Lately we have been gardening fools. Geeked out over little projects and springtime plantings. Our souls feeling rejuvenated as the garden warms from its wintertime laziness. Yes even here in So Cal the garden goes a bit mellow during the chillier months.
We’ll shoot with a client in our studio from 7 until 4 and then come home and stretch out every last ounce of daylight in the garden with the birds, bugs and plants. Sometimes working even longer with the help of our headlamps. Our hands have gotten sore and blistered. Muscles have ached a bit. But it is all worth it.
It’s hard not to be inspired to spend some quality time in the garden this time of year. Tomatoes are hitting the nurseries and our seedlings are ready to find their summertime homes. The raspberries are sending out their canes with the beginning flower buds promising delicious rewards.
The blueberries are plumping up, just beginning to show a tint change from green to blue. And the strawberries have their initial gems secretly hidden from curious doggie noses but not from experienced fingers.
Yes, it is a beautiful, emerging time in the southern California garden. And the rock stars of the show are the citrus. This is the triple-play time of year for so many of our citrus. Much of the fruit is perfectly ripe. The branches are sending out a ton of new growth. And the flowers are going absolutely crazy, filling the air with their sweetness and the lacing the ground with their fallen petals.
Back in the kitchen, not wanting to waste a speck of the citrus glory, we’ll often zest the oranges before juicing them. There is so much goodness in the rinds. And when we recently had a load of leftover “hero” bananas after shooting nearly 60 banana recipes for a client, we came up with this gem of a loaf. An orange-spiced chocolate chip banana bread.
The base of the banana loaf was from one of my grandma’s favorite cookbooks. She had given the recipe her top-notch four “x” rating and it has been our go-to recipe ever since we first made it. We added a bunch of fresh orange zest, finely grated with a microplane zester, and then whisked in some complimentary spices to the flour. Add a bit of orange bitters for a special pizazz and some chocolate chips because, like bacon, they tend to make just about everything better. The end result was extraordinarily delicious.
Hope you enjoy!
-Todd & Diane
For best results use really ripe bananas. As in, too ripe to eat but not yet funky enough to throw out. They'll make the loaf more moist and sweet compared to a loaf made with bananas which are just "eating" ripe.
The orange bitters in the recipe give the loaf a little extra pop of flavor, but if you don't happen to have any in the house, the recipe is still great without it. If you happen to have fresh tangerines, their zest is an amazing substitute for the orange zest in this recipe.
Makes one 4.5x8.5-inch loaf.
- 1 1/4 cups (160g) Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
- 1 cup (200g) Sugar
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted Butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Orange Zest
- 4 medium ripe Bananas (@1 1/2 cups when mashed)
- 2 Eggs , beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon Orange Bitters optional
- 1 cup (175g) Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease a 4.5"x8.5" loaf pan. Line the bottom of the loaf pan with parchment paper.
Whisk or sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg until well blended. Set aside.
In a large bowl or mixer, cream together sugar, butter and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add bananas and mix together until bananas are mashed and well blended into the butter mixture. Beat in eggs and orange bitters (if using) until combined.
Stir flour mixture into banana mixture until just combined. Be careful not to over mix. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (chocolate on the toothpick doesn't count). The house should be filled with the scent of fresh banana bread.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Loosen the edges, then pop loose the bottom.