My first real job in food was as a pastry cook in Pichet Ong’s bakery in the West Village. Pichet is amazing at desserts. I loved the effortless science behind his recipes. From the beginning I knew he was special. On one of my first days I descended into the basement kitchen and found Pichet in front of a stand mixer on full whack, while he simultaneously held a flaming torch to the bowl and drizzled in homemade calamansi lemon syrup with the other hand. “I’m making a no bake cheesecake!” he shouted joyfully over the mechanical whir of the mixer.
My hands-down favorite recipe to prepare on the job was his banana cake. This recipe had not one but THREE secret ingredients. I loved the way the batter transformed, like magic, throughout the process, until you ended up with the most sumptuous, fluffy, aromatic batter you could ever dream of. It started with baby bananas. You had to use baby bananas because they taste 3x more like bananas than regular bananas. Then came the honey– dark amber honey. You had to beat the bananas and honey into the other ingredients until the batter “looks broken”, per Pichet’s instructions. And it did break– the batter forming wispy strands through the honey like egg drop soup. Then the real magic happened with the last ingredient: yogurt. Once the yogurt was folded in, everything came together like magic. It took the sticky, soupy mess and turned it into pillowy velvet. Watching this happen by the 40 quart bowlful of the Hobart mixer was the highlight of my day. This is where my both my career as a chef and my dependence on yogurt began.
This adaptation of Pichet’s recipe is made using only plant-based ingredients and is extra tender thanks to a technique I saw Pichet use for other fruit recipes. Most people make banana bread with gooey, brown, overripe bananas for which there is no other hope left. I instead opt for just ripe bananas that are still in the prime time of their shelf life, with maybe just a few light brown freckles and not a blemish within. Then I press them through a potato ricer into the bowl. Ricing them eliminates the need to mash them to death, which causes them to get brown and gluey.
It’s not too sweet, but a smattering of chocolate chips provide a feeling of decadence. Perfect with tea, as an afternoon snack, or for a lazy breakfast. And like all our other recipes, incomplete without a dollop of yogurt on top.
Vegan Banana Cake with Chocolate Chunks
makes 1 loaf
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbp ground flax seed
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 cups ripe bananas, pressed through a ricer
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Anita’s Coconut Yogurt
1 cup chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a loaf pan with coconut or olive oil. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and ground flax seed.
Add the coconut oil and brown rice syrup to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat until combined and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the banana and vanilla, and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the flour mixture, and beat until just combined, taking care not to over-mix. Remove bowl from mixer and use a spatula to fold in the Anita’s coconut yogurt and chocolate chunks until only a few small streaks of yogurt remain.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake until golden and firm, about one hour, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove the loaf pan to a cooling rack and allow to sit 15 minutes before turning out onto the cooling rack. Cool before serving with Anita’s Yogurt.