Banana Zucchini Bread with Chocolate and Walnuts

The end of summer is one of the best times to eat seasonally, as plenty of produce are in abundance. While I enjoy sweet juicy summer fruits like peaches and berries on its own, zucchini, a summer squash, needs a little transformation to truly be palatable. My favorite way of consuming zucchini is in the form of a quick bread, like I’ve done before.

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Then 19-cent Trader Joe’s bananas beckoned to me and I thought… how about a banana zucchini bread?! Banana bread is awesome. Zucchini bread is awesome. They should be married together in a happy bread combination!

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I knew I wanted chocolate in my bread, because sweets don’t spell “dessert” to me unless there’s chocolate in it. I started off by looking at banana zucchini bread recipes, and after comparing a few, I used this Allrecipes recipe as a base and made some tweaks. I halved the recipe because I don’t want to be eating banana zucchini bread for days. I also used less sugar, knowing that the banana and the chocolate will add a bit of sweetness. I used less flour as I wanted the bread to be more chunky from half-mashed banana pieces and chocolate bits, and added more zucchini so the bread would be moister.

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And it was perfect. The muffins have a delectably browned muffin top, and the inside is studded with mashed banana, chocolate chunks, and walnut pieces. It’s not quite as sweet as a typical banana bread, yet is still very moist. I love the textural contrast that this moist yet densely packed muffin provides. At 204 calories apiece, I think I’ll allow myself a few more.

Banana Zucchini Bread with Chocolate and Walnuts
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 12 muffins or 1 8×4 loaf pan

1 1/2 (73g) large eggs
6 tbsps vegetable oil
1/3 cup (67g) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (45g) white sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups (180g)  sieved all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (34g) dark chocolate (optional, can be swapped out for raisins, cranberries, etc.)
1/4 cup (30g) chopped walnuts (optional, can be swapped out for pecans)
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. If making a loaf, grease and flour one 8×4 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light yellow and frothy. Add oil, brown sugar, white sugar, grated zucchini, bananas, and vanilla; blend together until well combined. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the chocolate and nuts. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for muffins, or 50 minutes for a loaf. Allow to cool in the muffin cups or loaf pan on a wire rack before removing and serving.

Chocolate Stout Beer Bread

Sundays as a full-time student and Sundays as an intern are worlds apart. During the school semester, Sundays is when I scramble to finish my homework that I’ve left neglected over the weekend. However, now Sundays are for me to contemplate what I’d like to bake and what creative concoctions I can conjure. (Guttural alliteration!) The idea for this was actually somewhat fortuitous. I was cycling to Chinatown for my weekly groceries on the cheap, and I thought about how I could incorporate the chocolate stout I randomly bought into a baked good. I thought back to the whiskey bread I had at Gwynnett Street, and I was like, hey, beer has yeast. Bread needs yeast to rise. I should make a beer bread!

Of course, beer bread isn’t an original idea. Google yielded hundreds of beer bread recipes, all in various incarnations: with ale, with cheese, with scallions, etc. Me being me, I decided to put chocolate and bacon in my beer bread. I know, I’m starting to get a little bit predictable on this front and I’m also five years behind the bacon trend, but you really can’t go wrong with bacon. I also converted the recipe into muffin form because it’s so much easier to freeze individual portions and reheat each one when the munchies strike. I loved how simple the recipe was: it really is a matter of just mixing everything into one bowl and then baking it. No complicated mixing techniques, no compulsory order of ingredients: just slosh everything into a bowl and go. While the concept behind beer bread is that the yeast in beer will help the bread rise, I think the rising action is more a consequence of the liberal amount of baking powder that went into it. This is definitely more a bread than a muffin, so don’t be disappointed if it isn’t as much of a dessert as you’d hope it might be. The texture of the bread is more like a healthy breakfast muffin. Feel free to spread butter or cream cheese onto this slightly stout-tasting bread.

Chocolate Stout Beer Bread
Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from Food.com

Ingredients

3 cups flour (sifted)
3 teaspoons baking powder (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1 teaspoon salt (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 (12 ounce) cans chocolate stout
1/2 cup melted butter ( 1/4 cup will do just fine)
Chocolate chips or bacon bits, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
Pour into 12 muffin tins.
Bake 15 minutes, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.

Bourbon Banana Muffins

These bourbon banana muffins might not be lookers but they definitely pack a powerful punch. You wouldn’t think to combine bananas and bourbon but I personally would find any excuse to sneak alcohol in my desserts. The muffins are very moist and flavorful, and have a great texture. You can’t just stop at one.

