Ridiculously Awesome Banana Muffins

banana-muffins-1.JPGEvery so often Jon one-ups me in the kitchen, which leaves me both a tad surprised (read: vaguely jealous) and utterly grateful that he knows how to cook and bake. And this past weekend, he decided to make banana bread with Laurel and it was way better than my standard recipe. The loaf was gobbled up within a day and Laurel and I repeated the recipe yesterday, instead opting to make muffins - the advantages being plenty of awesome crustiness, faster baking time (handy for summertime baking), and improved portion control.
This recipe comes from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything. Below is my revised and annotated version. Also, I highly recommend buying this cookbook; it’s a fantastic basic reference.

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Ridiculously Awesome Banana Muffins

Yields 18

  • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup walnuts or pecans
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
  • Cooking spray or butter for muffin tins

    1. Set oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly spray or butter 18 cups of two 12-cup muffin tins.

    2. Mix the first 5 (dry) ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter with a hand mixer, then add eggs, bananas, and vanilla and mix until well blended and the bananas are broken up. Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients; do not over mix. Gently stir in nuts and coconut.

    3. Spoon batter into 18 cups and bake for about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. Insert a toothpick in the center of a muffin to check doneness – toothpick should come out clean, maybe with a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake.

    4. Turn muffins out on a rack to cool. These muffins are spectacular fresh; on subsequent days toast to reheat and regain crunchy edges.

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    1. Part of the reason this recipe is so awesome is because of the butter and coconut (the latter a surprising twist). One approach is to simply enjoy these muffins in the original metrics and in moderation. This is why I like the muffin versus loaf format; muffins make you think more about portion control, whereas a loaf makes portions ambiguous (i.e., how thick a slice you cut). However, if you are concerned about improving the healthfulness of this recipe, there are 3 things I recommend:

  • Adjust the white/wheat flour balance. Proceed in small increments, perhaps trying 1 ¼ cups white flour and ¾ cups whole wheat flour as a first-pass revision.

  • Adjust the butter content. One way to make baked goods a little less bad for you is by swapping some of the butter with plain yogurt or applesauce. Again, proceed in small increments. I might try 6 tablespoons of butter + 2 tablespoons of yogurt or applesauce as a first-pass revision.

  • Use reduced fat coconut. Jon made his recipe with regular coconut and I used reduced fat and you couldn't tell the difference.

    2. Given that I like my bananas barely ripe, we tend to have a lot of bananas in our freezer and this recipe is a great way to use some of them up. Simply defrost by placing frozen bananas in a bowl of water for about 10 minutes or by defrosting in the microwave. Cut off one end and squeeze out the bananas into your mixing bowl. Another added bonus: the peels are so soft that they should go down your disposal with no trouble (proceed at your own risk!) or will break down easily if you have a composter.

    3. To make this recipe nut-free, sub in dried cranberries for the nuts.

    4. Finally, don't forget the awesomeness of using baking to teach math!