Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Double Chocolate Sourdough Banana Bread

Yeah, it happened again--as it almost always does. I buy bananas, vow to eat them--and life gets in the way and those sleek yellow fruits transition into ugly brown reminders of my lack of follow through.

And become banana bread.

Now I enjoy a good banana bread as much as anyone. But I also love chocolate. And, well, I have that sourdough starter in my refrigerator which I like to give a purpose to when I can. So I started to wonder if there was a way to incorporate all of them into one sweet bread.

Turns out there is. I just had to juggle the ingredients to make it work. This is an exercise my pastry chef friends do all the time, albeit on a much more sophisticated scale. I, however, am obviously not a pastry chef nor am I a science geek. If I goofed I could have had a cake/bread that didn't rise, was tough, was goopy, or... well, who knows what.

I did know that by adding a cup of starter I was adding half a cup of flour and half a cup of water. Both would have to come out of the usual ingredient measurements. But banana bread doesn't add liquid specifically. Tricky. Plus, the starter would be live, not discard that simply adds flavor. So, I had to take into account the amount of baking soda I would add (or, rather, subtract).

I scoured my favorite banana bread recipes and figured that if I left out the sour cream of one, along with reducing the amount of flour I would get what I was after. The starter would take on both the tang and moisture/texture of the sour cream and make up for some of the flour. And I'd subtract half the amount of baking soda since a newly fed active starter would contribute to the rise.

Hey, hey, hey, it worked. Really well. I got a beautiful crumb, huge crowns--and beautiful flavor. Oh, and did I even mention the chocolate? The gorgeous, deeply, richly brown chocolate which pairs so well with the banana? With slightly sour notes?

When preparing the batter, think of the process as setting it up in thirds:
  • Sifting together then mixing the dry ingredients
  • Creaming the butter with the sugar and then adding the other "liquid" ingredients
  • Mashing the bananas before adding the starter 

It will all come together in the bowl of your stand mixer with the addition of chocolate chips. You could use semi-sweet chips, but be bold and go for dark chocolate. My brand pick is Guittard, along with their Cocoa Rouge unsweetened cocoa. They make this bread magical.

This is a bread you can gift. And I'd suggest baking not one huge loaf--although you could--but a few mini loaves. You can gift them or, if you keep them, you'll have one to indulge in now, and two to wrap and freeze.

Note: A word on starters. King Arthur has a great primer on how to make your own starter from scratch here. And they do sell starter online. However, if you are in San Diego, you can take advantage of the generosity of Cardamom Cafe & Bakery's Joanne Sherif, who loves to share her starter discards with others. I'm happy to gift discards as well. Or in San Diego or beyond, find a friend with starter to share. At that point, all you have to do is feed it (add equal amounts of flour and water--as in 2 ounces each--stir well and let sit at room temperature to rise and bubble before using or refrigerating). Each week, you'll take some out (hence, "discard") and then feed it with fresh flour and water. And, with a starter in your fridge, you can gift the discards to others or use it to make a variety of breads and desserts--even pancakes/waffles. 

Double Chocolate Sourdough Banana Bread
Yield: One loaf pan or three mini loaves
(printable recipe)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft and cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh sourdough starter
2 very ripe bananas
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 1 large loaf pan or three mini loaf pans with butter or spray with Pam.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and stir to mix them thoroughly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until fully incorporated.

In another bowl, mash the bananas, then stir in the sourdough starter.

Add the banana/starter mixture to the butter mixture and mix together at low speed. Then slowly add the dry ingredients. Don't over-mix. Finally, slowly add the chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans and place the mini loaf pans, if using, on a baking sheet to make getting them in and out of the oven easier.

Bake for 45 minutes (mini loaf pans) to an hour (1 large loaf pan). Use a cake tester or toothpick to insert into the center. If it comes out clean, the bake is done.

Remove from the oven and let rest in the loaf pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the breads from the pan and place on the rack to completely cool.

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