By Sophia Yakumithis
I bake a lot of banana bread.
If Warren Towers has a banana shortage, it’s probably because I have a team of freshmen who smuggle the overly ripe, easy-to-stock fruits on a weekly basis for me. By now, I’ve probably made thousands of loaves for different patrons. It’s an addiction.
The key to banana bread is simplicity. People will try to spruce up this classic treat, but a good banana bread should speak for itself. I was raised on my mom’s hella thick, chocolate chip-walnut loaf, which is sublime. This recipe is what put banana bread on my radar and I remember eating more than half a loaf in one sitting once after a bad day in high school.
I started making banana bread on a regular basis for my grandfather when he got sick. He struggles with an appetite and his flavor palette can be whack. I really want him to enjoy himself, though, so I play a constant guessing game of “which flavor will he be able to taste and enjoy this week.”
Because of that, I became well-versed in the art of banana bread. I made it so frequently that I tweaked my mom’s recipe, memorized a revised version and experimented with different add-ins. From strawberry walnut to chocolate espresso, I have a giant catalogue of banana bread variations to work with if I need a last minute loaf for whatever the occasion may be — whether that be a rainy day, or for a roommate on her period.
While I stand by my previous claim that a simple banana bread speaks for itself, I also stand by my mom’s recipe because she’s the O.G. of B.B. Regardless, it’s nice to have some fun with it.
Nut or chocolate add-ins
Walnuts and pecans are the only nuts I think you can respectfully incorporate into banana bread. Peanut butter is a stretch, but it has been done successfully. Almond extract works if you add something bitter like espresso powder to offset the intensity, but extract works more like a sweetening agent, which we’ll get to shortly.
Chocolate is banana bread’s best friend, though. You can add any chocolate — semi-sweet, dark, chili, et cetera — to almost any variation, and if you’re feeling extra wild, cocoa powder is even welcome to crash the party. Just be sure to use extra milk or yogurt if you opt for this as cocoa powder has a tendency to dry out bread when mixed with flour.
Don’t worry — we’re not eliminating sugar. We’re doing the opposite and adding a teaspoon and a half or so of vanilla extract, maple syrup or honey (maple syrup is my favorite). This gives it a little more sweetness, if sugar on its own won’t satisfy your sweet tooth.
I also think it’s essential to add an alternative sweetener if your bananas aren’t super spotty or overripe because that saccharide build up is what gives the bread most of its natural sweetness.
I almost always dump ¾ of a bag of chai tea into my dry ingredients, which calls for a teaspoon of cinnamon as well. Other subtle black teas, like Earl Grey or English breakfast, work too, but I think chai makes the most sense given its popularization in baking and how well it pairs with cinnamon (which I refuse to exclude, ever).
Greek yogurt instead of milk
My recipe calls for a tablespoon of a non-dairy milk substitute, but I ran out once and used Greek yogurt instead. And damn, was that a game changer. The loaf was more moist and buoyant, so it had a sturdier bite with a more rounded flavor.
I’m not publishing my recipe because I do not want my foes to have that power. But feel free to take any of these tips and apply them to your own.