Bourbon Banana Muffins
From Cookie Madness
Makes 1 dozen muffins

1 1/2 cups (6.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra light olive oil or vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 2 tablespoons lightly beaten egg
1 1/2 very large or 2 small bananas, mashed
1/2 cup bourbon whisky
3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease 12 muffin tins.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir well to mix.
In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the oil, sugar and vanilla until well mixed. Add the egg and beat until light, then reduce mixer speed and beat in the mashed banana and bourbon. By hand, stir in the flour mixture and the water just until mixed. Pour the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes. If you like, sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips down the center of the loaf before baking. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan.

Yogurt Bran Muffins

Here I have a very basic, but very tasty yogurt bran muffins that are a snap to make. I had some Greek yogurt and I decided to make something yogurt-based. As they were baking, they smelled wonderful, the cinnamon scent really came through. The muffins fresh out of the oven had a really good texture; moist with a crackly crust. I recommend greasing the muffin pan instead of using paper liners to maximize full crustiness. I used white whole wheat flour for added healthiness, and personally would reduce the oil to 1/3 cup because I don’t like being able to smell vegetable oil in my food.

These muffins are also 169 calories each for 12 muffins. Not a crazy amount; and in my experience a higher caloric proportion of fat tends to make food more filling.

Cinnamon Bran Muffins with Yogurt
Adapted from Cookie Madness
Makes 12 muffins (or 10 large ones)

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (I used regular granulated)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt (I used 0% Greek yogurt)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

Mix egg, brown sugar and oil together in a mixing bowl. Stir in vanilla and bran.

Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with yogurt — don’t over-mix. Fill muffin cups and bake on center rack for 25-30 minutes. (My 12 muffins took 20 minutes.)

Zucchini Bread

Nothing makes me feel better about chowing down dessert when I know there’s two cups worth of zucchini in there. Not having a grater has really put a damper on my carrot cake-making ambitions, but I randomly decided that I am going to ignore the thought of mincing a vegetable by hand and go ahead anyway.

I tried a couple of techniques in order to cut up the zucchini as fine as possible with as little effort. I first tried cutting the zucchini into the thinnest medallions I could, then stacked them up and then chopped through them both vertically and horizontally. This didn’t always result in the smallest pieces, so I had to rock the knife back and forth to get it smaller. Next, I tried doing it like how I would mince an onion (slideshow from Serious Eats here). I’d say the latter method worked better; the pieces were more evenly sized for sure. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long and it was even kind of relaxing.

I would personally reduce the sugar by maybe 1/3 to 1/2 cup because it tasted too one-note sweet to me. Perhaps that problem might be mitigated with the addition of nutmeg. Also, I didn’t have two loaf pans so I used a 9-inch round cake pan and baked for 60 minutes. My cake ended up a little dry though not burned so perhaps the bake time could be shortened by 10 minutes — though it could’ve been because I simply didn’t use very much fat in the recipe.

Zucchini Bread

Makes 1 9-inch round cake or two 8×5 loaves
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Zucchini Bread
Adapted from several sources

Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease one 9-inch round pan liberally. Alternatively, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners or grease two 8×5 loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil, applesauce and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using.

Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Bran Muffins

My bran muffin obsession all started with the complimentary corn bread that L’Ecole offered. It wasn’t exceptional corn bread, but tasting it reminded me of how much I enjoy the gritty texture in corn bread and bran muffins. Bran muffins. I must have a bran muffin! I went to Trader Joe’s to get a box of their blueberry and raspberry bran muffins, and they were so tough and rubbery that it only spurred my quest for bran muffins even further. I decided that I’ll have to take on the task of making them myself if I ever want to be satisfied, and so I did.

And were these muffins the most delicious ones I’ve ever had! They have a nice crusty exterior with a soft and moist interior. You’d never think that the moistness comes only from skim milk and unsweetened applesauce. These muffins were awesome right out of the oven, but still provided a satisfying heartiness once it cooled.

They weren’t a particularly sweet muffin, but they were sweet enough. It’s pretty hard to find a baked item that you want to eat more than one of yet still escape without guilt, but these bran muffins really nailed it.

Bran Muffins
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 6 muffins

3/4 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1/2 cup skimmed milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 egg (I used two tablespoons of a beaten egg)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 F and grease 6 muffin cups. (Reviews said that paper liners were not recommended because of the texture of the muffin.)

2. Mix wheat bran and milk, let it stand for ten minutes.

3. In a large bowl, beat applesauce, egg, sugar and vanilla. Fold in bran mixture till combined.

4. In a medium bowl, mix flours, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to large bowl.

5. Divide batter into 6 muffin cups and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops spring back when tapped lightly with finger.

6. Remove from muffin cups when muffins are cool enough to handle with bare hands.