This luxurious bread is filling enough for breakfast, light enough for an afternoon snack, and is also perfect for the neighborhood potluck–especially during December when you hopefully have some cranberries left in your freezer. (If not, run to the store now and see if there are any left.) While it begins as a simple pan of down-home banana bread, the festive additions –cranberries, white chocolate, and walnuts– make sure it ends up anything but.
Banana bread is undoubtedly the most-baked quick bread in the United States. I now know that’s because many households leave just enough bananas to make their own particular, well-loved version on a regular basis. My mother-in-law told me so long ago and it’s still true. It’s also because there’s nothing special here about technique or equipment. If you don’t have a mixer or a whisk for the eggs, a fork will do. A bowl, a wooden spoon, a greased and floured pan, a ready oven, and you’re set. Not quite enough sugar or one less egg? No nuts? No worries. This treat is forgiving and will still come together. In fact, banana bread may be the first sweet many people bake as kids or as just on-their-own young adults. Is there anything better than that nearly treacly, tropical fatty aroma wafting throughout the house, perhaps teasing out the windows to passersby two and four-legged alike? (Last sentence written especially for friend Deidre Farrington Schoolcraft.) So if you’ve already mastered banana bread, or it’s a favorite where you love and bake, you might want to try this new loaf soon as it takes something old and makes something new quite easily–always a good bet.
I give instructions for making my holiday-ish bread with an electric mixer (hand-held or standing) or by hand, but you can also employ your trusty food processor for most of the process. Be really sure you can corral that machine into doing exactly what you want before you choose this option. If that’s your choice, tip the batter out of the processor and into a bowl before you add the chocolate, nuts, and cranberries and finish out the mixing the old-fashioned way with your own trusty hands. Otherwise you’ll have a mishy-mashy sort of bread that will still bake and eat, of course, but will lose its finer attributes–namely the textures and colors the last three ingredients instill.
This is a fairly sweet loaf. If sugar concerns you, there are several options. First, you can cut that granulated sugar down to a cup or 3/4 of a cup I wouldn’t take it down any lower for a 9x5x3-inch loaf. The white chocolate, too, can sometimes be a bit cloying. There’s a link in the ingredient deck for guidance about buying it. I was fairly happy with my local grocery’s store brand, Private Selection (Kroger/King Soopers, etc.), though the chips were of the larger size. You can also try semi-sweet chocolate chips, which you might have on hand anyway; they’re less sweet than white chocolate chips. Chopped bittersweet chocolate is an even better idea, as the chocolate is of a better quality than that of most chips. Another excellent option is to swap out one of the sweet bananas for another 1/2 cup of chopped cranberries. A little extra salt might help, too.
above: my favorite granddaughter, Piper, in the kitchen on Thanksgiving
Have a kid in your house? Grab her to help make a loaf or two. Whoever makes it and whatever method and ingredients you choose, try this:
Below: very gently folding in the cranberries to keep them intact and visible so the bread doesn’t turn pink.
BANANA-CRANBERRY BREAD WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIPS
makes one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf
For added holiday pizzazz, I used both white chocolate chips and walnuts in this batter. Neither are essential, but both are extra little stars in the loaf, while the cranberries and bananas are the crown jewels.
- 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 cup salted butter, softened (can substitute softened organic vegetable shortening)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 4 medium ripe, mashed bananas
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack at center of oven. Grease and flour the loaf pan very well.
Mix or beat together the wet ingredients: sugar, butter, eggs and bananas, in a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir or beat briefly the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until everything is combined well. Gently fold in walnuts, white chocolate chips, and last, the cranberries, being careful to not over-mix or the bread will be pink. Using a rubber spatula, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, then bang pan briefly on the counter to even out the ingredients, and smooth top with the spatula.
Bake 65-75 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven; let rest 5 minutes. Bang the bottom of the pan firmly onto a board or counter to loosen the loaf and then turn the bread out onto a rack to cool completely before cutting. Serve plain, with salted butter, or with softened cream cheese.
Store well wrapped a day or two on the counter, one week in the refrigerator, or up to two months in the freezer.
Original inspiration for this loaf: Marion Cunningham’s KONA INN BANANA BREAD from her book, THE FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK–the very best banana bread, of course.
Note: I had a bit of a problem with the photographs for this bread. I’ll keep trying and add something better if it appears.
If you liked this, you might also like my CRANBERRY BREAD:
It’s almost December, and while the world feels frightening and uneven beneath our feet, baking bread is a fine way of staying firmly planted — even if it’s just in front of the oven. Bake on because goodness has value and creativity always wins.