Espresso Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (whole wheat)

Espresso Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (whole wheat)

A perked up version of everyone’s favourite quick bread – studded with chunks of dark chocolate and spiked with instant espresso powder resulting in a robustly-flavoured banana bread that has renewed our appreciation for the humble homemade snack. Made with 100% whole wheat flour and gently sweetened, you might even call it wholesome.

Years ago, when the kids were small(er), it seemed like the only thing that was more endless than the supply of forgotten bananas was the need for healthy-ish, grab-and-go snacks. Baking banana bread was a weekly occurrence in our house until the kids inevitably grew up and we grew tired of the same snack. Half-eaten loaves would end up as ignored as the sad bananas that made them, so we switched to using up our extra bananas in smoothies and never looked back.

Until recently, that is.

It took a pandemic and an overzealous purchase of bananas on one of my weekly shopping trips to consider making it again. My previously benign banana bread recipe was tasty, and even though it had been ages since we made it, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to it as is. I knew we needed something more appealing to anyone who’s not a toddler to get us back on the banana bread train.

Note: Only two bananas are shown here, but you’ll need four. The other two I had were so overripe I thought I might be judged 🙂

Maybe it’s because our teen has discovered a love for caffeinated drinks this past year (most likely influenced by my resolute adoration for espresso), but anything that includes coffee creates a certain level of enthusiasm in our house.

Coffee is a consummate match with chocolate. The bitter, roasted, caramel flavours of espresso notably enhance the same attributes in chocolate, and since this particular combo happens to be a recurring theme in our household baking these days anyway (credit to the previously mentioned teen), I didn’t have to think long before coming up with this one.

While the first word in the title is espresso, I don’t want you to feel led to expect a dominant espresso flavour in the finished bread. It’s detectable, for sure, but you won’t be hit with the same intensity as the freshly extracted beverage. Even though the flavour of espresso powder is tempered in baked goods, it definitely lends a distinctive bitterness and enhances the richness of the chocolate.

Maple syrup and dark brown sugar were my sweeteners of choice to echo the caramel flavour of deeply ripened bananas while keeping the crumb tender, and a bit of Greek yogurt helps to keeps the bread moist.

I would have loved to add toasted and chopped walnuts to this recipe, but my family is solidly opposed to the idea of nuts in banana bread (they have a lot of opinions). I chose to add thick rolled oats in a shallow act of defiance and furthermore went with 100% whole wheat flour for extra wholesomeness. As it turned out, we I really enjoyed the nuttiness from using exclusively whole wheat flour. The kids didn’t actually detect it, so I’ll just make my way to the podium now and accept my award for “Successful Sneakiness” in category “Baking” – thanks.

Even though these instructions are written with a stand (or hand) mixer in mind, this can absolutely be mixed by hand. My main goal was simply to use one bowl for the batter and with the least amount of steps. Use a whisk or fork to mash the bananas and stir the wet ingredients together, then switch to a large spatula to gently stir in the dry ingredients. This isn’t a fussy recipe. 

This loaf takes a solid 65 minutes to bake through, and since my oven cooks slightly unevenly, I rotate the pan 180º at the 45-minute mark. If you need to do the same, be gentle and careful not to knock the pan so the developing rise isn’t disturbed and you end up with a dense loaf.

Leftovers are best loosely wrapped and enjoyed within a couple of days. If you like, you can wrap the slices individually and freeze for another day.

Before you head off to make what might possibly be the most flavourful banana bread ever, let’s have a quick chat about that split banana detail in the images. While it’s included in the recipe as an optional garnish, and as pretty as it looks, that’s the only reason it’s there. For the ‘gram. We unanimously decided we prefer our bananas in the bread, not on top, and when left for a day it actually looks quite unappealing. If you like how it looks freshly baked, and will be eating the entire loaf in one day – go for it. If not, I would skip the extra banana and dutifully add more chocolate ;P

Espresso Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (Whole Wheat)

A perked up version of everyone's favourite homemade snack. Generous chunks of dark chocolate and a hit of instant espresso powder create a robustly-flavoured banana bread. Made a little more wholesome with 100% whole wheat flour and gently sweetened to achieve a perfect balance of bitter-sweet.

