Recipe Recommendation: Double Chocolate Banana Bread (Smitten Kitchen)

The first(?) in a series of posts that hopefully mean I won’t lose my favourite recipes (and can close some of the 50+ tabs in my phone’s browser)…

I think of this as more of a ‘cake’ than a bread. I think the only way you could possibly call it ’banana bread’ is if you think that there is no such thing as banana cake.

It’s full of chocolate chips and cocoa, moist and very dark. It makes great muffin or cupcake sized individual cakes too. If you’re not into very dark chocolate, you might want to cut back a little on the cocoa. Walnuts make a nice addition; if you’re going for a ‘dessert’ vibe instead of a snack with tea, consider serving it warm, with cream or ice cream…

91) Too cold for sourdough: December lists, November recap

November started unseasonably warm; what a difference a month makes!

The sourdough loaf I left to rise overnight basically didn’t.  I should have taken the hint when it took twice as long as usual to get bubbly after the second feeding, but I needed bread for lunch today, dammit, so I baked it off anyway. (Besides, it still tastes good).

The squat, dense little loaf I ended up with is a timely reminder that sourdough culture contains living organisms.  My kitchen is much, much colder than usual overnight, and they are going a lot slower.  I think that if I’d let it rise all day, it would have ended up relatively normal.  And let me tell you, it’s not the only living organism around here that’s been moving more slowly than normal over the last few days.

Nevertheless, November has been a strange, hectic blur of a month, but I seem to have achieved quite a lot of things off my list:

  1. Yarnscape: At least two shop updates – No.  None, again.
  2. Yarnscape: Get back to those dye pots! – Yes, but only briefly.  I need to re-organise the studio before I can make any real habits here.
  3. Yarnscape: write some basic accessories patterns – partial.  Cold snap should be published tomorrow, and I’m working on a simple sock pattern.
  4. Yarnscape: Pick hosting, and start work on the new site theatre. – YES!!  (you’re here, aren’t you?!)
  5. Finish the peacock shawlYes! But I really, really need to block it tonight (deadline: Saturday)
  6. Winterise the garden – partially.  I’ve cleared back a lot of the beds, and planted some onions, but I wanted to do a lot more – and now the ground is frozen.
  7. Spin up four more batts – easily surpassed!  I’ve lost count of how many I’ve spun, but I’ve filled three bobbins with singles, and have plied off two skeins.

Three and three halves out of seven – good!  But I notice a pattern.  I want –really want– to be dyeing and selling yarn; dyeing, blending and selling fibre.  But it’s not happening.  Why??

Am I scared I’ll fail?  Am I falling back into my old ‘delayed gratification’ patterns, where I put off all the things I really want to do in favour of other, more mundane occupations?  Or is it as simple as the fact that I’m not making the space – physically or mentally – to do this work in?

So this month, I’m going to be trying something a bit different.  I’m taking shop updates off the list.  Instead, I’m going to address the things that I feel are getting in the way of doing the shop updates and of doing the dyeing.  If a shop update happens to happen – that’s a definite result!  If not, then at least I should be making it easier in the future.  So!

This month:

  1. Yarnscape: Set up the studio so it supports dyeing on a regular basis.
  2. Yarnscape: Get a functional and friendly photography station set up.
  3. Yarnscape: Finish the sock pattern, and start another.
  4. Yarnscape: Get the independent shop designed and (ideally) live.
  5. Weave a scarf for brother  #2, and finish the one for brother #1.
  6. Yarnscape: Continue adding functionality to this here blog (sidebars, search function, locally hosted images).
  7. Finish plying the current singles, and spin up three more batts.

Lots and lots of Yarnscape.  Yes!

36) Sustainability Sundays

Well, we had Sourdough Sundays for quite a while, but I'm not baking every single week right now, and there's a limit to the amount of experimentation I'm doing in my regular loaf.  So, inspired by Leigh, I'm introducing 'sustainability Sundays'.  She's been participating in Sharon Astyk's Independence Days challenge, which is all about freeing people from their dependence on the Agribusiness Empires – and, I think, the tyrrany of supermarkets, processed food and other allied evils.  There are seven areas to report on, weekly, and I've wanted to join in – but, perversely, have been dissuaded by the name of the challenge.  So I'm reframing it as my own Sustainability Sundays log, and will try and keep this one up for more than a few weeks.  So, this week I have:

1. Plant Something –

  • soy beans
  • transplant melons, squash and cucumbers
  • Start mushroom kit

2. Harvest something –

  • salad greens
  • beetroots (overwintered)

Preserve something

  • Excess milk made into yoghurt

Waste Not
(reducing wastage in all areas)

  • Made soup from chicken carcasses and stock from pork ribs
  • Saving kitchen water for the garden/indoor plants
  • Composting kitchen waste

5. Want Not (preparing for shortage situations)

  • can't think of anything here!

