Chocolate Espresso Banana Swirl Bread
My mother makes the best banana bread. Hands down, no argument, nothing comes even remotely close -- not even the most decadent loaf swirled with Nutella or peanut butter or what have you. Hers is as simple as a banana bread recipe comes, occasionally with a handful of walnuts or chocolate chips thrown in; but it's consistently soft, moist and banana-y... basically, everything you want out of life.
But when I make banana bread, I can't help but go slightly beyond simple. I've gone the Nutella route, I've gone the peanut butter route, I've gone the chocolate chips route. And believe me, each one is perfectly delicious; but I had to share this one, because it's just the right amount of classic mixed with just the right amount of over-the-top (mostly because you get to put a fancy marbled swirl on top of it).
A few unexpected additions to this loaf:
Olive oil instead of vegetable oil or butter, which gives a more subtle, earthy flavor to the bread and brings out the banana and chocolate even more
Honey in addition to a small portion of white sugar, to cut down sweetness and to make the loaf even moister
ESPRESSO POWDER mixed in with our chocolate swirl batter, which shouldn't really need an explanation or any reason at all to be here but if you're curious, it enhances the flavor of chocolate and gives the bread the slightest hint of coffee (which let me tell you is magical in the morning)
Of course, any oil you choose will work perfectly well in this recipe, and you are more than welcome to do without the espresso powder -- although I highly recommend it, and you'd be surprised how many other recipes you can throw it into. Shop it here:
1 cup boiling water
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 1/2 cups very ripe banana, mashed with a fork (about 3 large bananas)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp white or apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp whole milk
1/4 cup olive oil (or oil of choice)
1/2 cup honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x5' loaf pan and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together mashed banana, vanilla extract, vinegar, milk, honey and olive oil until combined.
In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in 3 batches, then stir until you get a thick batter. Pour half the batter back into the large bowl you used for the flour mixture so you have 2 separate bowls of batter. Set both aside.
In a liquid measuring cup, add 1/4 cup of the boiling water, then add the cocoa powder and espresso powder (if using). Whisk with a fork to make a smooth chocolate paste. Add chocolate mixture to either one of your bowls of batter and stir to combine. You should now have two bowls of batter: one dark and one light.
Scoop a small amount of the light batter into your loaf pan, followed by a small amount of the chocolate batter (a cookie scoop works well here). If you want, toss in a few chocolate chips or chunks after each addition of chocolate batter -- this will be delicious, but may make the swirl a little more difficult! Keep swapping batters until you've got none left.
Now time for the fun part: Take a toothpick, skewer or knife and gently, carefully swirl the two batters together (the daintier you are about this, the more beautiful the swirl). Don't get carried away -- too much swirlage won't bake as well.
Bid farewell to your beautiful loaf and toss it into the oven to bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean, with a few moist crumbs attached.
If the bread is still underdone after 60 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the loaf inside for an additional 20 minutes. This helps keep the bread moist instead of leaving it to dry out in a hot oven.