Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast

The pace of life has been speeding up over the last few weeksfoot on the accelerator, engine revving, scenery blurred. As the intensity increases, the rare, fleeting moments of quiet are gone, replaced with packed weekends and busier weeknights. For now, I need to keep my eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, preserving whatever control I can over this runaway ride.

I'll be back soon, with stories and sweets. I promise.

I wish I could tell you that I served this Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast on a warm Sunday morning for friends and family, but real life is not always so picturesque. The reality is that I ate this dish for dinner while sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, digging into the pan with a single spoon. Though the moment was a brief pause between running from here to there, it was delicious. I wished I had someone to share it with, just so we could ooh and ahh over the dish together.

Make this to sharedecadence is enjoyed best with a friend.

Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast is a sweet addition to your brunch menu. Bananas are pureed into the milk and soaked up by the bread. The bread is drizzled with chocolate hazelnut spread in the middle and over the top to add sweetness and a rich chocolate flavor to each bite. There's no need to add maple syrup as the dish is served best plain and hot from the oven. The French toast can be made the evening before or the morning of serving. 

One Year Ago: PB Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF), Perfect Pie Crust, & Berry Balsamic Pie
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes & Strawberry Red Wine Popsicles
Three Years Ago: Strawberry Charlotte, Fresh Strawberry Cake, Whole Wheat Almond Waffles, Sparkling Pineapple Rum Cocktail, Nutella Swirled Banana Bread, & Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Four Years Ago: Honey Cake, Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream, Chocolate Salted Almond Ice Cream, Rhubarb Ginger Muffins, Coconut Waffles, Mocha Granola, & Multigrain Bread
Five Years Ago: Cornmeal Parmesan Crackers, Pina Colada Cupcakes, Strawberry Smoothie, & Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade

Chocolate Banana Baked French Toast
Inspired by Top with Cinnamon

Yields 6 to 8 servings

3 ripe, medium bananas, divided
1/3 cup (70 grams) brown sugar, packed
6 large eggs
2 cups (475 mL) milk of choice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 loaf stale French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8-10 cups)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (185 grams) chocolate hazelnut spread, warmed gently until liquid in consistency
2 tablespoons demerara sugar (or brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a blender, blend together two bananas, brown sugar, eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, place 1/2 of the cubed bread and drizzle 1/2 of the chocolate hazelnut spread over the top. Layer the remaining bread and drizzle the remaining chocolate hazelnut spread. Pour the milk mixture evenly over the bread, making sure each piece is coated.* Slice the remaining banana and place slices on the top. Sprinkle with demerara sugar.

Bake uncovered for 40-50 minutes, or until lightly browned and souffle-like in appearance. Serve immediately.

* For overnight baked French toast, wrap the pan tightly and refrigerate until the next morning. Add sliced banana and demerara sugar just before baking.

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls

These last few weeks have been a blur of exhaustion and responsibilities. Time is lost in the small necessities of lifedays pass quickly, but each week drags on in a disorienting march. As the school year nears a close, I find myself in my classroom hours after the last bell rings, lesson planning and grading assignments while the nice weather mocks me through the windows. I swing by the gym on the way home, not because I want to, but because guilt delivers me to the door. Exhaustion claims me in the first few minutes of group classes, and I wonder if sitting on my couch to recharge would have been the better choice. I come home to a messy apartment, an empty refrigerator, and three days of dishes sitting in the sink. I look through bills, health benefit packages, and lease renewal forms in the evenings, too tired to make useful decisions.

Even though its foolish, I sometimes wish adulthood came with accolades. You made the responsible decision and went to the gym? You get to watch Fixer Upper on the couch for two consecutive hours without moving! You did all the dishes in the sink? You get a phone call from your mother telling you she's proud of you!

Some days are easy and some days are hard. I keep telling myself these waves of overwhelming responsibilities will fade and calmer waters will soon arrive.

This weekend I am carving out time to relax. A quiet morning of coffee drinking and pastry making sounds healing. This recipe for chocolate hazelnut rolls uses Quick Puff Pastry as the base. By removing the need for yeast and rising time, the rolls come together quickly. The puffy pastry can be made several days in advance or, if you are like me, you already have a batch stored in the freezer for pastry emergencies.