Build Community Food Systems

  • Blogging about it
  • Sharing homemade yogurt (and how easy it is!) at work

7. Eat the Food

  • Yoghurt on my breakfast
  • Yoghurt cheesecake (a massive success!)
  • Beet greens in quiche

That's it for now – I want to expound on the topics in more detail, but for now, I just want to get this posted!  Happy Sunday!

26) Still in hiding, and success with sourdough

I have no idea where the blog-mojo has been for the last month, I really don't.  It's not as if I'm just hanging out on the sofa with the hounds; stuff is happening left, right and centre, it's just that I'm not getting around to writing about it.

On the other hand, I've finally worked out a recipe and method that allows me to make all-machine white sourdough with minimal effort and zero waste.  In fact, the last time I made it, it was so well-risen that it over-rose the bucket and tried to climb out the top of the machine:


You can see how tall it was.  It bulges outwards where it grew beyond the edges of the bucket, and that flattened spot on the top is where it hit the lid of the machine.

Then again…  this loaf weighed almost 1kg (over 2lb).  I may just scale back the recipe for future use, especially as J still isn't keen on it.


I, on the other hand, adore this bread.  I can eat it by itself when fresh (or nearly so), with butter when less fresh, toasted when past its prime, and soaked in soup when it finally goes rock-solid.

So.  I've written up the recipe and posted it in its own page.  Early experiments show that it doesn't rise so well with wholemeal bread flour (though this flour wasn't particularly fresh), and it does rise, but more slowly, with malthouse flour.  Clearly, I need to experiment more.

24) Sourdough Sunday: flat topped

After the last exploding loaf, I decided to try introducing a
little more consistency into the flour and water quantites, by
following a standard recipe and subtracting my 'feeding' flour and
water from those, rather than just eyeballing the whole thing.  I also
wanted a single-risen loaf instead of my 'thrice-risen' version




  • Thursday evening: 0.5 cups of flour and 0.5 cups water.
  • Friday morning: 1 cup flour and 1 cup water.
  • Friday evening: 0.5 cups flour and 0.5 cups water.

The recipe:

I made the dough on Saturday morning (not forgetting to keep back my mini-starter; I'm sure I will one day, though!).  The dough was made from:

  • all but 1 tbsp starter;
  • 1.5 cups flour;
  • no additional water;
  • 1.5 tsp salt;
  • 1.5 tsp sugar.

Part way through kneading in the machine, it looked too wet, so I added an extra half cup of flour.  It still seemed wet-ish, but I didn't want to mess too much with my 'approved' recipe so, in the interest of experimentation, I let it be.

I expected it to rise all day, but after only a few hours, it was clear it wouldn't need to.  So I shortened the wait time, and let it bake.  The top, which was nice and rounded, had started to 'drop' a mere 10 minutes after the bake started.  This either means the dough was too wet, or it had over-risen (which can be caused by the dough being too wet, and therefore not sufficiently structural).  As might be expected, the crumb is very open:


This loaf tastes very, very good, though.  It's not notably sour, and it has that delicious crumpet-like flavour going on that I noticed in the exploding loaf.

Next time: a bit more flour?  A second knead??

19) Sourdough Sunday: The day the bread exploded


This is my *least* successful sourdough to date, though I'm still eating it with gusto!

I attempted to adjust my timing from the thrice-risen loaf so that baking could happen after the first 'rise'.  I'm hoping that this might reduce the sour flavour (less fermentation time), which might make the stuff more palatable to J.  I'm also expecting that it will affect the texture, too, though I'm not sure quite what I expect in that department.

This time, though, I messed up:

  • The dough was noticeably wetter than last time.  I added more flour, but I think it was a case of 'too little, too late'.
  • I forgot the sugar.
  • I forgot the salt.
  • I still didn't get the timing right, and had to knock it back before bed.

It was just one of those evenings – I'd intended to make bread the evening before, but I didn't, and then I was rushing around like a headless chicken, so I just went for it, and … well.

I don't really think the bread 'exploded', by the way.  There wasn't enough mess in the bread maker for that.  I *do* think that it over-rose the bucket and started to drip over the sides, which caused the bubble which is the top of the loaf to burst and collapse…  This is what it looked like when it was still in the bucket:


Taste wise, it's a bit dull and flat (surprise!  No salt or sugar!).  The texture is much more open than previous loaves, which is also probably due to the lack of salt and the extra moisture:


It still feels very moist, too.  (Apart from the crispy stuff on the top, which the dogs think I made especially for them!)  And although the bubbles in the crumb are large, the bread between them is dense and somewhat rubbery.  If I had to pick a word to describe this bread, it would be 'clammy'.  Appealing, no?

In mitigation, I have to say it's not bad toasted, though it really needs butter (salted butter!).  Actually, in this form, it really reminds me of crumpets!

Next time:

  • Remember all the ingredients.
  • Measure all the flour for a standard loaf in advance, then use some of that to feed/build the starter.

15) Sourdough Sunday: The Thrice-Risen Loaf

Sourdough Sunday: I think that this could become a tradition. (Yes, it's Monday right now.  I ran out of time yesterday – so sue me!)


