or for one on any other day of the year. Or for two on any other day of the year (teehee!) these are delectable.

This recipe yields about about 4 medium-sized pancakes.

Tools and Equipment

Sharp knife

Cutting board

Mesh strainer

Mixing bowl (s)

Whisk

Stove

Griddle or pan

Spatula

Ingredients

1 C Unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp Granulated sugar

1/2 Tsp Baking powder (optional)

1/2 Tsp Baking soda

1/4 Tsp Salt

2/3 C Light coconut milk or whole milk

1/3 C Water

1 Tbsp Canola oil

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

1 Tsp Mild vinegar (such as apple cider or white)

1/8 C Chopped walnuts (or any nut you prefer)

1/8 C White chocolate chips or chopped chunks

1/4 C Dried cranberries

1 Tbsp Almond liqueur or Amaretto (optional)

  1. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients, except the almond liqueur and let it sit. Meanwhile, set the pan or griddle on medium-high heat and chop the pecans.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and quickly combine with the pecans, chocolate, and cranberries. Add in the almond liqueur, if using.
  4. Using nonstick spray, butter, oil, or any combination which you’re accustomed to, coat the pan. Let the pancakes cook for two minutes maximum per side. Another method is to cook the first side until bubbles start opening opposite surface, flip and cook for half the time from the first side, got it? XD Cooking time, as with everything stove-top, will depend on your stove, pan, and the non-stick medium you use. I suggest trying one and tuning the rest.

Note: This batter will look pale in comparison to what you are used to seeing from box pancake mixes. No worries, the oil and the coconut milk in the recipe will contribute to a perfectly crisp crust that contrasts with ruby red cranberries. Neat, huh? =)

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