Banana Coconut Bread

~ Banana Coconut Bread ~

In the mood for a pre-packaged healthy snack? Or how about a slice of quick bread to accompany a cup of tea? Look no further than the ubiquitous banana. All zipped up in its own skin (which doubles as a nifty handle) the banana is transportable as a nutritious snack on the go – naturally sweet and rich in potassium, magnesium, B and C vitamins. As bananas ripen, they soften and their sugar content and starch increases. At this point, blend the fruit  into a wholesome sweet bread or cake – or pop them un-peeled into the freezer to save for the proverbial rainy day when baking is requisite.

I prefer to eat bananas just under-ripe, while they are still firm and not overwhelmingly sweet. When they reach the mushy tipping point I toss them into a banana bread. While the ratios for my banana bread remain the same, I sometimes fiddle with the ingredients. This is a heartier recipe with a blend of whole wheat, all-purpose flour and a dusting of wheat germ. Coconut flakes add texture and a tropical brightness. If I were feeling naughtier, I would have added chocolate chunks, but somehow I managed to behave myself. How do you prefer your bananas?

Banana Coconut Bread

Makes one large loaf.

3 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Butter a loaf pan, line with parchment, and butter the parchment.
Mix the bananas and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in the eggs until blended, and then mix in the oil, vanilla, and cinnamon until just combined.
Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the coconut.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle additional coconut on the top. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes clean, about 55 minutes. If the cake is golden brown on top and still not entirely cooked, loosely cover with foil and continue to bake, checking every 10 minutes until done.
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove the bread from loaf pan and cool completely.

Banana Chip Bars

Banana Chip Bars

Banana Chips, Coconut, Dark Chocolate

This time I blame the banana chips. Due to a last minute panic-induced purchase for a school event, I had a bucket of them sitting in my refrigerator. You might understand the situation which led to this:  Worried that (heaven forbid) not enough dessert would be provided for a tropical-based menu for a lunch at my daughter’s school,  I threw a few, er, many packages of banana chips into my shopping basket on the way to the lunch – just in case the mob inhaled all 47 other dishes represented in the school-wide buffet and were up in arms about not enough sugar to complete their smorgasbord. (As if banana chips would be sufficient to stave off an angry sugar-deprived crowd – what was I thinking?)  As it turned out, any testy unrest was avoided, since we (naturally) had too much food in the first place.  And so the banana chips came home with me and have been patiently waiting in my refrigerator to be put to use – until today.

It was a baking kind of day today, and I decided to throw together a simple bar cookie. Normally I include coconut and chocolate chips in my bars, and figured the banana chips would make a nice addition. I chopped a bunch up in my food processor (you may want ear plugs for this) and folded the chips into the batter. They added a wonderful chewy texture with a mild buttery flavor to the bars, without an overpowering banana flavor or excess sweetness. Toothsome and chewy, they almost made the bars feel…healthy? Ok, that may be pushing it.

Banana Chip Bars
Makes 24 – 2 inch bars

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut, plus extra for the topping
1 cup coarsely chopped banana chips
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Whisk sugars and butter together in a large bowl. Add egg and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Combine flour, wheat germ, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Add to the sugar and butter and mix well. Stir in coconut, banana chips and chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with additional coconut. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Banana Cake

Banana Cake

Tried and true, a banana cake (or bread, depending on your perspective) has figured prominently in our home as a baked treat.  The kids love it, as do the adults, and in every country we have lived, bananas have been readily available in the markets.  I have made variations over the years, adding wheat germ and oats for added fiber and nutrients, coconut for a tropical twist, even chocolate for those cravings of, well, chocolate. This recipe is the base recipe I rely on and come back to time and again.  It’s moist, not overly sweet, and keeps in the refrigerator for 4 days.  Actually, that’s a guess, because it never lasts that long.

Banana Cake
Makes one loaf

3/4 cup (150 g.) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150 g.) light brown sugar
3 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1/3 cup (80 ml.) sour cream or Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups (220 g.) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)
Butter a loaf pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
Beat butter and sugar until they are light and creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Add to bananas and stir to combine well.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  Bake in oven until knife comes clean, about one hour.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan.

Try these variations:

Tropical Twist: Add 1/2 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut to dry ingredients.  Sprinkle additional tablespoon coconut on top of cake before baking.

More Fiber: Reduce flour to 1 3/4 cups.  Add 1/2 cup oats and 2 tablespoons wheat germ to dry ingredients.

Chocolate Boost: Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips to batter before pouring into loaf pan.