gluten-free coconut blueberry pistachio banana loaf

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You have to know that nothing makes me feel better than a hot loaf being unearthed from an oven. While I’ve learned to be patient over the years, it’s so hard not to dive in, fork-first, once a banana bread hits the rack. This weekend, I decided to turn up the volume and futz with a classic recipe, namely, swap out all-purpose flour and sugar for natural sweeteners. The result? A delicious, moist loaf that delivers on flavor and texture. While I’m not blind to the fact that removing all the sugar alters the flavor of the bread (it is indeed less saccharine sweet), I’m learning to appreciate the nuanced flavors of that the fruit and nuts imbue on the loaf.

INGREDIENTS: (makes two loaves)
3 cups gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup agave
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup pistachios, ground
3/4 tablespoons pure almond extract
1 cup ripe mashed banana (about 2 large)
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup rice milk
Nonstick coconut oil cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt until combined. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, syrup, agave and coconut oil on medium-low speed until combined. On low speed, slowly beat in the flour mixture. Add the almond extract, banana, coconut, rice milk, ground pistachios and beat just to combine. Fold in the blueberries.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 65-75 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. But honestly, are you going to do this? Shove a delicious loaf in the freezer and abandon it so cruelly? Hardly. You’re going to end up cutting small slices in the middle of the night, and eat this, standing up, in the kitchen, in the DARK.

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virtuous banana coconut bread (no butter or oil!)

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This week I stood on a platform where a woman writhed on the ground. Her body was volcanic; she spoke in halting stops and starts, and all I could hear was her pleading to the police to let her go. That all she wanted to do was jump. A train pulled into the station and the doors opened and people glanced down and kept moving. They glanced down and kept moving. Some registered her with mild concern, their eyes shifted from her to their phones and back again. Some took photographs and others stared out into the tracks, beyond them, to a nothingness on the other side.

I went cold. My train arrived, and it occurred to me that public misery has become commonplace. We are no longer shocked; we are bored. Nothing phases us. There goes our collective yawn. There goes us documenting pain instead of experiencing empathy. On the subway once, a homeless man shouted, I know you can hear me. I know you’re pretending to listen to your iPODS and your music. But I know you can hear me.

Maybe we can hear but we’ve trained ourselves not to listen, or feel.

For as long as I can remember, I was told to mind my own business, that a family’s affairs were private, that pain was something you exhibited privately. And if you dared trespass beyond these maxims, if you become public with your tears, you knew that everyone else was trained to turn away. We are an efficient breed of people in the way that we are cold and cocooned. Perhaps I’m more sensitive to all of this because it’s cold, colder than I’ve known it to be, and all I want to do is leave New York. While I’m not naive in thinking that what I’ve experienced is unique to where I live, I’m just becoming sensitive to everything. As if I were a child experiencing the world for the first time. A once-crowded subway never phased me, now it’s smothering. A woman writhing on the platform was once common, now heartbreaking and gruesome.

This morning I woke early and baked this bread and succumbed to the quiet. Resolving to soon live somewhere that is less crowded, less frenetic, less demanding — a place where quiet is cultivated. A life less consumed and conspicuous.

I know this is all babbling, but this is what’s been on my mind lately, and I’m still trying to make sense of it, sort it all out.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Janelle Bloom’s Fast Fresh & Fabulous
2 cups self raising flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup chopped walnuts {I used sweetened coconut flakes instead}
1 cup milk {I used 2% milk, but you can use almond or rice milk}
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed banana (2 large, overripe bananas)

*If you don’t have self-raising flour on hand, add 1 1/4 tsp of baking powder + 1/4 tsp salt to one cup of all-purpose flour. In this case, you’d add 2 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt to 2 cups of all-purpose flour.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven 350F/180C. Grease and line 7cm deep, 13.5cm x 24cm (9×5 inches) loaf pan.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and walnuts (coconut flakes, if you’re using). Combine the milk, eggs and banana in a bowl and stir gently into the banana mixture.

Spoon into loaf pan and smooth the surface. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand 10 minutes in the pan before lifting onto a wire rack to cool.

A small note: if you’re expecting this to taste exactly like a banana bread that contains butter or oil, you’re bonkers. I say that with love. The bread is indeed very good, but is not the same as its full-fat counterpart. When you’re eating a bit more virtuously, don’t expect precise replicas of the goodies you adore. As you know I tend to bake full on, but once in a while it doesn’t hurt to tinker with, and enjoy, some virtuous fare.

