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Eric Akis: Overripe bananas? Time for some chunky monkey bread

Turn your banana bread into chunky monkey bread with dark chocolate chunks and walnuts.
Banana Bread, left, can be transformed into a chunky monkey loaf, right, by adding chocolate and walnuts. ERIC AKIS

If you have overripe bananas and enjoy baking, smile, because you can use that fruit to make a lovely loaf of banana bread. And, if you like chocolate and walnuts, you can turn it into chunky monkey bread by adding those ingredients.

The name “chunky monkey” for a food item was coined years ago by Ben and Jerry’s ice cream company when they created an ice cream with banana, chocolate and walnuts in it. Over time, other foods, such as baked goods, were also given that handle when combining them.

You use dark skinned, overripe bananas to make banana bread because they’re sweeter than less-ripe bananas. They are also softer in texture, making them easy to mash and mix into a batter.

If you don’t have overripe bananas, put your bananas in a sealed paper bag and set in a warm part of your home. In that enclosed space, the natural ethylene gas from the bananas will get trapped and speed up the ripening process.

But if you are in real rush to make banana bread, and your bananas are not overripe, you could quickly change that by setting them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and baking them in a 300 F oven for 20 minutes, until their peels turn black. Remove from the oven and let cool 20 minutes, or until safe enough to handle. The bananas are now ready to peel, mash and use in banana bread.

Banana Bread

This recipe yields one large appealing loaf of banana bread. If that’s too much for you, once cooled to room temperature, cut the loaf in half, and wrap and freeze one of those halves, to thaw, slice and enjoy at another time.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 55 to 60 minutes

Makes: one large loaf

2 large eggs

1 cup mashed, overripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas; see Note 1)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed golden brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup plain yogurt (see Note 2)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

• vegetable oil spray

Preheat oven to 325 F. Place eggs in a medium bowl, beat well, and then mix in the mashed bananas, sugars, oil and yogurt.

Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and spoon the wet banana mixture into it. Now gently mix until a well-combined batter forms.

Spray a non-stick, 9- x 5-inch loaf pan with the oil spray (see Note 3). Spoon the batter into the pan. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, or until banana bread springs back when gently touched in the centre, or a cake tester inserted in the centre of the bread pulls out clean.

Let banana bread cool 10 minutes, and then remove from the pan. Cool banana bread on a baking rack to room temperature, and its then ready to slice and serve.

Note 1: To mash bananas, place in a bowl and use a potato masher to crush them almost smooth. It’s ok if there are a few small bits of banana still visible.

Note 2: I used Avalon brand plain yogurt with a three and half per cent fat content when testing this recipe. Other types of plain yogurt, of course, will also work here.

Note 3: If you have an older non-stick loaf pan that’s now prone to sticking, after spraying the pan with the oil spray, line the bottom of it with parchment paper.

Eric’s options: If you want to turn the banana bread into the chunk monkey loaf shown in the photo, after whisking together the flour mixture, mix 1/2 cup walnut pieces and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate into it. Combine the flour mixture with the wet banana mixture as noted in the method above. Spray the loaf pan with oil spray, and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Set 20, 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick slices of banana on top of the batter. Scatter 1/4 cup walnut pieces and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate on top of the batter. Bake the chunky monkey loaf 65 to 70 minutes, or until it springs back when gently touched in the centre, or a cake tester inserted in the centre of the loaf pulls out clean. Let loaf completely cool in the pan before unmoulding. One, 100 gram Lindt brand dark chocolate bar with 70 per cent cacao, coarsely chopped, should yield the amount you need here. Other types of dark chocolate will also work.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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