As a baker, I try not to get too hung up on the same recipes (even though I have my favorites that I make on repeat). When you have something as classic as banana bread, it’s so much fun to revisit it in creative ways. While so much of my baking inspiration comes from traveling, eating out, and seeing what my friends are making, with the social distance order in place, all of those outlets are sort of suspended. So, I’m using a different approach that’s basically based on my own food preferences. My “creative process” if you will, is considering the base of the recipe and then applying new flavors, textures, etc. to it to make it something new that I personally would love. Whether it be the base of a cookie, cake, or today, banana bread, I think up flavors that 1) I love in general and then 2) Would be good with the bake in question.
A few flavors that I love in general:
- Tangy cream cheese
Then applying these flavors through a banana bread lens.
- Chocolate and banana are notoriously delicious together — case in point: Marbled Banana Bread and Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Chocolate and bananas are both grown in warm climates so maybe there’s some ancient explanation for the pairing. Who knows…but they taste amazing together.
- Cinnamon always gives a good international flavor: Vegan Cinnamon Sugar Banana Muffins. Cinnamon brings warmth to anything and I love when paired with banana to warm everything up into a very comforting, often cold weather treat.
- Caramel is a given since bananas naturally caramelize so beautifully when cooked, like in Banana Upside Down Cake. Their high sugar content is perfect for caramelizing.
- Vanilla is just always good, no matter what it’s paired with: Vanilla Banana Bars with Browned Butter Glaze. Vanilla in mind is the epitome of that dessert flavor. Bakes without it are almost always, in my opinion, missing something.
- Nuts, of all variety is why the banana nut muffin is a classic: Banana Nut Muffins and Maple Banana Muffins (Vegan). Not only does it add texture, but it really provides a nice depth of flavor. Whether it be walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, etc. Everything tastes good with banana.
- Cream cheese elevates almost every recipe (in my opinion) and is why I always find an excuse to incorporate it anywhere I can: Whole Wheat Banana Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting, Cream Cheese Banana Muffins, Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frostingand Banana Bread Roll. Cream cheese gives a creamy texture and a nice tang to balance out the banana’s natural sweetness.
And finally that brings me to coffee. While banana coffee cakes are very popular, or any sort of banana bread with a streusel type topping is, actual coffee mixed in is less so. That thought was so exciting to me and I went straight to the kitchen to test things. Since I’m married to a French guy, we’re a purely espresso household. And so espresso banana bread is born.
It’s so good!! The coffee is subtle but present and detectable (omit the granules and just use the actual espresso if you’re not into coffee) and it gives the cake a caramel-y flavor that’s to die for. I swear, you’ll love this. It’s moist, full of flavor, and easy as can be. Also, I think decades of banana bread consumption has trained me to really appreciate the little flecks of banana in bakes that incorporate them. It somehow feels more authentically banana. This recipe has that, in addition to a nice deep golden hue that the espresso gives, making it very bakery-esque. Enjoy!