Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Half a starter

I thought that I was going to come to you today with a recipe for homemade yogurt, the most delicious yogurt I had ever tasted.

I tried said yogurt last weekend at a "Let's eat up my leftover Northern Indian food" impromptu dinner party that a friend threw the day before his parents were about to drop off another supply. Poor guy, hunh?

Alas, there sits on our counter a sad puddle of milk that swirls in a distinctly un-yogurt like way.

I do have half of my starter left (the kind soul who gave me the recipe apparently suspected I wouldn't have perfect luck on my first try), so I promise you that I will attempt to achieve delicious yogurt nirvana again and soon, so that I can pass it along.

In the meantime, will you accept a baked good instead?

One involving chocolate and frozen bananas, oh, and a cinnamon and sugar, chocolate-studded crust?

I thought you might, and hope you will, because this one is not to be missed!

Personally, I was never a big banana bread fan growing up. It was never something my parents baked, so my only experiences with it were the walnut-stuffed, overly sweetened versions that I tried at school cafeterias and bake sales.

I just never understood the love.

Now, pumpkin bread, on the other hand, is a completely different story. My mother makes the best pumpkin bread this world has ever seen. I gave her one of those baking pans shaped like a pumpkin one year just to try and see if I could increase her output, but instead got teased mercilessly by my sisters for such a "lame" gift. It turns out, the stuff just tastes better in loaf form.

But pumpkin bread is for another time. We're here today to talk about banana bread. My first ever banana bread, in fact. I don't think I'd mentioned that.

Yes, my friends, my first ever banana bread was baked last year in my SF apartment, when I had a bunch of frozen bananas in the freezer and three more sitting on my counter turning darker and darker.

I quickly turned to some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration, and hit the jackpot with banana bread-loving Molly. This lady has four different recipes for the stuff in her archives, so I knew I could count on at least one of them to take care of my browning bananas.

Oh, and I was so right, and so sad to have missed out on such a lovely treat for so many years. Please don't let the same thing happen to you. Go, bake it, then sit there, torturing yourself with the smell, as I am at this very moment, waiting for it to be done.

As perfect timing would have it, the timer went off just as I finished that sentence.

Now I just need to go warm up my coffee and wait for my requisite 30-second cooling period before I jump in.

Before I give you the recipe, I want to let you know that I ended up using Ghiradelli baking chips this go-round, because that's what I had on hand. I've used both, and they're both delicious, though I think I prefer chips, if I have the choice. That way you get a bit more of an even spread.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar
Adapted from Orangette and Everybody Likes Sandwiches

3 very ripe medium-large bananas*
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Additional ground cinnamon
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and butter an 8x8 baking pan.

To Make Batter:
In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a fork until fairly smooth. Add in the eggs and mix well. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Stir well to combine. The batter should be lovely and smooth at this point.
Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

To Make Topping:
Put the sugar in a small bowl and add a couple of dashes of cinnamon. Stir briefly to combine, and sprinkle generously over the batter. Finish by sprinkling the remaining chocolate chips on top.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean of batter (there may be melted chocolate on there, but don't worry, that's a good sign).

Slice and enjoy ASAP.

*I've always used frozen for this recipe. When the bananas are get quite brown, just slip them out of their skins and into a plastic bag. When ready to use, defrost them on the counter a few hours before you're planning to bake them.

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