the sweet bee sting

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Nut Muffins
8:55 PM

banana nut muffins 2

Okay, people, here’s the deal-lio. I’m a lover of fruit, and a lover of the idea of cooking with fruit, but let’s face it; cooked fruit grosses me out. Apple pie; a flaky, buttery crust filled with gooey cinnamon-and-caramel smothered apples? No, thank you. Peach cobbler? Sounds lovely, but I think I’ll pass. The texture of baked apples is probably one of the most unappetizing things I’ve ever tried, and believe me, I’ve tried it many a-time. I keep thinking that maybe one day I’ll have a bite and magically change my mind, but I’ve been thinking that for a very long time now, and I’ve yet to be converted. I don’t like it in tarts, cobblers, pies, clafoutis, over ice cream, under cakes, whatever. You name it, I don’t want it [but that doesn't mean I won't make it]. Luckily, Comrade Mary is in cahoots with me on this. She, too, shares an immense dislike of cooked fruits. At least I’m not alone in my craziness!

A cooked fruit I can get behind, however, are bananas. Mashed and whipped up in a quick bread? Thank you, may I have another! It’s mostly because they’re so mixed and mashed in that they’ve become part of the batter, so it doesn’t bother me one bit.

After I got home from work yesterday I was stumped at what to make for my book club meeting. I had two hours and no ideas. We were out of brown sugar and down to a mere half-cup of unbleached all-purpose flour [don’t frown at me! I was on vacation and haven’t been to the grocery store lately...] but we did have a 5 pound bag of whole wheat flour, and right where I left it a half of a year ago, a bottle of blackstrap molasses. I opted out of making plain-Jane chocolate chip cookies and almost caved in when my mom brought out a boxed mix for key-lime bars, but then I saw them. Hidden next to the loaf of bread on the counter top we had two lovely ripe bananas waiting to be glorified, so I had absolutely no choice but to make banana nut muffins.

Lacking the 3 or 4 bananas the recipe I borrowed from Smitten Kitchen calls for, I decided to throw in some peanut butter and a squeeze or two of honey to make up for it, whilst hoping that they would add some fun flavors to the mix. They came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. The peanut butter, while I had feared it might overwhelm the bananas, was a nice accompaniment and was neither too bright nor missed at all. Both the honey and the peanut butter kept the muffins from being too dry and added enough sweetness that I could cut back on the amount of sugar the recipe originally called for.

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Also in need walnuts – or rather, the money to go out and buy walnuts – I opted for pecans, which we conveniently had at home. Next time I think I might add more nuts, or use crunchy peanut butter for just a hint more texture. The other thing I loved about this recipe is that there is no need for an electric mixer; it can all be done easily by hand. Anything that requires fewer gadgets gets brownie points from me, and any recipe that uses the kitchen-sink-type dumping and mixing is always sort of liberating, don’t you think?

banana nut muffins 5

Peanut Butter Banana Nut Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 12 muffins, or one 8x4 loaf

2 or 3 smashed ripened bananas
1/3 cup of melted salted butter
1/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/2 cup of peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 cup chopped toasted nuts, pecans or walnuts work well
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour*
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs strong coffee, optional**
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line your muffin tin with paper cups or coat with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl mix together mashed bananas and butter. Add in the sugar, vanilla, spices, baking soda and salt. Add the flour last and mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin tin and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the tin. I usually lack the patience to let anything actually cool off before eating it and end up with burned fingertips and a scorched tongue, but I’m happy to say that tonight at least, I am burn-free.

If anyone is interested, I made my own brown sugar by mixing a half cup of granulated sugar with a tablespoon of molasses. I linked Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s trick for making brown sugar above, though my version strayed a little.

I imagine these muffins will stay good if packed away in an air-tight container for about a week, if they make it that long.

*Having a lonely 1/2 cup of all-purpose unbleached flour on hand, I sifted it together with 1 cup of whole wheat flour to make the 1 1/2 cups the recipe called for. I liked it enough to keep making them that way, but since the original recipe called for all-purpose, that’s how I listed it.

** A splash of bourbon [oh my!] or milk would do well as replacements.

I also have to admit here that when I use spices, I rarely measure. I’m more of an ‘add a dash, throw in a pinch’ type girl. Whatever works best for you, but I highly doubt that adding one too many pinches of cinnamon could absolutely devastate this recipe. My mother insisted that we press a pecan half into the top of each muffin to make it look nice, and I was totally down for that, but you can opt out of it if you like. I suppose chocolate chips might be a fun mix-in next time, or even swapping the peanut butter with Nutella might be a possibility, but that, my friends, is a whole 'nother recipe for a whole 'nother time.

Give my regards to your mother!

Cristina Monet-Palaci, singer and songwriter extrordinaire

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