The Greek yogurt in this recipe makes this bread so moist and delicious, you will want to eat one loaf yourself. This is why my recipe below makes 2 loaves, one is not enough. Or if you have will-power you can freeze one and it will be just as fresh when defrosted, I can’t seem to get that far!
Nutella is like Fage Greek Yogurt, until a few years ago it was also one of the best kept secrets of Europe. I have always known that Nutella in Greece was a staple in every Greek household, equivalent to Peanut Butter here in the States. When I went to Greece, this creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread was everywhere. However, it was not called Nutella in Greece it was called “Merenda”. Their version of this delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread remains the most popular staple in Greece today and used in countless forms of Greek cooking. The popularity of the Merenda brand became sort of like Coke,we ask for a coke even if it is Pepsi they serve. So every other brand of hazelnut -chocolate spread in Greece is called Merenda!
Italy is where Nutella originated and for years was called “Pasta Gianduja”, it was created by an Italian baker named Pietro Ferrero. “Pasta” meaning “Paste” and “Gianduja” meaning” a carnival character “that was famous in the Piedmont region of Italy region where he was from. Piedmont Italy was known for the bounty of hazelnuts harvested in that region. So during World War II when the rationing of chocolate left cocoa in short supply, he became creative and introduced the ground hazelnuts to his chocolate. This wonderful combination was mixed with palm oil, sugar, skimmed milk and vanilla. It was first introduced in a solid form wrapped in foil. Lovers of this chocolate hazelnut bar began melting it to spread on bread, cookies and biscuits.
In 1963 Mr. Ferrero’s son revamped its composition and changed the name to Nutella so it could be marketed across Europe. They say the origin of the name began with “Nut” to represent the hazelnuts and “Ella” giving it a soft ending for the smooth soft texture. It is loved worldwide today and February 5th has been declared “Nutella Day”! In 1983 Nutella was finally imported to the United States, but initially only sent to the Northeastern part of the country. Its popularity grew so quickly it is now distributed all over the United States. It tripled sales and sold more than all brands of peanut butter combined.
Who would of thought all of this history is packed in this that amazingly delicious jar of Nutella! Many of you may be thinking that you have heard the name “Ferrero” before and it sounds very familiar. You are not mistaken, it was not until I wrote this article that I realized that “Nutella” and the popular candy “Ferrero Rocher” were of course made by the same company. When I found out the creator of Nutella was Pietro Ferrero it started to click. It was the Ferrero Rocher name that has been part of my history, not Nutella! Why you ask? Well just like many of my other recipes, there is always a story that goes along with our journey!
This journey goes back 20 years and it involves my children, the candy Ferrero Rocher and my mother-in-law, Yiayia Maria. She passed a few years ago and I miss her very much. I loved her for how well she took care of the children and me. Always putting us first and always visiting our home at least 2-3 times a week with bags and bags of goodies! It would take the kids at least 5 trips to unload her car with an assortment of groceries, food she had made, housewares, clothes for all of us and yes… boxes of Ferrero Rocher candy!
It makes me laugh now because I didn’t realize the connection between this chocolate hazelnut candy and Nutella. I swear you would have thought that she owned stock in the company because she never came empty handed. And even if there were only 2 bags to bring in from her car, one always had boxes of the Ferrero Rocher candies. That’s right I said boxes, she never came with just one for everyone to share, she came with 4or 5 of the big boxes.
The crazy part is that no one in the house really liked them and they didn’t get eaten. We never wanted to hurt her feelings so we began to hid the boxes so she wouldn’t see them. Believe me, I tried to tell her so many times in delicate ways not to bring any more boxes of these candies to the house. My attempts failed, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I gave up. She found so much pleasure and was so happy every time she walked through the door with her bags of goodies, never did we want her hurt. In fact, we had them hidden all over the house and at one point I think we were harboring at least 20 boxes, yikes!
