April 26, 2011

Really good banana muffin for breakfast or a snack

I highly recommend these banana muffins.  They're fragrant and sweet, with a nice mild hint of spices from some cinnamon and nutmeg.  Just cooled from the oven, the crunchy sweet muffin top is the best part. 
These are the muffins I referred to in my post on banana bread with chocolate.  Compared to the bread, this has a fluffier, more cake like texture.  I've been making these banana muffins for a few years and I whip some up probably at least twice a month.  They are very easy to make!  We enjoy them for breakfast or as a sweet little snack or treat.  My son loves these so much and they don't even have any chocolate in them!  If they are around, he insists on eating them for breakfast until they're all gone.  He might take 30 minutes to finish up a mini bagel for breakfast but he'll polish one of these off in less than 10.

I love these banana muffins studded with walnuts inside.  My son was also a fan of this until about 9 months ago when he announced that he no longer liked nuts.  So when I make a batch of these muffins, I  make some with nuts and some without (though he has eaten ones with nuts if nothing else is available).  I'm hoping he'll come around again on his own.  Either way, you can have it plain or with nuts if you like them.  It tastes great either way.

These banana muffins are so simple to make and if you have the cinnamon and nutmeg already, chances are you won't need to go to the supermarket to throw a batch together.  That's why I make them so often.  No mixer needed.  All you really need are 2 roomy bowls and you can mix it all up the old-fashioned way.

This recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.  I love her recipes, which tend to be fresh and inventive while also being relatively simple to make.  My copy of this recipe is all yellowed and tattered from being so well used.  She pairs these muffins with a mascarpone cream frosting, which I omit altogether.  These are so good, it really doesn't need anything else.  And I add some nuts in the muffin batter itself as opposed to having it in the frosting. 

As you'll find with most cupcake or muffin recipes, they generally yield 18 cupcakes/muffins.  Like I do with many cookie recipes, I make half since that suits my needs and I like to bake often and have things fresh.  The recipe is very easy to divide into half.  The only exception is the eggs.  It calls for 3 eggs.  I add one, and another half from a lightly beaten egg.  I know this is not very scientific but it works just fine.

To make 9 muffins, you start off with 2 ripe bananas.  Just break it apart and mash coarsely with the back of a fork. 
In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (no need to sift!).  This includes 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg.  
In a larger bowl (this is the bowl you'll use to mix everything together in), add a cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of canola or other vegetable oil, 1.5 eggs, and 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract.
I whisk all that together and then stir in the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula.
Next, you add the dry ingredients and walnuts (if using).  I'm just adding the flour mixture here because I'm going to make 4 muffins without nuts for my son.  If you are adding walnuts, imagine the nuts in there also.  Stir until just combined.  Like the banana bread and many other recipes, you don't want to overmix or the muffins will turn out tough. 
I use about half a cup of walnuts for 5 banana walnut muffins.  Once chopped, it's a little less but I like a good amount of nuts.  You can use as much or as little as you prefer.  You can take the additional step of roasting the walnuts and then chopping them up, like I did today just to fancy things up a little.  I roasted them in a dry pan over medium heat, moving them around frequently, for about 10 minutes before chopping coarsely.  Most of the time, I just break a large handful of walnuts and drop them into the batter without roasting.  Though roasting the nuts will make them taste more robust, it's not absolutely necessary, and the muffins still taste awesome without the additional work.

I hope this isn't too confusing but I add my nuts at the very end, after I've scooped out the plain muffins, and just stir them into the batter in 2-3 quick motions.
I've lined 9 muffin cups with paper liners.  It's convenient to use an ice-cream scoop to scoop them into the cups.  I fill them up almost to the top.  I really want to make sure I get a nice muffin top.  Even if they spread out too much and some of the muffins get stuck to each other, you can simply separate them with a knife.  Once cooled from the oven, the tops are crispy and sweet...so so good.  You have to try it fresh like that.
I've separated a row of muffins just to give them some space to expand.  I also add about 2 tablespoons of water to the empty muffin cups.  I read somewhere years ago that doing that will keep the heat evenly distributed and prevent the pan from warping.

Into a preheated 325 degree oven, the muffins are ready in about 30 minutes (start checking around 25 minutes).  You want them nice and golden brown on top (again, for that crisp muffin top) and for a cake tester to come out clean. 

These muffins keep very well for a few days at room temperature.  You will lose that crispy muffin top after a few hours (quicker once covered) but they are still very tasty and moist.

The recipe:
- Makes 18 muffins -
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, coarsely mashed
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.  Add the walnuts, if using, and whisk in to combine.  In a separate large bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract together.  Stir in the mashed bananas.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir gently until just blended.  Scoop batter into the lined muffin tins.  Bake in the center oven rack for about 25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack to cool.  These muffins are great slightly warm but I love the sweet, crisp top you get on these muffins after they've cooled thoroughly.

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