This recipe for whole grain chocolate banana bread is another step in my learning towards developing, baking and eating more whole grain foods. I don’t always succeed in this and recipes don’t always turn out the way I had visualised them. But every once in a while something works and that joy and satisfaction is what keeps me going further on this journey.
Baking with barley flour
Barley or jau as it’s known in Hindi, is a grain from the old world, grown first in Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent. It can withstand both dry heat and subarctic temperatures and hence different varieties have been adapted to grow in temperate and tropical climates alike. It is mildly sweet and nutty, fibre-rich, low in starch and gluten with sufficient quantities of protein, potassium and Vitamin B. Pearl barley, the husked, polished barley grain is used to thicken stews, soups and porridge.
- Barley flour is low in gluten and can be substituted for 50 percent to 100 percent of white flour in pancakes, quick breads, waffles, flatbreads and crackers. Most recipes for yeast breads with barley flour, use a blend with either all-purpose or whole wheat flour. Barley flour should constitute not more than 30 percent of the total flour in the recipe.
- When liquid is added to barley flour, it can become gummy and dense. A cake baked only with barley flour can be wet and soggy inside. Again, this means that it must be blended with other flours to yield a moist yet light crumb required in cakes, muffins and brownies. My whole grain chocolate banana bread has 50 percent barley flour and 50 percent whole wheat flour. This gave me the texture I was looking for – a well-risen banana bread with a moist, well-aerated crumb. No white flour was used in this recipe.
The role of eggs in my whole grain chocolate banana bread
I did not go the eggless route in this recipe like I did in my Gluten-Free Eggless Banana Bread. This is because my gluten-free flour blend used in that recipe had flours such as sorghum, amaranth and oat flour along with starchy flours like tapioca and brown rice which can absorb the liquids (yoghurt, bananas and coconut oil) without becoming gummy and stodgy. Whole grains need more moisture, so the trick is to use the right flour blend and the right amount of liquid. This balancing act will ensure the texture of the cake crumb.
The height, aeration and structure of the whole grain chocolate banana bread is a result of the 3 eggs in the batter. Eggs are wonderful because they hydrate, bind, build and lift the bread beautifully. I haven’t made an eggless version of this banana bread; but maybe I will try that version soon.
A good banana bread becomes extra special with the addition of chocolate. I mean, what’s not to like about cocoa and chocolate chips in banana bread? When you bite into my whole grain chocolate banana bread, you get the vanilla notes of ripe banana followed by the dark, richness of cocoa and luscious bites of dark chocolate chips. Everyone at home had trouble stopping at one slice with this banana bread. It’ll disappear before you can ‘chocolate chip’, I guarantee that.
Whole Grain Chocolate Banana Bread
- 113 g barley flour
- 113 g whole wheat flour
- 120 g light brown sugar (add more if you like it sweeter)
- 85 g olive oil
- 3 ripe, soft bananas (about 250g), mashed
- 30 g cocoa powder
- 50 g dark chocolate chips (use milk chocolate chips if you prefer)
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp soda bicarbonate (baking soda)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 176°C, lightly grease and line a 9"x5" loaf tin with baking parchment leving some parchment overhanging on either side to help lift out the banana bread.
- In a bowl, whisk the flours, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together till combined.
- In another bowl, whish the olive oil with the brown sugar and add the eggs one at a time whisking after every addition.
- Now whisk the mashed bananas and the vanilla extract into the frothy egg mixture.
- Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture till just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Do not mix too vigorously or you'll end up pushing all the air out of the batter.
- Rest the batter in the pan for 7-10 minutes to allow the flours to absorb the liquid and hydrate. Then bake for 40 -45 mins or till a skewer inserted into the banana bread comes out clean. If the top browns and the interior is still undercooked, tent a foil over the pan till the bread is done.
- Lift the bread on to a wire rack and cool before slicing.