Chocolate Cacao Nib Banana Bread

Sitting in the sun has been on my wishlist since last summer. Due to a string of unfortunate circumstances, a bitter winter, and a slow spring arrival, this day has been out of my grasp for far too long. With the sun shining and nothing to be done, I crossed this simple pleasure off my list this afternoon. The sun may be too bright, the intense heat only bearable due to the wind, but it feels good. With a book in hand, it rivals the beginnings of perfection.

Summer, dear summer, I've missed you.

I decided long ago that it was not possible to have too many banana bread recipes. I have a fairly substantial collection on this blog, and a growing collection of recipes I've been playing with in my own kitchen. I feel as if a person should have a few different types at their disposal: the classic version, a tropical twist, a dessert loaf, and one that is not for the kids. Banana bread is a versatile bread that can make for a healthy breakfast, a satisfying afternoon snack, or a surprising dessertβ€”it would be a shame not to have a recipe for any given occasion.

Wherever there are ripe bananas resting on a kitchen counter, there is a potential for a new loaf of banana bread.

With this particular loaf, I wanted to find a balance between healthy and dessert. While this particular recipe errs more on the side of healthy, a couple easy substitutions would lend a more decadent result. The whole wheat flour could be substituted for all-purpose, the cacao nibs for chocolate chips, and the butter could always be browned before use. However, I prefer this recipe as it is. The natural sweetness is enough for me.

Do give this recipe a try, in whichever form you would enjoy it most. Add it to your own collection and revisit in the future, when the mood is right and the bananas are ripe.

Chocolate Cacao Nib Banana Bread has a deep chocolate flavor, with a sprinkling of cacao nibs to provide an interesting texture. The loaf is just sweet enough, relying on the natural sugars in the bananas along with brown sugar. With a banana cut in half and pressed into the top, the loaf takes on a new look, elevating the simple loaf into something a little more special.

One Year Ago: Rhubarb Vanilla Pound CakeBoozy Margarita Lime Cake, and Double Chocolate Muffins
Two Years Ago: Rhubarb Custard TartChocolate Salted Almond Ice Cream, and Rhubarb Ginger Muffins
Three Years Ago: Malted Chocolate Chip CookiesMinted Lime Licuado, and Chocolate Raspberry Pots de Creme
Four Years Ago: Lemon Tarts and Bittersweet Chocolate Sherbet with Coconut Rum Sauce

Chocolate Cacao Nib Banana Bread

Yields 1 loaf

4 medium to large ripe bananas, divided
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (45 grams) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1/2 cup (60 grams) cacao nibs, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, mash 3 of the bananas until relatively smooth (small chunks are okay). Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract and mashed bananas until fully incorporated. Mix in the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk and cacao nibs.

Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pan. Take the remaining banana and evenly split it in half lengthwise, pressing it into the top of the batter. Sprinkle additional cacao nibs on top, if desired. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins

Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins

Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins

I feel restless. My legs want to run when I need to stand still. My mind wanders when I need it to stay here, in this moment. My heart begins to stray when I give it a minute of rest. These disparate emotions become exhausting, pulling me one direction and then the next, placing me at odds with myself.

I think of summer and sunlight and grass between my toes when I look at snow drifts taller than myself outside my bedroom window. I wonder why I live in a place where the winter air physically hurts my face. I dream of running away to Europe, drinking wine and eating cheese, when I permit myself a moment to watch an old episode of No Reservations. I try to imagine what it would be like to actually have free time while I'm at school on a Friday night at 5:30 pm grading papers.

Restless, restless, restless.

Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins

To be truthful, I didn't expect much from these muffins. They were more of a last minute idea, a product of restlessness, than a thoughtful intention. A few forgotten bananas on the counter met some buckwheat flour hidden away in the back of the cupboard. I threw in a handful of cacao nibs as an afterthought, a snack food I recently bought and found too bitter to eat on its own.

When the comforting scent of baking muffins filled the air, I began to think that I may have judged these muffins too soon. In the end, they taste a little like banana bread, but can also hold their own as something unique. While the cacao nibs were too bitter by themselves, in the muffins they lose their bitter tones, transforming into something else entirely. A little like chocolate, perhaps, but with the addictive texture of walnuts.

I ate a dozen over the course of a week (and I would have eaten more if there hadn't been another muffin lover in the house). I may not have believed these muffins would be much in the beginning, but they became something memorable in the end.

Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins

Banana Cacao Nib Buckwheat Muffins are a comfort food for breakfast or dessert. The flavors of banana, cacao, and the nuttiness of buckwheat come together in these muffins. The color may appear dark, as if they are made from cocoa powder, but the shade of brown comes solely from the buckwheat flour and a touch of espresso powder. I enjoyed these with a mug of hot chocolate, to feed the soul while giving it warmth.

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