Back in Kerala, my home state, you will find bananas in most kitchens. In the old days, when everyone lived in single houses on a bit of land and not in apartments like today, you couldn’t find a home without its own coconut trees and banana plants. The coconut and the banana were intrinsic, and still are, to our way of life. Apart from the fruit, other parts of the trees were very much used. For a long time, it was considered a shame if one had to spend money on buying coconuts or bananas.
We use the fruit and even the inner stem of some varieties of banana for cooking. The banana leaf is used to wrap certain foods for steam cooking. Banana leaves are also our version of eco-friendly plates as we traditionally eat off them. Even today, our festive meals, including wedding feats are served on banana leaves.
Kerala grows an unbelievable variety of bananas and we use this fruit both raw and ripe. As a child I remember, that whenever someone dropped by for a casual visit, they were offered home grown bananas and steaming hot filter coffee. I remember a sweetness in those bananas which is rare in the fruit today.
I now live on the 2nd floor of an apartment complex, and while that does have some advantages, being able to grow my own bananas is not one of them. I do, however, have a vegetable seller who comes almost daily to my door and keeps me supplied with farm fresh vegetables and bananas whenever I need them.
Bananas are my favourite fruit, after mangoes but as I have mentioned many times before, I don’t like bananas in bakes. Don’t ask me why, I just don’t.
It is also the reason I have been avoiding baking anything with banana in it. Perhaps I haven’t been fair here, because I know my husband would like it if I did bake with banana.
It was the fact that I had some seriously over ripe bananas that made me take the plunge. The bananas were good, no one wanted to eat “black” bananas and there was no way I was going to throw them out.
Bananas also happen to be a good substitute for eggs, so for me, that meant that this was going to be one more eggless bake. So I cobbled together this recipe for banana squares with chocolate chips and cardamom.
If you haven’t tried the combination of banana, chocolate and cardamom as yet, let me assure that it’s a winner. Of course, I might be biased as I love cardamom.
I have made these squares many times since, and except for that first time, it hasn’t been because I needed to use up bananas. In fact, I’ll admit I have even bought bananas a couple of times just to make these banana squares!
That’s how good they are. My husband is happy and our daughter who is not usually very fond of fruit in bakes pronounced them “quite nice”.
Eggless Chocolate Chip And Banana Squares
75gm butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large banana, mashed/ puréed (about 1/2 cup)*
2 to 3 tbsps milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 pods cardamom, powdered (optional)
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
* I prefer to purée the banana pieces with the milk in my blender, as it is smoother than mashed banana. I also add the vanilla extract and cardamom while puréeing. If you prefer to mash your banana, you can add the milk while mashing it.
Put the softened butter and brown sugar in a bowl and beat, using a hand held mixer, till fluffy and creamy. Add the mashed/ puréed banana and beat on medium speed till smooth.
Sift the flour,baking powder and salt into the bowl, and beat again (on medium speed) till the flour is incorporated into the batter.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Scrape the batter out into a greased and floured square cake tin (7” by 7”) and bake at 180C (350F) till done, and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then unmould the cake. Cool completely on a rack and cut into squares.
This recipe makes 9 big or 16 smaller chocolate chip and banana squares.