On Monday, in honor of National Banana Bread Day, I baked a loaf of banana bread for my son’s Monday Box care package. It was no ordinary loaf. It was a Chocolate-Maple Banana Bread; moist and dense, sweetened with maple syrup, and made extra chocolaty with mini chocolate chips.
It’s been cold here in the Midwest. That is an understatement. In Chicago, where my son goes to college, the waves in Lake Michigan froze in the middle of waving. The good news is that this wintery blast is perfect banana bread mailing weather. In a previous post, I described my moldy banana bread care package experience. The high moisture and sugar content of banana bread, combined with warmth, can very quickly produce some very green mold. Consequently, I am cautious about sending loaves with high mold potential, and will only send banana bread in the winter.
When the weather is warmer, or when banana bread doesn’t sound appealing but chocolate-maple bread sounds divine, this is a versatile go-to recipe. Just leave the bananas out and double the sour cream. You get the same dense, moist crumb and rich chocolate flavor as in Chocolate-Maple Banana Bread, just minus the banana. Directions are included in the recipe.
The inspiration for Chocolate-Maple Banana Bread came from a non-banana version I found in my daughter’s Vegetarian Times magazine. I was innocently flipping pages, looking for a low carb veggie dish to make for dinner, when I stumbled on a group of recipes using maple syrup as the sweetener. As soon as I saw the photo of this dark chocolaty brown loaf, I stopped flipping pages and made plans to bake. So much for low carb.
It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of viewing this blog to understand that my recipes don’t avoid granulated white sugar…or vegetable shortening…or food coloring. I wasn’t intrigued by this maple syrup sweetened quick bread by any misguided thoughts of health food. Ultimately, the body processes sugar, regardless of the source, the same way. What intrigued me was the maple flavor.
The thing about baking with maple, is that it’s very hard to actually taste the maple in the finished product. My first loaf made with the original magazine recipe was minimally sweet and only mildly chocolaty (even though it was a deep dark brown). I couldn’t taste the maple at all. I made a few tweaks. I added vanilla (to bring out the chocolate flavor), natural maple flavoring, and mini chocolate chips. For a banana bread variation, I added two mashed bananas in place of half of the sour cream. The resulting loaves (banana or not) were delicious; a tad sweeter, with obvious maple, chocolate, and banana flavor.
If you want to send Chocolate-Maple Banana (or not) Bread to someone special, do it now. Being able to mail this loaf is one of the very few advantages of freezing cold weather. Is this is a banana bread masquerading as a chocolate cake? Or is it a chocolate cake masquerading as banana bread? Take a bite (or two) and decide.
Chocolate-Maple Banana (or not) Bread
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder I used Hershey’s Special Dark
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup butter softened
- For Chocolate-Maple Banana Bread use: ½ cup sour cream room temperature and 2 mashed, ripe bananas
- For Chocolate-Maple without banana use: 1 cup sour cream room temperature
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon natural maple flavoring
- 1¼ cups maple syrup
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 9”x5” loaf pan with butter or cooking spray and lightly coat with flour.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sour cream and continue mixing until combined. If using bananas, mix in the mashed bananas.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Beat in the maple syrup, vanilla, and maple flavoring.
At a low mixing speed, gradually add the flour mixture and continue mixing just until combined.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Put the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. The loaf is done when a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean of batter (some melted chocolate from the chips is ok).
Cool for 20 minutes in the pan then remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely before wrapping.
Store in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days for Chocolate-Maple Banana bread (longer if refrigerated) and 5-7 days for Maple-chocolate without banana.
PLEASE NOTE that banana bread should only be used in COLD weather care packages. The high level of moisture and sugar provided by the bananas will mold easily in warm weather. The Chocolate-Maple Bread with no bananas is a better choice for shipping. Both versions will retain freshness better if shipped unsliced, wrapped in one layer of foil, followed by one layer of plastic wrap.