This week saw further experimentation with keeping a 'mini starter' and with making the bread completely in the bread machine.

Mini starters

A 'mini starter' is only about 2 tbsp of starter, so it takes up less space in the fridge, and you don't have to deal with all the waste involved in throwing out half your flour and water mixture that so many methods seem to use.  I got the idea from here, and then adapted.  Basically, I'm keeping back a tablespoon or two of the starter whenever I start baking, feeding it, and putting it straight in the fridge.  At this point, it's pretty active, but after feeding and putting in the cold, is happy to sit back and relax until next needed.

In advance of baking, I need to increase the size of the starter rapidly by repeated feedings until I have enough. This week, I took 24 hours to do so, as follows:

  • Thursday morning: fed my mini-starter 0.25 cups of flour and 0.25 cups water.
  • Thursday late afternoon: fed my starter 0.5 cups flour and 0.5 cups water.
  • Thursday late evening: fed my starter 0.5 cups flour and 0.5 cups water.

Clearly, this isn't a method that means you can bake immediately whenever you feel like it.  However, if you bake on a schedule, or too sporadically for the traditional starter management methods to be economical, this seems like a good alternative

The recipe

On Friday morning, I used my now very active starter to make the dough (not forgetting to keep back and feed my mini-starter for next time, of course!).  The dough recipe was:

  • 3 cups starter;
  • 4 cups flour;
  • 0.5 cups water;
  • 1.5 tsp salt;
  • 1.5 tsp sugar, I think.

I put the whole lot into the bread machine (liquids first in mine), started the dough cycle and once it was done, left it to rise all day.

At about 5pm on Friday evening, J rang me at work to say it was almost too well risen for the machine!!  I got him to knock it back using the dough cycle again, and to my surprise, it had fully re-risen again midnight!  I knocked it back a second time, and programmed the bread maker to finish baking our hyperactive loaf so it would be ready for us getting up at 7ish.


The Verdict

This is probably the best textured loaf I have ever made, whether in the machine or by hand; sourdough or yeast.  It was also very, very tasty and tangy, and took serious willpower for me not to eat it all at once.  I managed to hold back long enough to find out that it makes particularly tasty and crispy toast, too.

J didn't particularly like it – he says he prefers bread that doesn't really taste of anything (his words) – though he didn't dislike it, either.

I'll definitely use this method again; it's so easy!  I will try and tweak the timings so that it just gets to rise once and is then baked.  I'd like to see what effect that has on both the texture and the flavour.


12) Sourdough, again


Immediately following the success of the white sourdough loaf, I was inspired to try a rye loaf.  I used this recipe, starting at 'stage 2' and scaled back for the amount of starter I had available, and used the breadmaker both to make the dough and to bake it.  This was the first time I'd played with rye, and I've since found out that it's best not really kneaded, and can be very strange and 'gluey'.  Yes, it was.  Making the dough in the breadmaker was a bizarre and frustrating experience, and, I suspect, could easily burn out the mixer.  In the future, I would just mix it all together in a bowl, then dump it into the breadmaker bucket to prove and bake – if I wanted a square loaf, anyway.


The astute will notice it is a very squat, heavy loaf (not surprising, given that it's all rye), but it was still good.  It was baked through and had a very even, moist texture.

I let it prove for as long as possible, setting the breadmaker to bake it so that it was ready when the alarm went off on Monday morning – a delicious smell to wake up to!  I ate about a quarter of the loaf for breakfast, and have been snacking on it ever since.  I had some for lunch today (Thursday), toasted, with scrambled egg, and it's still delicious.  The crust is tough, but somehow, still not hard.  And it certainly doesn't taste at all stale.

This morning, I got out my tiny starter from the fridge, and added flour and water to start building up the volume for this weekend's baking.  I'm really enjoying this!

8) Sourdough Sunday


I was given a wee bit of Carl's sourdough starter at New Year's.  It's been sitting patiently in the fridge ever since, maintained but unused, until a discussion on Ravelry inspired me to get it out and build up the volume to use

My first loaf was made thusly:

  • 1.5 cups of rather wet starter;
  • 0.25 cups water;
  • 2.5 cups of white bread flour;
  • 1.5 tsp sugar;
  •  a scant 1.5 tsp salt.

I shoved the lot in the bread maker and switched to the dough cycle.  I left it in the bucket to prove, and it doubled in about 10 hours.  I knocked it back and put it into a colander containing a cotton cloth, well dusted with spelt flour, where it stayed overnight.

Preheated the oven and a pizza stone to somewhere over 200 deg.C (the thermostat is bust), and turned out the loaf onto the stone, where it promptly deflated.  I slashed the top, and baked it in our thermally random oven for about 40 mins, after which time it was somewhat re-risen, and had the classic 'sounds hollow' thing going on.


The crust is chewy and crunchy, the crumb springy and just a touch on the moist side.  It's delicious, and a big slice was exactly what I wanted for breakfast.  Will definitely do again.