Sunday, March 28, 2010
Banana Muffins (and Some Tips)
I am a banana snob. There, it's out in the open. It's true. I love bananas, but I am uber-picky about their ripeness. In short, for me to eat a banana out of hand, it has to be PERFECT. It has to be perfectly yellow, with no weird areas on the skin, and NO black spots. I know those are called "sugar spots" but I don't care. To me, they mean the banana inside is too ripe for my tastes. Oh, and as bad as my banana snobbery is, I've managed to pass it down to my children. Neither of my kids will eat a banana with a black spot either. My husband is a little more flexible, but even he doesn't like overly ripe bananas.
So what does my "true confession" have to do with the picture above? Well, because no one in this house will eat a banana that's less than perfect, we tend to have a lot of leftover bananas, no matter how carefully I've shopped for them. Despite being a banana snob, I can't just throw the overripe ones out. (I can pretty much hear my mother whispering in my ear "Why, that would be WASTEFUL!") So, I try to use up the reject bananas in recipes, and probably my favorite thing to make with them is the banana muffins pictured above. In fact, these muffins are so good that my family never really gets tired of them, even though I make them pretty often.
Before I share the actual recipe, I thought I would tell you where the recipe came from. The only problem with that is. . . I have no idea. The recipe card in my recipe box is in my own handwriting, circa 1985 or so. The white index card the recipe is written on became so covered with grease spots and other food spills that I finally laminated the thing about 10 years ago. I'm thinking that it's possible that I got the recipe from my mom. I remember once, when I was visiting at her house, I got out her recipe file and copied down a bunch of my favorite recipes from when I was little. The others I have are on white index cards, so it's possible that the banana muffin recipe was copied down during that session. But, I can't really say for sure. All I can say is that these are really great muffins!
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mashed banana (1-2 med. bananas)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and soda. In another bowl, combine sugar, eggs and oil. Beat hard til frothy. Add bananas and nuts and blend well. Fold into flour mixture until blended. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until muffins are golden brown on top. Makes about 16 muffins.
If you want, you can make the batter into a loaf of banana bread instead, which I promise is equally delicious. Just pour the batter into a regular sized loaf pan, greased, and bake the loaf at 325 degrees until the crust is brown and the loaf tests done with a toothpick, about 1 hour.
Doesn't that muffin in the picture above look yummy, split open and spread with a little bit of butter? I promise, these taste as good as the picture looks. And one thing I especially love about this recipe is that I can make it when the mood strikes. Since it calls for vegetable oil rather than butter, I don't have to wait around for a stick of butter to soften. I do use canola oil rather than regular vegetable oil for its more-healthy aspects, but either works fine in this recipe.
Ok, I'm going to finish up this post by giving you my two very best muffin hints. The first is to use a scoop to get the muffin batter from the bowl to the muffin tin. For many years, I did not do this, and of course I would spill bits of batter on the muffin tin, no matter how careful I tried to be. Worse was that my muffins wouldn't all be exactly the same size, so they wouldn't bake up the same way. Using a scoop is the perfect solution. For regular sized muffins, what you need is a #30 scoop, which holds 1 ounce. Rather than trying to figure out whether some scoop you find at Wal Mart is the right size, go to a restaurant supply store or food service store and get an actual "size 30" scoop. Restaurants use spring loaded scoops in various sizes that hold standard amounts of food. As mentioned, a #30 scoop holds exactly 1 ounce. It will have the number 30 right on the scoop somewhere, and probably also the 1 ounce measurement. A scoop purchased from the restaurant supply store will probably be a little more expensive than one from the discount store (about $10 or so), but it will last a lot longer and never rust, due to the better materials that it's made of. So it's a worthy investment. A #30 scoop will yield muffins like those in the photos -- rising just a bit over the top of the muffin cup. All of the muffins will look the same, and your muffin tin will be a breeze to clean!
The final tip is about storing muffins. I put mine in a shallow plastic container, but I DON'T USE THE LID. Instead, I cover the muffins loosely with a clean kitchen towel. Why? Because enclosing muffins in a plastic container, top and bottom, makes them sticky and sort of "wet" on top, after a very short time. Once the stickiness starts, the muffins still taste okay, but they are rather unappealing. Covering your muffins with a clean towel keeps them reasonably fresh, but it's not airtight storage, so the muffins will never get sticky or "wet" on top. They won't last quite as long as muffins stored in an airtight container, but frankly, that hasn't proven to be much of a problem in my house. The muffins are usually gone after a day or so.
So, even if you aren't a banana snob, the next time you find yourself with a couple of overripe bananas on your hands, I encourage you to try this recipe. Hopefully it will become one of your "go-to" recipes, just as it quickly became one of mine.