  • 4 med overripe bananas ((should measure about 1½ cups mashed))
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp instant espresso powder ((I use Nescafe GOLD))
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed ((depending on your preferred level of sweetness))
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup thick, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1¾ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup thick rolled oats ((reserve 1 tbsp to garnish – optinal))
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate ((reserve a few large chunks to garnish – optional))

Optional Garnishes

  • 1 large firm but ripe banana, split in half lengthwise ((see Notes below))
  • reserved thick rolled oats
  • reserved dark chocolate chunks
  1. Ensure your oven rack is in the centre setting, and preheat to 350ºF. Grease the inside ends of the loaf pan, then line it with a strip of parchment paper, wide enough to cover the majority of the length of the pan, and up both long sides, with about an inch or two overhanging to act as handles.

  2. Gently heat the butter in a small saucepan until melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the espresso powder and vanilla until combined. Set aside to cool slightly.

  3. Place the overripe bananas in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment engaged. Turn the mixer to low and once the bananas are thoroughly mashed, add the melted butter-coffee-vanilla mixture, brown sugar, maple syrup, eggs, and yogurt. Mix on medium speed until well blended – about 1 minute.

  4. Stop the mixer and add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low just until about 90% blended, with some patches of dry flour still showing. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate with a spatula – scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, if desired, top with a split banana, a sprinkle of oats, and some of the chocolate pieces. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the loaf comes out clean or with just a few small crumbs.

    Let cool for 30 minutes, then lift the banana loaf out of the pan using the parchment paper handles. Set on a cooling rack to cool before slicing. Enjoy!

Even though these instructions are written with a stand (or hand) mixer in mind, this loaf can absolutely be mixed by hand. My main goal was simply to use one bowl for the batter and with the least amount of steps. Use a whisk or fork to mash the bananas and stir the wet ingredients together, then switch to a large spatula to gently stir in the dry ingredients.

If you prefer not to use the espresso powder and/or use sweeter chocolate, just note that the overall balance of bitter and sweet will lean toward the latter.

Feel free to replace the rolled oats with toasted and chopped nuts.

This loaf takes a solid 65 minutes to bake through in my oven. Since mine cooks slightly unevenly, I rotate the pan 180º at the 45-minute mark. If you need to do the same, be gentle and careful not to knock the pan so the developing rise isn’t disturbed.

The decorative banana placed on top of the loaf does not hold up well on leftovers. In fact, after trying it once to shoot this recipe, I can’t recommend doing it at all unless this loaf will be fully consumed the same day it’s baked.

Leftovers are best loosely wrapped and enjoyed within a couple of days. If you like, you can wrap the slices individually and freeze.

If you do make this pick-me-up version of banana bread, please come back and tell us all about it! I put significantly more effort into these recipes than I do search engine optimization 😉 so, if you love it, a star rating and a review will help others find it too!

Thanks for reading!

xo

Gayle

If you do make this pick-me-up version of banana bread, please come back and tell us all about it! I put significantly more effort into these recipes than I do search engine optimization 😉 so, if you love it, a star rating and a review will help others find it too!

Thanks for reading!

xo

Gayle

2 responses to “Espresso Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread (whole wheat)”

  1. This looks great! Can’t wait to try it – I don’t have instant espresso on hand but we do make espresso at home from freshly ground beans. Any idea how/if I can substitute actual ground fresh espresso? Or add some strong espresso coffee as part of the wet ingredients? Not sure on the ratios.
    I’m on team walnut so in your honour will add the walnuts. Lastly, my usual go to banana bread recipe uses sour cream instead of Greek yogurt (and will switch next time) but I only have sour cream on hand and should use it up. 1:1 sour cream to greek yogurt ratio? Sorry for being a high maintenance recipe tester. Thanks for sharing this recipe for us! (As always)

    Like

    • Hi Heather! Great questions 🙂 The espresso powder I used is super fine and 2 tsp makes one shot of espresso. So, 2 tbsp of the instant would be the equivalent of 3 shots of espresso. I’m honestly not sure how freshly ground espresso beans would work, but I would love to hear if you try it! If you’re able to grind the beans really fine, I think that would help. Using the extracted espresso would add more moisture to the batter so I can’t really say what the results would be. I would love to know what you end up trying.
      Thank you for the solidarity on the nuts! Much appreciated 🙂 And yes, sour cream will work with the same amount. Again full-fat is best for the most flavourful result. Happy baking!

      Like

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