In addition, I wasn’t really into baking back then, just regular food. I am guessing if I was a baker I am sure that I would have a Cookbook published today named “Yiayia’s Thousand Recipes in the World of Ferrero Rocher”, lol!
All kidding aside, she was an amazing woman and we all loved her very much. She taught me so many things, not just about Greek cooking, traditions and religion, but the perils of her fascinating life. One day you will hear her story, one filled with triumphs, tragedy and how she endured and persevered. I love her and miss her every day!
Ok, so in honor of Yia Yia and her love for chocolate and hazelnut comes the recipe for:
Greek Yogurt Nutella Banana Bread
Prep time: 25 min
Baking time: 65 min
Yield: 2 Loaves
1 stick butter softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Greek yogurt (remember Fage is the best substituent if you can’t make your own)
3 tsp. vanilla
2 cups smashed banana (4 large)
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh nutmeg
1/2 or 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (see notes)
6-8 Ferrero Rocher chocolate hazelnut candies (broken in small pieces)
1 cup Nutella
1 cup Greek Yogurt
Set the oven to 325 degrees. Combine butter, oil and sugar in a Cuisinart, kitchenaid or in a bowl using a hand mixer. Blend together until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add bananas, Greek yogurt and vanilla, beat or pulse until well blended. Add eggs and blend again.
In a separate bowl put flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Use a whisk and mix the dry ingredients well. In another bowl place the Nutella and microwave for about 1 minute until it is not so stiff. Add the yogurt and blend well together. Now pour the butter/sugar/banana mixture into the bowl with the flour. Using a spoon fold together quickly, do not over mix, just until blended.
Grease two loaf pans with butter Pam or butter, in each pan add 1/4 of the batter, then top each with 1/2 of the Nutella/Greek Yogurt mixture and then top with the remaining batter. Take a knife and do the figure 8 to sort of swirl together. Top with the chopped hazelnuts and gently press lightly with a spatula. Bake at 325 for 60-65 minutes until golden and s light spring to the touch. Let rest for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cook on a wire rack. I don’t ever think one will get to cool completely before it is gobbled up!
A few notes before you start to make this decadent but kind of healthy banana bread. Remember to use ripe bananas, they will not only produce a better flavor, but the vitamins in a very ripe bananas are increased. This is a great excuse for eating 2 pieces, the health benefits, right, haha! The good news is… if you don’t have time to bake but you are watching your bananas get darker and darker I have your solution. You just need to throw them in the freezer with the skin on, they will be perfect when you are ready to bake, just let defrost.
Second, you will learn that I hate to sift flour, so you will never hear me ask you to do so. Yet, sometimes you need to have a smooth well blended flour that I guess should be sifted. I guess it comes from my childhood memories of having to sift flour and half of it ending up on the floor or all over the counter. Then I had to clean up the mess, ugh! I think this is the reason I never became a baker, haha! My solution and I use it in all recipes that require mixing dry ingredients, a wire whisk! Yep, that’s it, just mix really well with a wire whisk, breaking up any lumps and you are good to go.
Also, let us talk about the hazelnuts that I have just placed on top of the bread and not mixed throughout the batter. I have found many people do not like nuts in baked goods or have allergies to nuts. So if you mix the nuts throughout the batter and you take this bread to a party, chances are many people will not be able to eat your delicious banana bread. Now if this is for your family or friends that you know love nuts and especially Nutella, then by all means add the full cup to the batter and mix through.
Now to take it a step further and if you really want the Nutella flavor to stand out, buy a package of the Ferrero Rocher chocolate hazelnut candy and add to the batter as well. I think I may have 10 or 12 packs hiding in a closet in case you can’t find them, lol. I love you Momma Maria and it is you that have inspired this and countless other recipes that I truly cherish!
Whatever your choices are about the nuts, I promise this will be one of the most deliciously moist and flavorful banana bread you will ever make!
Good luck and stay tuned for our next recipe during “Greek Yogurt Month”!