Do you associate banana bread with the 1970’s? I know I do. In that era of hippies and free love, there was a push toward eating healthy and that’s when natural food stores, macrobiotics and crimes against nature like carob came into vogue. But banana bread actually became popular in the 1930’s during the depression as a way to salvage over ripe bananas, along with a rise in the use of baking powder in recipes to create such things as “quick breads.” Regardless of association, banana bread is often thought of as healthy, though it can be loaded with fat and cholesterol and in general is not exactly good for you despite the addition of fruit.
Banana bread is not always my favorite because it’s usually loaded with walnuts (which I loathe). However, remove the walnuts and add chocolate and I’m a happy girl. I wanted to see if I could make a healthy banana bread without wanting to use it as a doorstop. What I discovered is that it really depends on how you want to define “healthy.” No fat? No cholesterol? That’s not going to happen without sacrificing taste and texture to a certain degree. So how about about making it healthier than the typical quick bread? I can live with that. Below are the small changes I made and I was so happy with the result that I baked it for our weekly family dinner. Twice. No one noticed anything except how rich and decadent it tasted.
I replaced the typical white flour with whole wheat flour and did not notice a discernible difference in texture; it wasn’t any denser than the typical quick bread.
Including toasted whole flax seeds gave it a bit of crunch and a nutty flavor without the added fat. Flax seeds are also a good source of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids which can help lower cholesterol.
Instead of melted butter which is a saturated fat, I used grape seed oil which is polyunsaturated.
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and some studies show that half an ounce of dark chocolate per day can provide health benefits to the heart and mood. Plus it just tastes good!
Finally, I used 1% milk rather than whole milk, lowering the fat content.
I won’t go so far as to call this recipe low fat, because it’s not. My point is simply to show that some healthy substitutions can be made without even noticing. If you’re curious, click here for the nutritional info on one slice. As I said, it’s not exactly low fat, but it’s way better for you than a 1/2 cup of Chocolate Haagan Daaz, my personal benchmark for it’s bad for me but I’ll eat it anyway. This may not be your mama’s hippy banana bread, but it is healthier without sacrificing taste and texture.
In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and espresso powder. Note: the espresso powder isn’t 100% necessary, but it really enhances the chocolate flavor.
In another large bowl, combine the wet ingredients; mashed banana (it’s ok to leave some small lumps), oil, milk, eggs and vanilla. Add the chopped chocolate and flax seed to the wet mixture. Add in all the dry ingredients at once and stir to combine. Do not over-mix.
Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake on a rack set in the middle of the oven for 55-60 minutes. I use a bamboo skewer to determine doneness (if it comes out wet with dough sticking to it, it’s not done) and start checking at about 45 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Yields 14-16 slices.
*My pan in the photo below is hand made by my Uncle and is actually 10″x5″x5″ so your loaf may come out a bit taller than mine if you use a standard 9″x5″ pan. But isn’t it pretty?