I picked up some bananas for a staff snack during a photo shoot the other week. And as I grabbed a bunch at the store, I thought, “Well, if these aren’t eaten, I know where they’ll go.” In fact, I counted on them being ignored so they could ripen over the next few days and I could snag them for a loaf of this Marbled-Chocolate Banana Bread from the Cooking Light archives. It’s both pretty to look at and pretty darned good to eat.
It’s a recipe I remembered fondly from my days at the magazine, though my approach to it, like so many other things, has evolved over time. The original version calls for egg substitute; I now just use real eggs. I’ve taken to using ghee in place of regular butter for added richness, the chocolate I use these days is always dark, and I sub a cup of whole-wheat pastry flour for half the all-purpose flour to add a bit of fiber. Oh, yeah, and I can’t resist tossing in a handful of chopped walnuts. (As part of the evolution of the recipe, I’m calling my version “Chocolate-Marbled Banana Bread.”)
So a lot has changed. And a lot hasn’t. The spirit of this banana bread is the same, despite my tweaks. And that’s just the way a great recipe should work. That’s because a good recipe is, at the very least, a reliable guideline so most readers can achieve a consistent outcome. Great recipes — I’m thinking of those written by the likes of Julia Child or Nigel Slater — are also works of literary expression that advance a lively, ongoing conversation.
But even great recipes aren’t carved in stone. Any recipe, even those for baked goods, which do call for a certain precision, leaves room for inspiration and adaptation to the user’s preferences. And that’s where cooking really gets fun!