I've talked about banana bread before. And I've talked about my new culinary BFF, Nigel Slater, before. (I'm always making myself the best friend of various British food writers, and even though our relationships are one-sided, that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of our friendships ONE JOT.)
So, here I was, walking around thinking there was nothing new under the sun to talk about in regards to banana bread. I have a recipe I like, and I wasn't really looking to explore. But, every few days I flip through Nigel's book, 'Notes from the Larder' (it comforts me and calms me down) and I had bookmarked his chocolate banana bread ages ago, and I decided that It Was Time. I had everything I needed and it was time to see if Nigel knew what he was talking about with his banana bread. (which I found unlikely because, well, I think only people from Hawaii are qualified to really pontificate about banana bread. Especially if their names rhyme with 'Melissa'.)
OH NIGEL. How could I have doubted? His banana bread is now my favorite banana bread. First, I think all banana bread should have chocolate in it. It makes the banana flavor even more pronounced, I find.
What's amazing about the cake is that he has an interesting mixing technique and the end result is very moist and light. So many, many banana bread recipes are like lead bricks with their density. Or too greasy and oily. Or too dry. I think banana bread is very tricksy to get right, but by golly, my man Nigel has done all of us a great favor with his rendition of this most mundane-yet-elusively-hard-to-pull-off snack and breakfast bread.
~ for the chocolate, I used a Lindt 70% bittersweet chocolate bar. The whole cake has DEPTH to it; a light, dainty milk chocolate is not what you're aiming for here. Use a chocolate that has some dark in its soul.
~ wait until your bananas are nearly BLACK, they are so overripe.
~ the recipe calls for muscavado sugar, which is unrefined brown sugar that has a strong molasses flavor. I had some because I bought it specifically for my gingerbread, which I never did end up making this winter. What?! It's easy to find in most any grocery store, and I would try and get it for this recipe - again....DEPTH. But if you can't get your hands on any, try dark brown sugar instead.
Nigel's Chocolate Muscavado Banana Bread - via 'Notes from the Larder'
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon muscavado sugar
14 ounces ripe bananas (no idea, but I used 2 and 1/2 bananas - I use anywhere from 2 to 3 bananas in my recipes for banana bread)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 and 1/2 ounces dark chocolate
Prep a nonstick 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper, or buttered and floured to avoid sticking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light, fluffy and pale coffee colored. Put the bananas in a bowl and mash them with a fork. The mixture should be lumpy rather than crushed to a puree. Stir in the vanilla extract. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork, then beat them into the butter and sugar mixture. Introduce a spoonful of flour at any sign of curdling.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces (about the size of fine gravel) and fold them and the bananas into the butter/sugar mixture. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder. Scrape the mixture into the lined loaf pan, then bake for about 50 minutes. (mine took 55 minutes) Check if the cake is ready by inserting a metal skewer into the center. If the skewer comes out moist but clean, then the cake is done. If there is any sign of wet cake mixture, return the cake to the oven for a few more minutes, covering the surface with foil.
Leave the cake in its pan to settle for 15 minutes or so, the loosen the sides with a thin spatula and carefully lift out of the pan. Leave it to cool a little longer, then carefully peel off the paper. Serve cool, in thick slices.
~this banana cake lasted less than 1 day in our house........i think the dark chocolate and the muscavado sugar really elevate this into the realm of supernatural....