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feather light chocolate chip banana loaf

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After a weekend spent connecting with a few hundred people who wrote me after having read my Medium review, people in Paris, Italy, Denmark, and Australia, who shared my distaste over the Kinfolk culture that breeds infection (they are a contagion, I said to my business partner today. They make Gwyneth Paltrow look like trailer park whilst waxing poetic with their decorated beards and expensive boots!), settling in with Joanne Chang’s Flour felt like a homecoming. I let down my guard, was less skeptical, because I knew I was dealing with a methodical trained baker, as opposed to a slew of moneyed artists projecting an unrealistic lifestyle under the guise of authenticity. I first encountered Chang and her infectious passion for baking when I reviewed her second cookbook, Flour, Too. I feel in love with her writing and the way in which she completely changed the course of her life, a story that falls in rhythm with the course of events in which I’ve found myself over the past year.

51uIJ1u3EWLFlour is a true delight for anyone who gets gleeful when flipping through pages of sugar. Crisp pies, tiered cakes, cookies and whipped pastry — you’ll find everything you love about baking and sweets in this accessible cookbook.

Over the years, I’ve made banana loaves, ad nauseum. However, Joanne’s recipe is amazing in the sense that the loaf is light, not as dense and meaty as banana loaves tend to be. Incorporating air into the eggs does this, and the only adjustment I needed to make was swapping nuts for chocolate.

Suffice it to say, the loaf was a success. My business partner and I gobbled down our hot slices with black coffee, while working on projects. Now that is what I call a gathering.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
1 2/3 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (230 grams) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (100 grams) canola or other flavourless oil
3 1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 1/2 cups or 340 grams mashed bananas)
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
Position the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Butter and flour your pan of choice. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes for the stand mixer, and about 8 minutes for a handheld mixer; or until light and fluffy.

With the machine on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil. Do not pour the oil in all at once. Add it slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you have just beaten into the batter. Adding the oil should take about 1 minute.

Add the bananas, creme fraiche/sour cream, and vanilla, then continue to mix on low speed just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and nuts just until thoroughly combined. No flour streaks should be visible and the chocolate chips should be evenly distributed.

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vegan, virtuous + delightful: cafe pinson, paris

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As you can imagine, I blame Gwyneth Paltrow for most things: the existence of $800 orange shorts, wooden bracelets that cost nearly a third of my rent, and an overall obsession with everything-free cooking and baking. In Gwyneth’s rarified world, we’re running through blades of grass, pulling stalks as we go, and our dinner is foraged on our very expensive (read: private to you plebeians) land. However, I can’t deny the fact that the recipes I tested before my European sojourn were the real thing. That, coupled with my doctor’s voice in my head (less refined flour! less sugar!), had me searching for a more virtuous shop in Paris. Does such shop exist?

My friends, it does. Enter Cafe Pinson.

There was a moment when I felt transplanted back to Brooklyn. A maniacal obsession with coffee, a shaggy-haired barista, and accessible WIFI were all signs of Williamsburg, except for the fact that everyone speaks French. A light, airy atmosphere in the Northern Marais district (home to a lot of virtuous and on-trend spots, I’ve learned), Pinson serves up organic + vegetarian cuisine, with a mostly vegan lunch menu. Scores of my friends swear by its lunch fare, which is inventive and tasty, but on one particular morning, I settled into a sunken chair and sipped on my almond-milk cappuccino (rare, even in New York!), freshly-squeezed juice, and a rather moist and yummy banana loaf. Not only was my breakfast delicious, the atmosphere was welcoming, quiet and the place you’d want to go if you were seeking a little quiet.

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve rolled in and opted for a lentil salad, etc, instead of a loaf, considering my attempt at a carb-free day. No such luck.

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the snow white loaf: coconut milk banana nutella swirl

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For the past three years, my friends always got the leftovers, the exhausted remains of me. The friend who feverishly checked her phone, hit refresh on the web page, who feigned being present but never was. I could tell they were frustrated, but I couldn’t help myself — I unknowingly gave the best part of myself to the wrong person. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I said goodbye to all that, I passed hours with old friends, phone tucked away in my bag. One brave, sweet friend sighed extravagantly when she said: THANK GOD YOU’RE BACK. WE’VE MISSED YOU.

