The biggest disaster of my cooking career happened decades ago, and yet I still cringe when I think about it. I didn’t poison anyone or even ruin a dinner, but I destroyed my budding self confidence in the kitchen.
The item in question was banana bread. The cause of the problem? I never figured it out.
I don’t recall where I found the recipe or why I even wanted to make banana bread. Maybe my mother had some over-ripe bananas she wanted to use up, and I voIunteered to find a way. I was about 12, and it was my first solo outing in the kitchen.
I followed the recipe exactly and put the banana bread into the oven to bake. The problem occurred when the timer rang. As directed, I tested the banana bread by poking it with a skewer to see if it was done. The skewer had uncooked batter sticking to it, so obviously it wasn’t ready. Nor was it ready 10 minutes, 20 minutes or even 60 minutes later.
For years afterwards, I refused to eat banana bread on principle. Then someone offered me a slice of Chocolate Banana Bread. I was woo’d by the chocolate and won by the taste. By then I was no longer a cooking novice, and I quickly figured out how to “chocolatize” a basic banana bread recipe.
I added cocoa and chocolate chips and took away the liquid. Ah, maybe there was too much liquid in my long-ago banana bread. Maybe it was the recipe’s fault.
As a pre-teen, I automatically blamed myself for the disaster. Now maybe I can blame somebody else.
Chocolate Banana Bread – serves 12-16 (adapted from Chocolate on the Brain)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature + more for greasing1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1 teaspoon for dusting pan1 cup sugar3 large or 4 small ripe bananas2 large eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extract1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut a piece of wax paper to fit the bottom of the pan. This makes the banana bread easier to remove. Lightly rub the paper and sides of the pan with butter. Add 1 teaspoon flour and swirl it around to coat the buttered surfaces. Set aside.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until creamy. Add the bananas, eggs and vanilla and process again.
Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and process briefly. Add the chocolate chips and pulse 10-15 times, or until they are combined with the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the bread pulls away from the sides and a cake tester, skewer or knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the bread by sliding a knife around the sides of the pan. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack. When cool, remove the wax paper from the bottom and wrap the loaf in foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until needed.