I hate to waste. Although I have been lucky and blessed to never experience something like the Great Depression, I still see the value in “waste not, want not.” My husband has learned from experience that I should decide when items like toothpaste are actually empty. I can get several more uses out of a tube of toothpaste than he ever thinks will be possible.
Avoiding waste definitely extends into the kitchen for me. I’m often cooking and baking for two, which usually means buying ingredients in a volume much larger than I need. Then I try to remember to use up the rest of those items before they go bad.
Thank goodness for bananas! I don’t believe I’ve ever had to throw away a banana. As they start to turn black, they are actually ripening. Dark bananas may not be great for eating out of hand, but they only become sweeter and better for baking.
If you don’t have time to bake with ripe bananas in the near future, you can put them (skin on) into a freezer bag and save them for another day. Just defrost on the counter, snip the tip of the banana, and squeeze into a bowl. They’ll be a little more watery than a fresh banana, but bake up just as well.
Over the long weekend, I had some bananas that became perfectly ripe. So I decided to try out a twist on banana bread. I’ve been making Joy the Baker’s version of banana bread from her first cookbook for awhile now. It’s got bourbon, so it’s obviously a winner. But I had some caramel baking bits in my pantry that I’d never used before and wanted to try. Banana + chocolate + caramel seemed like a winning combination, and it definitely is!
Caramel baking bits are just like squares of caramel candies, except they are small, unwrapped balls. I hate unwrapping large amounts of caramels to use for baking, so they seem like a huge time saver for recipes that require melting caramel candies. But they also worked really well here to create gooey spots of caramel in the bread. I found them in the baking aisle at Target.
Chocolate Caramel Banana Bread
Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Makes 1 loaf, about 12 servings
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup caramel bits
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with a piece of parchment or tin foil, leaving over hang on one side to create a sling. Lightly butter it with softened butter (or spray with non-stick cooking spray if you prefer).
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Add the bananas, lemon juice, and vanilla extra and mix until fully incorporated.
Reduce the speed to low, and gradually add in the flour mixture, beating until just mixed. Add the chocolate chips and caramel and mix to combine. I prefer to start mixing with the electric mixer, but finish mixing by hand with a spatula to ensure all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (try to find a spot without chocolate or caramel for accurate testing). Your kitchen will smell delicious at this point!
Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Gently lift the bread from the pan using your parchment or foil sling. Let cool completely before cutting (about 1 more hour).
The bread can stored well wrapped at room temperature for about 5 days.