Friday, May 11, 2012
If there's any particular sort of baked good that can reliably remind me of my mom (speaking of Mother's Day), it would have to be anything featuring bananas. Her name was Stella, and she just loved them. The woman must have baked something banana-themed about once a week. Based on the profusion of banana-laced items that flew out of her oven, she could have been the PR gal for Chiquita. I wish I had a dime for every time I caught her humming the Chiquita banana ditty in her kitchen (click that link and you'll see--it's guaranteed to cheer you up if you're feeling cranky).
One of her specialities was a tall banana chiffon cake, baked in a tube pan. She'd cut two even slices, each piece about half an inch thick, and sandwich homemade vanilla buttercream between them. Served up this way, you could hold one of the 'nana-wiches in your hand and neatly munch on it with no need for a fork. It was the ultimate portable dessert. My dad eyes would light up at the sight of them, piled on a cake plate.
It's no surprise that, whenever I find myself in my own little kitchen, vigorously mashing peeled bananas, I'm reminded of her. So in case she's up there listening (and I like to think she's very often listening), I just wanted to say happy Mother's Day, Stella! I love you, will always miss you, and am so grateful you passed on your love of baking to me. And, of course, your love of bananas.
About this recipe . . .
This is my latest simple muffin experiment. I used a combo of white whole wheat flour (which is so much more palatable for a lot of folks, in baked goods like this, than regular whole wheat; whenever I use it, I don't think my family can even tell it's in there) and all-purpose; brown sugar instead of white sugar; canola oil for the fat, instead of shortening or butter; and, I added a crunchy oat streusel to the top. It's a nice muffin--not too cakey, nor too sweet, and bearing no resemblance to a doughnut--that would be quite at home nestled in a napkin-lined basket on a Mother's Day brunch table.
Banana Brown Sugar Muffins with Oat-Streusel Topping
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners or use baking spray. (Note: I've taken to doubling the paper liners whenever I make muffins or cupcakes lately. It really seems to help insulate the bottoms from over-browning, a problem that too often plagues me!)
Ingredients for the streusel:
1/2 cup of cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/3 cup of quick or old-fashioned oats
1/4 all-purpose flour, unbleached
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 small pinch coarse kosher salt
Ingredients for the muffins:
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 and 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
2 eggs, large
3/4 cup canola oil (or use melted, unsalted butter if you prefer--slightly cooled)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup half & half (or milk)
4 small, very ripe, bananas (or 3 medium size, or 2 large), well mashed
Make the streusel first:
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry streusel ingredients. Using a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers, cut/press in the butter chunks until the streusel looks evenly lumpy. (The lumps should be no bigger than about the size of blueberries, but you don't need to make them terribly small.) Refrigerate the streusel until you're ready to put it on the unbaked muffins.
To make the muffin batter:
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, oil (or melted butter), brown sugar, vanilla extract, and half & half (or milk). Add the mashed bananas and mix in.
Make a well in the large bowl of dry ingredients, and pour in all of the wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula or large spoon, stir just until combined, scraping the bowl regularly. There should be lots of lumps (over-mixing the batter will cause tough muffins, so don't get carried away).
Divide the batter evenly into the muffins cups using a portion scoop. Heap the batter up on each one. Sprinkle a generous spoonful of cold streusel on top of each muffin, very gently patting it in as needed to help it adhere.
Bake the muffins on the middle rack of your preheated 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes; check them with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, and the muffins are lightly golden on top, they're done. Remove them quickly from the pan, and let them cool on a rack, or serve them warm.
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