Going Bananas?

Going Bananas?

Hazelnut Chocolate Banana Loaf

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Stay-at-home orders have spawned a resurgence of baking (3). Banana, bread has been called the “unofficial baked good” of the Covid-19 pandemic. In April, banana bread topped the charts as the most googled recipe in the U.S. and worldwide (1,2,3).

Who knew I was on-trend when I started tinkering with a hazelnut chocolate banana loaf my husband requested for his birthday a couple of years ago (4?  No “same-old” banana bread, it has hazelnut flour, chocolate, cocoa nibs and espresso in the batter, and a luscious chocolate-hazelnut topping. Call it cake. 

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Even though bananas, tied with apples, are the most-consumed fruit in the U.S (5) their nutritional value is often misunderstood (6), likely due to confusion about their sugar and starch content (6). When you eat a greenish banana, you consume resistant starch, which acts a lot like dietary fiber. Resistant starch resists digestion in the small intestine and travels to the large intestine where it nourishes health-promoting microbes. The microbes produce beneficial short chain fatter acids that help with gut repair, health, and disease prevention (6). 

Bananas are a good source of dietary fiber, too. A medium banana has about 2 grams of  insoluble fiber (think “roughage”) that keeps the digestive tract moving smoothly, and 1 gram of soluble fiber which absorbs water in the stomach, slows the rise in blood sugar, helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and feeds the gut microbiota. (6,7,8)  

As bananas ripen the starch is converted to easy-to-digest sugars. Ripe bananas are often given to people after a bout of intestinal upset to help heal the gut and provide energy and nutrients. Many athletes grab easy-to-digest bananas to replenish carb and nutrient stores. Best known for potassium, bananas are a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of B6 (6,7).

Worried about blood sugar spikes? Even when ripe, bananas have a low glycemic index, a measure of potential effect on blood sugar. And they have a moderate glycemic load, another blood sugar measure that considers the glycemic index and portion size (5).

Have you tried banana tea or teeth whitener? Our love for bananas generates a lot of peels and a host of culinary, medicinal, therapeutic and household uses for them, some going back generations (5,9,10). The next time I make my Hazelnut Chocolate Banana Loaf, I’ll try banana peel bacon (11).

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Hazelnut Chocolate Banana Loaf

Perfect for brunch, snacks or dessert, this loaf eats like a cake, with a scrumptious frosting you can spread on top or smear on each slice. In the frosting, rather than Nutella, I used Justin’s chocolate-hazelnut spread (with almonds).it is a “better-for-you” option. The first two ingredients are hazelnuts and almonds while the first two ingredients of Nutella are sugar and palm oil, followed by hazelnuts. Mix it with super-rich Italian mascarpone, regular or reduced-fat cream cheese.  

Serves 12-16


1 cup hazelnuts

½ cup white whole wheat or whole wheat flour

½ cup bread flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs

1 cup mashed, overripe bananas

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup avocado or canola oil

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 ½ teaspoons espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (used regular size morsels)

¼ cup toasted cocoa nibs (optional)


½ cup cream cheese such as Italian mascarpone or American full fat or fat-reduced, softened

¼ cup chocolate hazelnut spread (Justins…), softened

2 tablespoons honey

¼ teaspoon vanilla


Chopped, toasted hazelnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-x5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line pan with parchment paper with extra hanging over the two long sides (Crease paper so it fits snugly.). Coat paper and short sides of pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 to 8 minutes. Cool.
  3. Combine nuts and whole wheat flour in food processor. Process until nuts are finely ground. Spoon nut mixture into a medium bowl. Add bread flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
  4. Break eggs into a separate bowl, whisk to blend. Whisk in bananas, sugar, oil, yogurt and dissolved espresso powder.
  5. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients until blended. Do not over-mix.
  6. Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, covering with foil after about 30 minutes to prevent over-browning. Loaf is done when a pick inserted in center comes out clean. 
  7. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Remove loaf from pan to wire rack to cool.
  8. For topping, combine all ingredients in bowl; beat with electric mixer on low speed until creamy.
  9. To serve, spread topping on cake before or after slicing. Sprinkle with nuts.  


One 1: From banana bread to lasagna: Top 10 most-googled recipes while people are self-quarantining. Taylor Locke. CNBC. Apr 26 2020

Two 2: Banana bread popularity during COVID-19: How (and why) it became the unofficial baked good of a pandemic.  Healthy Cooking. Emily Laurence, April 16, 2020. Wellandgood.com

Three 3: Knead some baking inspiration? We’ve got you covered. Molly McHugh-Johnson Contributor, The Keyword. April 10, 2020

Four 4: Ripe for Reinvention by Charlotte Druckman. The Wall Street Journal. May 26-27, 2018. 

Five 5:  Top 20 Fruits and Vegetables Sold in the U.S. Produce marketing Association. The Packer. 2019.

Six 6: Bananas. The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Seven 7: Bananas. By Bethany Grzesiak, MS, RD. Food & Nutrition. November-December 2018 p.32-36.

Eight 8: Are Bananas a Source of Fiber? Lindsay Allen. Livestrong.com

Nine 9: 23 Uses of Banana Peels for Skin Care, Hair Health, First Aid, and More. Scott Frothingham. Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD. Healthline.com.

Ten 10: 5 Ways You Never Knew You Could Eat Banana Peels. Dana Leigh Smith August 26, 2016  Eatthis.com.  

Eleven 11: Banana Peel Bacon. May 12, 2019. itdoesnttastelikechicken.com.

© Lorelle Del Matto 2020

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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