Granted, I’ve still more faces to see, lives to catch up on, but in the interim I baked this luscious cake for a colleague’s birthday, and I hope she savors every. single. bite.

Listening to: The Morning After Girls’ Hidden Spaces
Reading: Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove

***

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Nobile Pig’s delicious recipe, with modifications
For the bread
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup + 1 tbsp light coconut milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup Nutella (or any chocolate spread), lightly melted

For the glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 5 x 2.75 (correct size is important) baking pan with butter + flour, or coconut spray will suffice. In a small skillet melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Mix the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl beat egg with a fork and stir in melted butter and coconut milk. Combine well. Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just enough to combine. Fold in coconut and smashed banana.

Spread a third of the batter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Add half of the melted Nutella, covering the batter as best you can without mixing the two together. Add another 1/3 of the batter and cover the mixture completely. Finish with the other half of the Nutella and then more batter to top it off.

Use a table knife and stick it down, all the way through the batter at one end of the loaf pan. Work your way from one side of the pan to the other in a zigzag motion.

Bake 55-65 minutes, until done, ensuring that you turn the bread halfway through the baking process. As my oven is hot, unpredictable and cruel, I start checking at the 45 minute mark. Press on bread and if it feels springy to the touch it is likely finished baking. Let cool 20 minutes in pan before flipping over to a rack to cool completely.

For the glaze, add confectioners sugar to a medium sized bowl and add the milk. Mix until it is a thick, pourable glaze. Pour over bread and sprinkle with coconut. When glaze is dry, slice into 12 pieces.

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peanut butter banana bread

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Just when you thought banana bread was the height of loaf perfection, imagine peanut butter stepping into the game. Typically, I’ve been baking banana loaves with grape seed/coconut oil and using everything from dark chocolate to coconut in adding layers of texture and flavor, and never did I conceive of the most brilliant addition: PEANUT BUTTER.

I love how, with each bite, you get the crunch from the chips, the smoothness of the creamy peanut butter and the sweetness of the bananas. A cinch to bake, you will thank me (or want to punch me) after you’ve hoovered the whole loaf.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Oh Sweet Basil, with minor modifications
1 3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup (5 tbsp) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Peanut Butter & Co)
2/3 cup cane sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed, ripened bananas (2-3 medium bananas)
1 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add the sugar and eggs, and mix on medium/high speed to combine.

Turn the mixer to medium speed and add a small amount of the flour mixture and a tablespoon of banana until fully incorporated. Alternate between the flour mixture and the banana, starting and ending with the banana. Fold in the chocolate chips to combine.

Spray a 9×5 loaf pan, with cooking spray and add the banana bread mixture and even out with an offset spatula. Bake for 50-60 minutes, tenting with foil the last few minutes to avoid too dark a crust.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack. Enjoy!

chocolate chunk banana loaf

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Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already? The world was not wheeling anymore. It was just very clear and bright and inclined to blur at the edges. ― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

We always thought things would be different. We practiced idealism like sacrament, viewed the road that lay ahead of us as the promise land. A land worth fighting for. That Saturday, when we tossed our black hats up toward the sky we felt bound by nothing. We were jubilant. Let the shackles fall from our ankles. And the stampede! We ran on the hot pavement, away, away, from the flannel shirts, Nirvana, verdant lawns, apathy and dollar drafts. I tell you, it was a thing to see: the motley lot fleeing into the dark forest. We promised we’d hold hands like in grade school, but somewhere along the way, through the thicket, we lost one another. We let go. Don’t look back. Ours was a suspicious generation, one that didn’t care — or so we were always told by the elders — but we would still lay claim to the land. Carve out our place in it. Get the jobs we were meant to have; erect grand houses; have beautiful children. We set our clocks and watched them tick. Some of us respectfully declined wedding invitations. Others took planes across the ocean. Some of us passed away, and a few found it hard to let those four years fade. The sea was red and the sky was grey, wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today. The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake, as the children of the sun began to awake.

Graduation, June 1997

I look at this picture — of me holding a film camera, graduating with honors, ready for a job in investment banking — and I sometimes weep. Everything was so tragically clear back then, the world was mine for the taking, and I was ambitious, opinionated, arrogant, kind, loud and passionate. That Saturday I was also still drunk from the night before and reeling from the fact that I told my mother I never wanted to see her again. That I was done. I would spend the next decade recovering from this hurt. I would spend the next decade playing barnacle to a bottle of red wine. Letting some of my friends in this picture fade into film. But on that day I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t know that I’d take one job to leave it for another. Attend graduate school to leave it, cutting lines with my school ID card and flying to California, to the ocean, to take pills, tremble and shake. Back then the sheets bled red wine. My heart was a river and thankfully I was able to pull myself back to shore.