With a generous amount of chocolate hazelnut spread, a sprinkling of demerara sugar and cinnamon in the filling, and a topping of chopped hazelnuts, these flaky rolls will brighten any weekend morning. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls are a celebration of butter and chocolate in pastry form. With puff pastry as the base, the rolls become golden and flaky in the oven. The inside features a smooth layer of chocolate hazelnut and cinnamon, and the top emphasizes texture with toasted hazelnuts. These are rolls for special occasions, certainly, but should be served on the average weekend after a hard week of being an adult. Your own adult accolade, if you will.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Oat Bars (GF) 
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Pie 
Three Years Ago: Sunflower Seed Bread, Blackberry Fool, Lime Curd Tart, & Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Four Years Ago: Homemade Mascarpone, Ladyfingers, Tiramisu Cake, & PB Cornmeal Cookies
Five Years Ago: Strawberry Milk, Vanilla Pear Muffins, Chocolate Filled Buns, & Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls
Inspired by Joy the Baker

Yields 12 rolls

1 recipe Quick Puff Pastry, chilled (or thawed, if previously frozen)
1 cup (300 grams) chocolate hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (50 grams) demerara or brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (55 grams) hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled puffed pastry into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle. Spread the dough evenly with the chocolate hazelnut spread, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.

In a small bowl, stir together the demerara sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the chocolate hazelnut spread. From the longer end, roll the dough tightly until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the dough and cut the log into 1 1/4-inch thick segments. Place the rolls individually into a muffin tin and sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.

Bake for 28-35 minutes, or until the rolls are bubbling and golden. Serve warm.

Hazelnut Cherry Granola with Chocolate Coconut Bites

I emerged from winter hibernation with boundless energy and an inability to sit still. With the last cold days behind usfingers crossedI've been spending less time in the kitchen and more time out of the house. Even though I moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in August, a new teaching job and looming winter chill kept me close to home. Now that the warm weather is here, I am finally exploring the city I have called home for the last nine months. When the weekend arrives, I dash out of the house in the morning and return late in the evenings, on a mission to find the most walkable lake and best place for non-dairy ice cream.

For now, I am indulging myself in this new spirit of adventure. Soon the city will grow familiar, this curious feeling will fade, and I'll no longer need Google maps to lead me home.

Granola has been my go-to for breakfast the past few weeks. Both simple and filling, it pairs well with plain yogurt and almond milk alike. Over the years, I have played around with my favorite granola recipe, testing out  different variations. This granola recipe is another variation, but it may soon become a classic in my kitchen. Oats, quinoa, and hazelnuts form the base of this granola. With honey and dried cherries for sweetness, almond butter for richness, and cinnamon for warmth, it forms a satisfying meal.

To add something a little extra, I sprinkled the granola with chocolate coconut bites. They may be a bit decadent, but you can chop them to the size of your liking and add as many or few as you'd prefer. 

Hazelnut Cherry Granola is a hearty recipe that can serve as both a meal or a snack. With hazelnuts, oats, and quinoa forming the bulk of the dish, the cherries act as a sweet accent. The chocolate coconut bites are optional, but they add a new dimension to the overall flavor and texture. Stir into plain yogurt or shower with milk and enjoy on a quiet weekend or as fuel for a day out exploring.

One Year Ago: Cranberry Almond Granola and Cinnamon Sugar Swirl Loaf
Two Years Ago: Honey Almond Quinoa Granola and Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Three Years Ago: Pita Chips, Almond Joy Bars, Mango Lassi, PB & J Muffins, & Almond Butter Chocolate Cookies
Four Years Ago: Grapefruit Soda, Irene's Orange Rolls, S'mores Cupcakes, and Mai Tai
Five Years Ago: Thin Mint Brownies, Strawberry Pancakes, Roasted Pineapple, and Lemon Thins

Hazelnut Cherry Granola with Chocolate Coconut Bites
Inspired by Will Frolic for Food

Yields 5-6 cups

Hazelnut Cherry Granola
3 cups (270 grams) old fashioned oats
1/2 cup (85 grams) quinoa
1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (78 mL) coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup (80 grams) almond butter
1/2 cup (170 grams) honey*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white, optional**
1/2 cup (80 grams) dried cherries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, quinoa, chopped hazelnuts, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, almond butter, honey, vanilla, and egg white until uniform. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and stir until evenly coated.

Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. If the egg white was omitted, stir halfway through baking; if it was added, do not stir the granola and leave it to set while baking. Cool completely before storing. Stir in dried cherries.

Chocolate Coconut Bites
3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup (30 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon chia seeds, optional

In a small bowl, stir together the melted chocolate, coconut flakes, and chia seeds. Using an offset spatula, spread it into a 1/4-inch layer on a sheet of wax paper. Place in the freezer until solidified, about 10-15 minutes. Chop into coarse pieces, similar to the size of the hazelnuts. Stir into granola only when granola is completely cooled.

*Substitute maple syrup for the honey and eliminate the egg white for a vegan version.

**The egg white binds the granola together for a chunkier texture, allowing you to break it apart into small or large pieces of your choosing. If you prefer a looser granola, omit this ingredient.