High Altitude Marbled Banana Bread
Everyone has their own opinion regarding the ideal ripeness of a banana. For me, it’s a very small window. I’ve always believed that the perfect banana is completely yellow except for a tiny bit of green around the stem (and absolutely no brown speckles). I erroneously believed that everyone felt this way until my son, Tyler, stopped me from tossing some overripe (or so I thought) bananas into the compost, commenting that they would be perfect for his oatmeal. Now I know that the perfect banana is not a universally agreed upon notion. This topic came up again this past July, when we were vacationing with extended family. I caught sight of my niece’s husband, Isaac, grabbing a very ripe (and very sad) banana to eat, so I interrogated him a little bit. He explained that “overripe” bananas are sweeter, and shouldn’t we aim to eat fruits at the apex of their sweetness? That really gave me pause for thought. I mentally cycled through every other fruit, and sure enough, ripeness and sweetness always lined up. Could it be true? Could a sweet and speckled banana really be better? It’s a difficult question, but one thing is certain: the best bananas for baking are the most overripe ones. When making banana bread, I always reach for the brownest bananas I can find.
The idea of a marbled banana bread came from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame. It was such a brilliant idea, I immediately knew that it was something I wanted to try so I applied her idea to my own High Altitude Banana Bread recipe. I also changed the banana to chocolate ratio; as I found that the chocolate flavor can easily overwhelm the banana, so I decreased the percentage of chocolate accordingly. The chocolate in this bread is more bittersweet than sweet, but if you prefer a sweeter chocolate, I recommend adding an additional tablespoon of sugar to the chocolate portion.
High Altitude Marbled Banana Bread
Makes One 4.25" x 8.5" Loaf
1⅓ generous cups mashed very ripe bananas (from 4 medium bananas) - 12 ounces
1 cup granulated sugar - 7 ounces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup oil (grapeseed, sunflower, canola…) - 5.25 ounces
1⅔ cups all-purpose flour - 7.14 ounces - see note on accurately measuring flour here
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup water
½ cup all-purpose flour (2.13 ounces) - see note on accurately measuring flour here
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder - 1 ounce
[optional: 1 tablespoon granulated sugar]
Preheat oven to 325°F. Oil or butter a loaf pan (the top of my loaf pan measures 4.25"x8.5", which happens to be the perfect size for this recipe). Mash the bananas in a medium sized bowl. Add 1 cup sugar and salt. Stir. Add oil and vanilla. Stir. Combine 1⅔ cups of flour, cinnamon and baking soda in their own receptacle and add half to the banana mixture. Mix until combined. Add water and mix again. Add the remaining half of the dry mixture.
Remove ⅓ of the batter (12 ounces) to a second bowl. Sift cocoa powder into this second bowl (I always sift cocoa powder because it tends to clump) and the optional tablespoon of granulated sugar. Stir to combine. Add ½ cup flour to the original bowl (2.13 ounces), stirring to combine.
In the prepared pan, layer the batter (smoothing out each layer as you go) as follows: ½ of the original batter, all of the chocolate batter, and the remaining banana batter. Insert a dull knife in the batter and draw swirls throughout.
Bake for 70-80 minutes (to an internal temperature of 190°F—200°F). Cool completely in the pan before removing.