Orange Pecan Dark Chocolate Banana Bread | The Rising Spoon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Orange Pecan Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

Orange Pecan Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

Sometimes I'll buy a whole bundle of bananas with the intention of using them for smoothies or snacks, but forgo my own tips for keeping produce fresh longer and store them improperly. Usually it's when I'm in a rush to unpack groceries. 

I'll stick all my fruits on the counter and then forget to separate them. Last week this happened with bananas, kiwi fruit, and avocados, which all emit high levels of natural ethylene gas. This caused all of them to ripen super quick (even more so with the bananas cause they were bundled together). 

An Excuse to Make Homemade Banana Bread

What is a girl to do when her bananas are super ripe? Make banana bread, of course! Usually in this situation I fix banana muffins so I can freeze half the batch (portion control), but I felt compelled this time to make a quick bread.

Boy did I make the correct decision. One of the best smells in the whole entire world is fresh baked banana bread. It's a recipe for the feel goods, if you know what I mean. 

I typically add vanilla extract and cinnamon powder to the batter to boost the warm fragrance it emits while baking, and love love love pairing banana bread with citrus. Hence the orange juice, freshly grated orange zest, and even a few drops of therapeutic-grade orange essential oil in this recipe.

Orange Pecan Dark Chocolate Banana Bread

How to Make Your Banana Bread Extra Moist

My favorite way to bake quick breads and muffins these days is to leave out the oil or butter and use applesauce or pumpkin puree instead. This is NOT because I prefer low fat foods. Trust me...I'm all about full-fat foods. 

The reason I use applesauce and pumpkin puree is because they yield super moist baked goods! No one likes bone dry banana bread. I want to drink a glass of milk, juice, or water with my baked good because the beverage compliments it, not because my throat is constricting! Feel me?

Also, this variation tends to give the final product a spongier texture, which I love. I can cut a thick slice of banana bread, smear it with a little nut butter, and eat it with one hand without it crumbling all over me.

Homemade Banana Bread with Chopped Pecans, Dark Chocolate Chips and Fresh Orange Juice

Keep Mix-Ins Small So They Don't Sink to the Bottom

Because this banana bread recipe is lighter, I wanted to jazz it up by throwing in chopped nuts and dark chocolate. Walnuts are a good option, but I only had pecans chilling in my freezer, so I went with those. 

And to prevent the sinking problem that happens so often when you mix heavier ingredients into a batter, I chopped the pecans and dark chocolate chips into tiny chunks before stirring them into the mixture. 

Some people will toss their chocolate chips and nuts into flour first to help it stick to the batter, so that's another option that may work for you. 

Banana Nut Bread with Fresh Orange Juice, Pecans, and Dark Chocolate Chips
Homemade banana bread with chopped pecans, dark chocolate chips, fresh orange juice, and orange zest. This recipe uses applesauce instead of oil to yield a lighter, moister, and spongier banana bread.
Adapted from my Banana Oat Muffins with a Blood Orange Glaze
Yield: 1 loaf
4 small bananas, super ripe (almost completely black)
1/2 cup of organic turbinado or homemade vanilla sugar
2 pastured eggs
1/4 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened & organic)
1/4 cup of fresh orange juice (about 3/4 an orange)
Zest from one orange
2 teaspoons of homemade vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour (I used unbleached, organic flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (I used THIS)
1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon cinnamon powder
1/4 cup of pecan halves, finely chopped
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips, finely chopped
3-4 drops of therapeutic-grade orange essential oil (optional)

Note: I had all my ingredients together and began the process when I realized I was out of baking powder. Ugh! I panicked for five seconds, then looked on the internet for a substitution and landed on baking soda + cream of tartar + cornstarch, which is what I used in the recipe.

Recommended Equipment
9 x 5 inch bread pan


Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bread pan (mine was about 9 x 5 inches) with butter, coconut oil, or your preferred cooking oil. Grab a large bowl and mash the bananas really well with a fork or potato masher. Add in the sugar, eggs, applesauce, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla extract (basically all the liquid ingredients). Stir everything well. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sea salt, and cinnamon powder. Slowly stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients a little at a time until everything is well incorporated. 

Finely chop the pecans and dark chocolate chips so they're less likely to sink to the bottom of the batter, then add them to the mixture and give it a few stirs. If you're using therapeutic-grade orange essential oil, stir that in last. Pour the batter into the greased tin and bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick or fork stuck into the middle of the bread comes out clean. 

Let the bread rest for 10-15 minutes to cool, then use a knife to cut around the edges, turn it over on a cutting board or clean dishcloth, and pop it out of the pan. Let the bread cool another 15-20 minutes (if you can wait that long!), then eat! You can keep it on the counter for storage, just make sure to cover it tightly so it doesn't dry out.  

I'd like to hear from YOU!

Do you have any stories or tips for making homemade banana bread? 

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