Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Monkey Bars

As far as I can tell, "monkey bars" are a name that is sometimes applied to banana bread baked as a bar-type cake rather than in a loaf pan. The real distinction in this case between a "bar" and a "cake" is the thickness, as the banana bars are not as thick as a banana cake would be. Monkey bars are just a really cute name that I - along with hundreds and thousands of others - happen to like, so this recipe is one for them, rather than one for banana bars or something similar.
The base has a higher sugar to flour ratio than a lot of banana breads, which makes it a bit denser and more stable; the texture is bar-appropriate. These can be packed into lunches as a dessert or substitute for a cookie and they can also be toasted for breakfast. You'll probably note the chocolate chips that are evident in the piece above, which might not make it wholly breakfast-worthy for some. The chocolate chips are actually Milk Chocolate and Caramel Swirl chips made by Nestle. I wanted to use plain chocolate chips, but much to my astonishment, had none at home. These morsels tasted great, though. While too sweet on their own, they really blended well into the batter and gave the whole bar a surprisingly rich taste.
These bars only take a few minutes to whip up. I recommended using a food processor for the wet ingredients because this isn't the sort of bar that you want to have chunks of banana in. If you do, that makes it a bit more banana bread-like than monkey bar-like, but the choice is, ultimately, your own.

Monkey Bars
1 1/4 cups ap flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 medium bananas (3/4 - 1 cup banana)
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend bananas until smooth. Add in melted butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla and whizz until smooth and well-combined. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into prepared pan (it will be a thin layer).
Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out dry.
Cool completely before slicing.
Makes 16 bars.