Dark Chocolate & Cranberry Banana Bread

I think smells, such as the aroma of cinnamon and chocolate wafting from your oven really signifies that the holiday season is upon us.  I mean, besides spending time with your loved ones, appreciating love and being thankful, the holidays are the baking epitome of the year for me.

Today, I kicked off holiday baking with a dark chocolate and cranberry banana bread.  It’s so moist and chewy, with a nice crust on top!  In my opinion, I think that plain old banana bread is too plain.  I wanted to kick things up a notch in today’s loaf, so I added some ground cinnamon, chopped Godiva bars, and dried cranberries.

The cinnamon really makes a difference and compliments the bananas nicely.  It adds a whole new depth of flavor than just baked banana.  My favorite sweet breads always have some fun texture, so I raided my pantry and added dark chocolate and dried cranberries.  Also, I used all brown sugar in my bread.  Dark brown sugar, to be exact.  When you’re baking something that’s kind of spicy, and you want to get that sweet molasses and honey-like flavor, you must use dark brown sugar.  Leave the white sugar to other times of the year, brown sugar is what I’ll be using from here on out until Christmas.  Instead of using sour cream, I used greek yogurt to make this banana bread extra moist and soft.  If you don’t have Greek Yogurt available, sour cream is a perfect substitute!  In baking, the 2 are interchangeable.  However, I tried to stay a little bit healthier with the Greek Yogurt so I’m not as guilty when I eat this delicious bread.  Another tip that helps in baking banana bread is to amp up the amount of bananas you use.  The more bananas = softer and moist-er bread.  Just to be clear, don’t go overboard.  About 2 cups, or 4-5 very ripe bananas is perfect.

Banana bread is one of the quickest and easiest breads out there to make.  If I want banana bread, I want it now.  You are going to love this banana bread because it’s so uttery, rich, soft, melt-in-your mouth, this is the perfect thing to pair with a warm cup of java in the morning for breakfast.  And not to mention, the fun texture of the cranberries and chocolate chunks are to die for!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick)  unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup  dark brown sugar *
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt *
  • 2 cups mashed bananas (apprx. 4-5 large very ripe bananas)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (I didn’t have any, so I chopped up 3 bars of Godiva Dark Chocolate) tossed in 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, tossed in 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and move your baking rack to the very last level available.  Butter a 9 x 6 loaf pan, and line it with parchment paper, making sure there is extra parchment peaking over the edge of your loaf pan.

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2.  Mash your bananas.  I know some people use the back of a spoon, but I like to take out my mashed potato masher and take it into some non-traditional mashing.  To be quite honest, I don’t eat mashed potatoes any time of the year besides Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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3.  Add your room temperature butter and dark brown sugar into a mixing bowl.  Now, you’re probably going to predict the next part of this step:  Beat that butter and sugar until it’s whipped and dandy!  A trick I like to use to see if I’ve whipped my butter enough is checking the color of my butter and sugar.  You want your butter and brown sugar combination to be a light tan color, kind of like light brown sugar!

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4.  Once your butter and sugar is happy and combined, add in your eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

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5.  Once you’re waiting for your eggs to be beaten in, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and and baking soda into a bowl.  Simply using a fork, mix to combine your dry ingredients together.

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6.   Meanwhile, if you’re using a chocolate bar like I am, feel free to chop it up into small pieces!  However, if you’re using chocolate chips, go ahead and skip to the next step!DSCN1794DSCN1798

7.  Once your butter, sugar, and eggs are fully combined, add in your mashed banana.  I know, you’re probably thinking that these photos look really disgusting.  But hey, it’s mashed bananas mixed into eggs, how prettier can this get?  Mix this on a medium speed for 1 minute.DSCN1800 DSCN1801

8.  After a minute and your banana, butter, and sugar mixture looks like a soupy mess, relax!  It’s just like in Swiss Meringue Buttercream when after adding in your butter, your meringue looks deflated.  This is how it’s supposed to look.  Because of the juice in the bananas, it liquefies the batter a bit.  The batter will turn out magnificent in the end.

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9.  At this point, add in your flour and beat on a low speed until just combined.DSCN1803 DSCN1804

10.  Look how fluffy everything looks!  I told you it would all turn out fine in the end.  A fluffy batter = Fluffy bread.

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11.  Add in your cranberries and chocolate that have been tossed in flour.  A quick note on this:  Whenever you add fruits or nuts or chocolate chips into anything like bread or cake, make sure that they’re all tossed in flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of your baked goodness!  Fold this into your batter.  DSCN1799DSCN1806 DSCN1807

12.  Because this batter is quite thick, instead of pouring it into your prepared pan, spoon it with your spatula into the pan.  With some extra cranberries and chocolate, sprinkle them over the top for a nice pop of color, and for some decoration.  Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes, or until a tookpick inserted into the center comes out clean.DSCN1809

And there you have it!  Warm and fresh baked banana bread that’s going to fill up your home with this wonderful scent of happiness.  Again, I apologize about the lighting.  Daylight savings is really kicking my butt because everything that I would’ve normally baked and shot in regular lighting at 4 is now being shot in artificial lighting at 4 because of how dark it is.

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*  Dark brown sugar can be switched for light brown sugar.  However, there is a noticeable difference between the two when baking this bread, so be wary.  Dark brown sugar tends to yield a darker, softer, and moister richer bread.

* Plain Greek Yogurt is what I used in this recipe, however, feel free to substitute plain with some vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt, or even Honey if you would like!  Also, sour cream is another great substitution if you don’t have greek yogurt on hand.

This bread can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 7 days.  Banana bread tends to taste better after the 1st day, as all the flavors have marinated and settled in.

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