In Scout’s How to Cook Vancouver series, we will be striving to combine our addiction to dining out with our passion for cooking by challenging ourselves to make Vancouver’s best restaurant dishes in our own homes.
For lack of a better word, I am calling this a loaf, though such a clunky pedestrian word seems unfair to apply to as luscious a dessert as this. There are no dry crumbly bits; no healthful ingredients trying to sneak in; no unsightly crevice defacing its golden top. It’s shaped like a loaf, comes together like bread pudding, and gets glazed like a cake, but what actually IS it? However Chunky Monkey identifies – as a loaf, a pudding, or a cake – it is heavenly, and an argument of semantics should not derail us here.
Chunky Monkey hails from a neighbourhood bakery that holds a near and dear place in my heart: Trafiq Cafe & Bakery. Located a mere three blocks from the house that I grew up in, Trafiq gives off a vibe that politely boasts an awareness of its own greatness without wanting to make a big fuss about itself. Add in the fact that they once hosted a Gilmore Girls themed event (pre-COVID) and you can just imagine how the elder millennials came flocking. Generally those of us who are aware of the secrets that the bakery holds keep it to ourselves (we like our Saturday bread lines short, thank you). We are members of a fan club and these are the beliefs we hold true:
1. The salted caramel layer cake is queen (or, as my neighbour once responded when I offered him a slice: “that’s literally my very favourite flavour of my very favourite cake from my very favourite bakery”).
2. Their flourless chocolate cookie is the best (unintentionally) gluten-free treat in town.
3 The schnecken! Oh, the schnecken!
4 There is no dessert that will please the young and old alike so much as that which is known to all simply as “chunky monkey”.
This recipe goes easy on your baking skills, though does require some forethought due to the lengthy chill time prior to and after baking. The ingredients list is relatively short and benefits from a selection of well-chosen items, most notably good quality croissants and decent dark chocolate. What I especially like about chunky monkey is that it still tastes exceptionally good on day 2 and 3 and 4, thus not landing in the finicky dessert category of “things that really only taste good for exactly ONE HOUR after cooling down” (yes donuts, we’re scapegoating you here).
Chunky Monkey Loaf
Makes 1 loaf (should yield ~8 thick slabs)
6 croissants, torn into large bite-sized pieces.
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted + more for greasing the pan
4 ripe bananas (preferably not blackened though)
½ cup packed brown sugar + more for sprinkling over bananas
1 ¼ cup whipping (heavy) cream
¾ cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup good dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
¾ cup chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp whipping (heavy) cream
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Scatter the torn croissants into a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through (ensure that they are at no point burning). Set the dried-out croissants aside and crank the oven to 400. Cut the bananas in half lengthwise – don’t worry if they break. Brush the cut side of the bananas with 2 tbsp melted butter and sprinkle with enough brown sugar to amount to ~1 tbsp per banana. Bake the bananas until they appear caramelized and golden, ~10-15 minutes. Set the roasted bananas aside and let cool.
In a blender, combine the remaining ½ cup brown sugar, whipping cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Blitz until creamy. Add the cooled bananas (and any sticky pan juices) and blitz again until smooth. Set aside. Grease a loaf pan with melted butter and line it lengthwise with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to serve as handles for lifting out once the loaf is baked.
Place the dried-out croissants in a large mixing bowl. Pour in most of the “milkshake” from the blender, leaving behind ~1 cup’s worth. Use your hands to very gently mix and soak the bread. Add more liquid if things feel dry. Toss well and very slightly “crunch up” any bigger, crustier croissant pieces. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan; it should come up right up to the edge of the pan. Cover tightly in plastic wrap. Try to find something heavy that can be placed on top of the loaf to weigh it down (a brick would be ideal but obviously this is a rather big ask – I used a second loaf pan filled with pie weights – be creative). Let the weighted loaf sit for 8 hours, or overnight, in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 350. Unwrap the loaf and smooth out the top as best you can, creating a slight dip in the middle of the loaf by spreading the pudding out towards the sides of the pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out with some moist crumbs clinging to it (not raw batter!). Let cool completely on a rack then run a knife along the non-parchment-lined sides to help release it from the pan. Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove the loaf from the pan. Remove or trim the paper and set the loaf on a plate.
While the loaf is cooling, make the ganache. Place the chocolate chips in a small heatproof bowl and set aside. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring the cream to just a simmer – don’t let it boil! – then pour evenly over the chocolate chips to submerge. Cover and let stand for a few minutes then whisk until completely smooth. Let the ganache sit a few minutes to thicken slightly. Pour the ganache over the completely cooled loaf so that it drips attractively over the sides. Chill the loaf until ready to serve, which can be while the ganache is still gooey or, as Trafiq serves it, when the ganache is fudgy but set. Cut into fat slabs, at least an inch thick. Make sure to tell no one that you’ve made this because it lasts for at least 3-4 days in the fridge, guaranteeing you a wonderful 3-4 days’ worth of dessert.