The Banana Bar

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Banana Bar: Banana Rum Ganache, Walnut Shortbread Cookie.

This bar was inspired by chocolate chunk banana bread. The chocolate chunks have been incorporated into a banana ganache, and the quickbread element has become shortbread with walnuts mixed in. And I added rum, because it’s good with banana.

Texturally, the light ganache, crunchy shortbread and walnuts, and snappy chocolate couverture are a delight. Plus, I think it’s fiendishly delicious.

It’s been amusing working on this bar for the past few days and watching the results of my candy bar survey. It turns out that, according to my responses so far, banana is not a highly anticipated flavor for a candy bar. Only 8.2% responded positively to it (I rejoiced after every rare vote). And the walnut, while popular enough, isn’t generally a nut that people get especially excited about, either.

Of course, I can’t always be ruled completely by the majority, and I do suspect that the banana has also acquired a bad reputation in confections. Succinctly put, banana candies often taste gross — artificial and too sweet.

That’s why I took my cue from banana bread and muffins, the best of which get their cue from fresh bananas… and I also suspect, is enjoyed by more than 8.2% of the population. Ganache made with pureed bananas is heavenly. Taste-wise, it’s pure, and texture-wise, it’s naturally light and moist. I also used a little vanilla bean to round out the flavor.

I often avoid banana bread with walnuts — or pick them out — but I’m staunchly for the walnuts in this bar. I think that it’s the jarring texture and exploding flavors of the walnut in an otherwise moist, mellow banana bread that makes me dislike it there. But here, the walnut blends into the crunch of the shortbread, and imparts a flavor that goes melds with the creamy banana without dominating it.

Speaking of shortbread, it’s a very certain type that fits into candy bars. It has to be crunchy, or else it mixes with the ganache to feel curdled in your mouth. Such things as starch (powdered sugar is made of sugar and cornstarch) and eggs make cookies less crispy. So, for this shortbread, the ingredients are: flour, butter, granulated sugar, walnuts, and salt. You don’t have to toast the walnuts before adding to the dough, b/c they toast as the shortbread bakes. Right after it cooled, I coated it in a blend of dark chocolate and added cocoa butter to give it a thin seal to keep out moisture from the ganache.

So, here it is, the Banana bar… which I hope overcomes its odds to be liked by more than 8.2% of the population. Once again, Chad gave voice to my wishes: “I don’t like banana flavored things, but I like this!” I was lucky to get any pictures at all of this bar… what with his hovering and incessent inquiries into their futures. 🙂

This is a work in progress, though. Changes for the future:

  • Make the ganache firmer/more dense. Either use more chocolate and/or add invert sugar (this version had no added sugar, only the sugar from the chocolate and fruit sweetened it). I want to see how it affects the overall texture of the bar. Also, it would increase the shelf life. You can see air bubbles in the ganache above, and I’d rather not have that. I think that the ganache would be fine as is for two weeks, but I’ll be monitoring the remaining bars over time to see how they do.
  • Possibly add coconut to the shortbread. The flavor goes really well with rum and banana. I actually added coconut to a couple bars to see how it would be. I’d made a coconut mixture similar to that found in a Mounds or Almond Joy, but found it too sweet and boring to be a main feature in one of my candy bars (I’ve concluded that the world doesn’t need another coconut in sugar syrup-style bar; and using so much sugar to make it made me feel uneasy). Anyway, I spread some btw the ganache and the cookie in a few of them. It tasted really nice, and added an interesting additional texture, even if it was on the wet side. As long as too much coconut isn’t added, it would blend in nicely, rather than dominate. I’d rather have it in the shortbread or sprinkled on top as decoration rather than included as part of a sugar syrup element.
  • To rum or not to rum? On the one hand, rum ties together the flavors of banana and coconut especially well… and it is a natural preservative in chocolates. On the other hand, I’m just not sure about giving people alcohol when they want a banana bar. Alchohol is a very common ingredient in chocolates, but I want to be judicious in the use of it. I’m going to make sure that I have an alternate version without rum that makes up for the loss of liquid in the ratios.
  • Need to make a pattern on top that matches with the ingredients in an interesting way.

7 Responses to “The Banana Bar”

  1. hilary Says:

    I voted for bananas in the survey and I have to say this bar sounds delicious!

  2. Nina Says:

    Cool, thanks! 🙂

  3. lizelle Says:

    nina, how do pureed bananas play a role in the shelf life of the bar outside the fridge?

  4. Gerald Says:

    I love banana flavored candies and now that you mention it, I’m really surprised there aren’t more of them – taffys, runts, and jelly beans (are there any more?) – definitely nothing with banana and chocolate together.

    I think you have a good combo here, especially if the rum is subtle and works just to tie in the flavors rather than as a separate flavor component. The only thing I’m not a fan of are the walnuts, but that’s a personal, texture-wise I think it works well in shortbread and subsequently for your bar.

    If you ever do a taste test in NYC, let me know!

  5. Nina Says:

    Thanks, Gerald!

    And yeah, that’s what I like about this bar — the flavors work together nicely, so even though banana gets top billing, it’s complemented by diff’t notes. I didn’t want the rum to overpower, but be almost like an aromatic bringing it all together. Chocolates that have too much alcohol are definitely too much of a good thing.

    And I sure will. 🙂

  6. Nina Says:

    lizelle – It should be act like other fruit purees in ganaches, and those are usually okay for a couple weeks at (a cool) room temp; the sugar and fats in the ganache and seal within the chocolate shell help to stabilize it outside of the fridge. I’m testing the spoilage of all the bars for now by eating one every few days to see when they start to go bad…. so I’ll see. This bar is still fine after a little over a week, but I’ll see how it goes.

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