A thick slice of this Maca Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and a cup of my favourite low-acid coffee accompanied me onto the back porch this morning. I thought I’d nibble my breakfast while I finished up a birthday card I’m making for my friend Samaya. I can’t bear to work anywhere but the porch this week. It’s been unseasonably gorgeous and the electric yellow forsythia and warm air rendered narcotic by the scent of blossoming magnolias feel like stolen pleasures that the word ‘March’ can retract at any moment.
I made the bread to use use up a bag of maca that I’d tried to incorporate into my raw food smoothies. I’d had high hopes for it. A root vegetable native to the high Andes, Maca has been used by people there for centuries and is said to boost stamina, reduce anxiety and help with a range of sexual problems in men and women. Those benefits haven’t been studied extensively enough to reach conclusions. Having said that maca can be up to 14% protein, it’s rich in calcium and potassium and contains some iron, copper, zinc, magnesium and selenium. So, even if it’s not technically medicinal, it’s a highly nutritious, energy-rich food worth incorporating into our diets. And, if you were suffering from low sex drive caused by nutritional deficiency incorporating maca would probably help a lot simply because the nutrients it contains are the ones usually missing in deficiency-caused sexual problems.
Trouble is, every time I tried to put maca into a smoothie it would give me a stomach ache. It wasn’t the taste, maca has a pleasant malty flavour that pairs very nicely with cacao. Turns out, maca is traditionally cooked because it is difficult to digest raw. Ohhhhhh…
So, here I was, left holding a bag of raw ‘superfood’ that I couldn’t digest. I spied a bunch of overripe bananas on the counter and considered it a sign. As an aside, ( Lord, I’m full them today!) don’t you think the spots on overripe bananas are beautiful? They are the ocelots of the produce world luxuriating fatly on the counter as though it were their own private veldt.
I mashed up my poor ocelots with some spelt flour, maca and walnuts, flax, chia seed, and then sweetened only with some date puree and, of course, a few chocolate chips. Banana bread without chocolate chips always makes me feel a little lonely.
I was very pleased with how the bread turned out and even more so after the ingredients had a chance to aquaint themselves overnight. I am a huge fan of letting muffins and quick breads rest a day. It tones down any residual flavour from the baking powder or soda and in this case the time allowed the maltiness of the maca to fade into the background where it belongs.
As far as anecdotal health benefits, after eating a couple of slices of the Maca Chocolate Chip Bread for breakfast, I went on an exquisitely beautiful but savagely steep twenty-mile road bike ride near Alderson, West Virgina with some ladies who are much stronger cyclists than I. While I was at the back of the pack for the entire ride near the(blessed!)end I didn’t find my strength flagging and even though I was hungry, I had energy and enjoyed a much stronger finish than usual. Maybe there is something to those stamina claims.
Speaking of stamina, my friend Samaya is turning 60! I can hardly believe it, I don’t think of her as having an age at all. She’s just sexy, funny her with a hippie heart and a hooting laugh and a great mind wide, wide, wide open to new ideas. Every woman should have a friend who makes her excited to see what being older than she is now is all about. That’ll keep you chugging up those steep hills better than all the maca in the world.
Maca Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Makes one large dense loaf
1 3/4 cups mashed banana, I used 4 large overripe bananas, you can use a little less if you like but more might make your loaf too mushy
1 cup pitted dates, soaked, just covered in filtered water at least 4 hours, preferably overnight
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened, plus more for greasing loaf pan
2 tablespoons chia seed
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup maca flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup walnuts, broken into large shards
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8.5 x 4.5 inch(or thereabouts) loaf pan with coconut oil and set aside. Blend dates until smooth with 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid and reserve rest of soaking liquid. If your blender does not have a strong enough motor to completely pulverize the dates, don’t worry, a few chewy chunks of dates will be lovely in your loaf.
Measure out remaining date soak water, if you don’t have enough soak liquid to make 1/2 cup, top up with filtered water. Place chia seed in small bowl and pour in date soak water, stir and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine spelt flour, maca, baking soda, salt and ground flax. Mix well. In another medium bowl, mash bananas.
In a large bowl, cream coconut oil and date paste until smooth. I used a hand held mixer for this but a good whisking will do the job as well. Beat in chia seed and water mixture with a wooden spoon, then mashed bananas and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture until just combined and then fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake for one hour, checking after 50 minutes. Allow to cool in loaf pan for 5 minutes then remove and place on cooling rack. The loaf will develop its best flavour after resting overnight.