Cocoa Almond Swirl Banana Bread

Cocoa Almond Swirl Banana Bread

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Banana bread is possibly one of E's favourite thing to have around the apartment. Even with the distractions of all the fancy dessert I bring home from pastry school, nothing makes him happier than a good old loaf of banana bread on the kitchen counter.

I can attest to that. I remember the first time I truly felt like a domestic goddess - a term that first came to me from Nigella Lawson's famous cookbook, was when I made banana bread at home. I can't even recall which recipe I used back then, all I remember was from the moment I cracked open the oven door, the longing on everyone's face, the curiosity in their eyes, and the eagerness of their heads peering from behind dining room. The best part was the moment of oohs and aahs when I cut into a fresh loaf, exposing the speckled interior and allowing banana scented steam to waft through the space. It makes me all giddy inside every single time.

Now that I live in a tiny apartment in New York City, things still haven't changed much. Whenever I make banana bread at home, E comes back to the apartment with a stupidly beaming smile, because he can smell it from the hallway. Knowing that I like to alter and experiment on my usual Joanne Chang banana bread recipe, he would complain but still stuff his face with steaming slices of the tender loaf.

This time it's a chocolate almond swirl that I've adopted from Joanne Chang and Zoë François. I substituted melted butter for vegetable oil, and switched out the cinnamon for a cocoa almond swirl. And no, I did not use crème fraîche or greek yogurt, because I don't really like tanginess with chocolate. To keep the sugar to a low, I used Joanne Chang's trick in Baking with Less Sugar, where she par-cooks the banana to draw out its sweetness before folding it into the batter. It's lovely and tender like always, and perfect eaten when its still warm and gooey.

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Cocoa Almond Swirl Banana Bread

Makes one 5 x 9" loaf or two 3 x 8" loaves. Adapted from Flour Cookbook and Zoe Bakes.

2 eggs
100g / ½ cup brown sugar
56g / ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
62g / ¼ cup whole milk, slightly warmed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ½ mashed banana
180g / 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ - ½ cup cocoa almond spread, or other chocolate-based spread like nutella (I used this from Trader Joe's)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325℉. Lightly oil a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. 
  2. Prepare your ingredients. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk and butter. If the butter solidifies, it means your milk is too cold. Simply warm it over the stove or microwave before incorporating into the batter. In a third and microwave-safe bowl, mash all but half a banana thoroughly with a fork and microwave on high power for about 60 seconds, or until they are hot. Mix in the vanilla extract and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat sugar and eggs on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, and pale in colour, about 5 minutes. You can also do this by hand using a whisk.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the milk and butter mixture, and mix at low speed until homogenized.
  5. Mash the remaining banana and combine it with the cooled, cooked banana. Gently fold mashed bananas into the batter with a rubber spatula, followed by dry ingredients, until thoroughly combined. It may still be lumpy but without visible streaks of flour.
  6. Heat the chocolate spread in a microwave for about 20 seconds until softened. Drizzle 2/3 of the spread over the banana bread batter and gently fold it in. Do not over mix, you want to see the swirls when it is baked.
  7. Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan(s) and swirl in the remaining chocolate spread with a butter knife or skewer.
  8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. The top should be golden brown and springs back when you gently poke it with a finger. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan on a wire rack for around 20 minutes before inverting it from the pan. Enjoy warm while its still steamy and gooey!
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