Monday, April 5, 2010

Banana Bread with Oaxacan Chocolate Chips

Mexicans often ask me what dishes are "traditional gringo food."  I'm always hard-pressed to come up with a gringo main dish, because one of the beauties of the United States is its culinary diversity.  So many dishes that we grew up with are borrowed from other countries and cultures.  However, one thing that is uniquely "gringo" is our desserts.  When I think of the US, I think of the pies, cakes, and sweet quick breads my grandmother used to make.

I snagged this banana bread recipe from The Joy of Baking, but I added a Mexican twist: my mother-in-law's Oaxacan chocolate.  Oaxacan choclate is less refined than the chocolate you find in grocery stores.  It's grittier, and it generally has almonds and cinnamon ground up with the chocolate.  It comes pre-sweetened, and Oaxacans drink it with water or milk as a hot chocolate.  It's delicious.   It's wonderful in this recipe because the cinnamon and almond flavors compliment the banana beautifully.

You can find Mexican chocolate in Mexican grocery stores.  They generally sell the Abuelita brand. has some from Ibarra that is an excellent price.  It's not the same as my mother-in-law's chocolate (she grinds the sugar, cocoa, almonds, and cinnamon herself), but it'll do.  Oaxacan chocolate generally comes in tablets.  You'll have to coarsely chop them in this recipe.

If worse comes to worse, use regular old chocolate chips (which, ironically, are difficult to find in Mexico).

I've used both regular bananas and "macho" bananas (the bigger, starchier ones that are similar to plantains) in this recipe.  The end result is the same, but it's more difficult to mash the macho bananas.

This recipe makes two loafs of banana bread.  You can easily half the recipe, but it's just as easy to make two loaves as it is to make one.  And this bread freezes great.  Just wrap it up well in tin foil or wax paper and stick it in a thick freezer bag to protect from freezer burn.  When you're ready to eat it, put it in the fridge to thaw a day or two ahead of time.

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped Oaxacan chocolate
    1 cup coarsely chopped Oaxacan chocolate and 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (two sticks) butter, melted
  • 6 large bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pans.
  3. Combine all of the dry ingredients except chocolate and nuts, if using.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients.
  5. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Stir as little as possible so your bread doesn't come out tough.  
  6. Add chocolate and nuts, if using.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the two greased loaf pans.
  8. Bake 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick or wooden chopstick comes out almost clean.
  9. Let the bread cool in the loaf pans.  Once cool, run a spatula or butter knife between the bread and the walls of the pan to loosen the bread.  Turn the loaf pans upside down to remove the bread.

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