When I was little I stayed far away from banana bread. My mother was always making it, though. Her recipe was simple and delicious - requiring just one bowl and little else. It was years until I discovered the joy of the batter, so sweet and thick. I began linger in the kitchen as she baked, bobbing on the edge of the counter stool until she poured the batter and finally I could dive finger first into the bowl. I don't remember when I crossed to the other side. Banana bread has become a well known treat, one of my favorite things to both eat and bake.
The recipe was not originally my mother's, but over the years it has become hers famously. She's experimented with other recipes, but I never have. I'm convinced that hers reigns supreme. In college I'd come back from grocery shopping with a surplus of bananas. I'd bake a loaf regularly, creating customized versions for friends. Sophie likes hers loaded with chocolate chips, Sam prefers it plain. I experimented with vegan versions for Susannah and threw in raisins, coconut, and chocolate when I kept one just for myself. No matter how it was, everyone raved without exception. I felt silly taking credit for something so simple, and only ever revealed one secret: dust sugar along the center before putting the loaf into the oven. It creates a delightfully sweet crunch. The middle pieces are always everyone's favorite part.
I came home yesterday to my parent's house in New Jersey, and went almost immediately to the library. I was so happy to find Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life. Later that night my mother was flipping through it and pointed out to me Molly's recipe for banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger. You know, I have some ginger in the cabinet, she said to me. And I'd really love to come home tomorrow to find this. So that was that.
Molly's recipe - by no means complicated - is far more intricate than the one I grew up on. I love that she includes yogurt and not so much butter that the bread becomes rich. With sugar on top, hers tastes remarkably like a chocolate chip edition of my mother's: moist, dense, and banana-y - with the sporadic zest of ginger.
Molly W's Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
adapted from A Homemade Life
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/3 finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c mashed banana (about 3 large bananas)
1/4 c well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 with a rack in the center. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.
In a small bowl microwave the butter until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate and ginger. Combine well and set aside. In a medium bowl lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla.
Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy, but there should be no unincorprated flour. Scrape the batter into the pan and sprinkle the top with sugar.
Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 - 60 minutes. Cool the loaf in the pan for five minutes, then tip it out onto the rack and let cool completely before slicing.