Two slices of banana bread lay on a piece of china with a cup of tea and a fork next to it
Adding dried cranberries and chocolate chips to banana bread can enhance the standard loaf of banana bread. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Who needs to enhance banana bread? Well, perhaps all of us.

One friend wrinkles a nose at the idea of dumping add-ins into a basic batter and mutters about, “Why can’t people leave the recipe alone?” Another’s eyes light up at the prospect of a nugget of chocolate or chewy dried cranberry lurking in every bite.

Frankly, despite the existence of cocoa flavored breakfast cereal, I’ve been inclined to regard a hit of chocolate before 11 a.m. a little akin to a finger of Scotch before lunch. The enhanced banana bread that follows is my idea of a great tea bread for an afternoon cup with a friend while the plain one, which is very sweet, seems more suitable for eating with breakfast coffee. At any event, we here at Taste Buds are all about suiting your taste, whatever it may be.

While the plain banana bread recipe comes from my days working at a bed and breakfast inn, the enhancements are inspired by a banana bread made by Susan Kannelakis of Camden. I suspect most households have a stash of chocolate chips; either milk chocolate or semi-sweet will work. Dried cranberries have become darn near ubiquitous in stores in recent years, as common as raisins — which, by the way, you could substitute for the cranberries. I sprinkle dried cranberries into salad, add them to pancakes and tapioca. Sometimes I eat them out of my hand.

The basic banana bread is almost tooth-achingly sweet. I routinely reduce the amount of sugar from one-cup to three-quarters or even two-thirds. You might want to do that, too, especially if you use a sweeter chocolate.

You can easily double the recipe so make one to eat right away and freeze the other for an unexpected visit. Or keep one plain and enhance the other so those who prefer only banana in their banana bread will be content, and the chocolate chip and cranberry eating sybarites among us will be overjoyed.

Banana Bread, with or without enhancement

Makes one loaf

1 ¾ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup of sugar

¼ cup butter

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 ripe bananas, mashed

¼ cup dried cranberries, or more to taste (optional)

¼ cup chocolate chips, or more to taste (optional)

Heat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flour a standard 9-by-5 loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour and baking soda, and set aside.

With a beater, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in oil and eggs, add vanilla.

Mixing by hand, add the flour and baking soda alternately with the buttermilk.

Mix in the mashed bananas.

If you choose to add the chocolate and cranberries, fold them in now.

Spoon into the loaf pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...