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Chocolate and Bananas

My son, apparently wanting to make it perfectly clear that he was in fact mine, made a wonderfully apt comment the other day. "Chocolate and bananas are heavenly together," he said with a happy sigh. He was drinking hot chocolate and eating a banana muffin at the time.

I agreed with him. I was once lucky enough to have a small supply of banana-flavored black tea, and I only brewed it to have with brownies or chocolate-chip cookies. And of course a banana split without fudge sauce would be a sorry sight indeed. Past that, though, I had never thought of deliberately blending the two flavors.

I thought now. Banana bread has never been one of my favorites, but maybe that was just because up until now it's always been missing that key ingredient.

I played around in the kitchen a bit, and came up with two banana-chocolate breads. One uses unsweetened cocoa powder as its chocolate flavoring; one calls for chocolate chips. Other than that, the recipe is the same.

Soften a bar (half a cup) of butter. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease either a loaf pan or a muffin tin -- your choice.

You'll need about a cup to a cup and a quarter of mashed bananas, depending on how strong a banana flavor you want. Obviously a lot will depend on the size of your bananas, but this should take about three of them.

Fork mashing the bananas is fine, but for best results, go ahead and actually cream them with a standing or handheld mixer. It takes a while to get all the lumps out, but to me, it's worth the work.

Cream the butter with 3/4 cup of granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in two eggs, one at a time, and one teaspoon real vanilla extract. Finally, beat in the banana puree.

In another bowl, stir together with a fork or whisk one and three-fourths cup all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of baking powder, and half a teaspoon salt.

If you want to use cocoa, mix a quarter of a cup of it into the other dry ingredients. This will make a dark, subtle loaf, very suitable for grownups. It makes great toast, and would be a wonderful addition to any tea table.

Either way, fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture just until moistened. If you are going to use chocolate chips, stir a cup of them into the mix now. This will make a bright, cheerful, child-friendly bread.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins or loaf pan. The muffins will have to bake at least fifteen minutes, maybe twenty (start checking at fifteen). The bread will take longer -- start poking the toothpick in after forty minutes, and if it doesn't come out clean, check every five minutes after that.

Let the bread cool five or ten minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn it out and let it finish completely cooling on the rack. This is one of the few bread recipes I've ever tried that tastes just as good at room temperature as it does warm.

Wrap it up well and it will stay moist and fresh-tasting for a few days in the fridge; if you want to keep it longer than that, seal it up properly and freeze it.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Deborah Markus. All rights reserved.
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