And here I am again. Half a life away from the day I walked onto that campus — the first in my family to attend college — determined to travel far, far away from where I’d come. And then I think about me in the next half life. Hopeful that I will have made a tremendous leap because I’m getting antsy in my own skin. Feeling the tension of being in the betweens, half here, half in the life I want to make for myself. Soon. Don’t look back.

Today I wanted to go back to all that was comforting. A recipe that felt like home, and so I tinkered with my banana loaf, making it a little more delicious with an infusion of dark chocolate to temper the sweetness. The combination of coconut oil and almond milk render a moist bread with an undercurrent of nutty flavor. This loaf was pure perfection and it gave me solace as I started to think about all that lay ahead.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1 cup coconut oil
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup almond milk
Nonstick cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside. I opted to use a larger pan and a a muffin tin because I felt a little rebellious today. However, feel free to color in the lines. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and coconut oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture, slowly. Add the vanilla, banana and almond milk, and beat just to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Since my oven is hot, I tend to start checking at 50 minutes. Call me paranoid.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

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banana chocolate chip nutella loaf

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There’s nothing I love more than finding new ways to re-invent the classics. I’ve been making this banana loaf for nearly five years and I’ve found endless ways to tinker with the original recipe. From coconut to chunks of dark chocolate to cinnamon glaze, I can’t help but be mad for banana bread and all the ways in which you can use CHOCOLATE to make it sing.

Since I love almond extract (it’s pungent and astringent all at once) and feel it’s a perfect complement to the creamy bananas, I paired the two, yielding a decidedly more fragrant loaf. I’m in the office now and I invited one of my colleagues to “test taste” the goods. He remarked that he loved the cacophony of flavor (my phrase; he said, “lots of different flavors that work well together”) and felt the almond extract was pretty pronounced, but he didn’t he care for he LOVES almonds. So if you want to go easy, I’d say use a 1/2 tbsp of extract and you’ll have a more subtle loaf.

Since I swapped almond milk for buttermilk and reduced the flour intake, the loaf cooks rather quickly, which shocked me. Typically banana bread takes an hour to make as you have so much liquid (including the bananas) in the recipe. The chocolate, nutella, almond milk allowed the loaf to come together pretty quickly, so you’ll get this puppy going in 45 minutes, flat.

So if you’re looking to wow the crowd with not a lot of effort (this loaf is a CINCH to make), I suggest stockpiling on chocolate and crank up the oven!

INGREDIENTS
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup safflower oil
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
1 tbsp pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
2 tbsp nutella
1/2 cups almond milk
Nonstick cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture. Add the almond oil, banana, almond milk and nutella, and beat just to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

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bake this now: nutella banana loaf!

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What I adore most about baking is the feeling of chrysalis. Every recipe has the ability to be transformed, re-shaped and reinvented until the origins of a recipe are nearly recognizable as the newly emerged is a stark contrast to what has been created before. I’ve had a handful of sweet mainstays — breads and cakes and pies that comfort me — and after I’ve perfected the original incarnation, I’ve room to play.

Take the classic banana loaf. Over the years I’ve made this loaf with dark chocolate, coconut, pistachio oil, blueberries, etc, and for some reason I feel as if this year is the YEAR OF NUTELLA.

The nutella will take away some of the moisture from the bread, which didn’t bother me much, however, feel free to increase the oil and buttermilk by two tablespoons each to gain back the tenderness from the original. What I loved most about this version is the fact that the nutella imbued the loaf with a depth of flavor, a smokiness, a nuttiness that made it darker. And yes, it was literally darker, but something about the hazelnut spread rendered the loaf complicated in a way I hadn’t expected.

Now that I just entered the realm of the esoteric and got all Nabokovian on a slice of banana bread, let me leave you with this: THE NUTELLA LOAF IS DELICIOUS. MAKE IT. BAKE IT. NOW.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar**
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
2 tbsp nutella
1/2 cups buttermilk
Nonstick cooking spray

*I use unbleached flour
**I use cane sugar

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture. Add the vanilla, banana, buttermilk and nutella, and beat just to combine.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.
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