Monday, February 28, 2011

Banana Nutella Mini-Muffins . . . It's Never Too Late!

Despite the fact that I completely missed World Nutella Day on February 5th, I figure better late than never, right? I must have been sequestered in a remarkably secluded cave, or just not paying any attention that day to current baking-and-blogging events, because I heard nothing about it until after the fact.

Shocking, I know.

This was unfortunate, because an unopened jar of Nutella--that divinely spreadable combo of hazelnut and chocolate--had been haunting my basement baking cupboard for a quite a few weeks. No ordinary storage space, this small pantry on wheels is a repository of unusual and/or pricey baking ingredients that I'm loathe to let into the general population of food items in my household.

It's where I hoard cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla beans. Where I protect super-premium chocolate, jars of really good imported jam or citrus curd, and hard to find honeys from the prying fingers of my kids.  It's also where I store exotic and breakable bottles of orange flower water, rosewater, extracts, oils, and sweet liqueurs to use as flavorings. It's just one of several spots here and there in my kitchen, dining room, and basement that house the many and varied accoutrements of my baking obsession--but that little storage spot is the most rarified of them all. It's a wonder I've never thought to padlock it . . . or maybe booby trap the doors . . .

Anyway, I know Nutella's hardly rare and not especially costly, but that lone jar of Nutella was down there because it wasn't quite safe anywhere else. The only options, as I saw it, were to keep that chubby brown jar under house-arrest in the quiet darkness of the cupboard or force it into the federal witness protection program. Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you're a fellow Nutella fan, I know you understand.

About this recipe . . .

This muffin formula was inspired by or, if you prefer, adapted from, a recipe for peanut-butter banana bread found in Cooking Light magazine's October 2010 issue. The original PB banana bread recipe can be found online by clicking here. I made a number of changes to the original, resulting in these incredibly moist and tasty muffins. To say I was pleased with how these turned out would be an understatement. My family loved them--especially Nathan, the 14-year old. He's brutally honest about anything I bake and never sugar coats his opinion (pun intended). I know I've produced something good if he gives it a thumbs up.

Among my alterations to the original recipe: I used sour cream instead of plain yogurt; I substituted Nutella for crunchy peanut butter; I used 1/3 of a cup of fresh hazelnut meal (finely ground hazelnuts) instead of 1/4 cup of ground flaxseeds; I omitted the spices entirely (cinnamon and allspice were called for), and I added in a modest splash of vanilla extract; I also dabbed a little bit of Nutella onto the top of each muffin before baking, and topped some of the unbaked muffins with a single, toasted, whole hazel nut. This recipe could easily produce 48 mini muffins, or up to 24 regular size muffins.

Before we get to the actual recipe, I wanted to mention that I used two different pans for this batch. The cork-shaped muffins were made using a Nordicware mini-popover pan--a sturdy piece of bakeware that I am pretty darn happy with; it has 12 cups.

I bought that pan about three weeks ago, for myself, as a 50th birthday present. Every girl should buy herself a few well-deserved birthday presents when she hits a milestone year like that, don't you think? (Those are, of course, in addition to gifts received from friends and family!  :)  I haven't tried using the pan yet for popovers, but they're on my to-do list. I also used a regular 24-mini-cup pan, and I ended up with enough batter leftover after all that to make one jumbo muffin (I tossed the singular jumbo into the freezer as soon as it cooled off--can't be too careful). Since these muffins lean toward the richer side of the muffin spectrum, the smaller size seemed just right.

Banana Nutella Mini-Muffins

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using baking spray or muffin liners to make 48 mini muffins, or 24 regular size muffins, or about 13 jumbos.

1 and 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup Nutella, slightly softened (Heat it for just a few seconds in the microwave if need be.)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached.)
1/3 cup ground hazelnut meal (I made this using 1/4 cup whole, unblanched hazelnuts; since it's such a small amount, I used my mini-coffee grinder to do it.)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)

About 1/4 cup softened Nutella, to dab on top of the unbaked muffins.
A few dozen whole unblanched hazelnuts, if you'd like to top the unbaked muffins with them.

In a large mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment on medium speed, blend together the banana, sour cream, 1/3 cup Nutella, melted butter, and eggs until very well combined (at least a couple of minutes).

Add in the sugars, beating until well blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, hazelnut meal, baking soda, and salt. Stir this into the liquid mixture, or blend it in using your mixer's lowest speed, just until combined. Don't overmix.

Using a small portion scoop, if possible, fill the muffin cups about two-thirds full. Dot the top of each with a dab of softened Nutella; use less than 1/2 a teaspoon for each one. If you like, add a single hazelnut to the top of each muffin.

Bake the muffins for about 12 minutes or so, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in their pans, on a rack, for a few minutes.

Remove the muffins from the pans and let them cool further on the rack.

   (If you'd like to comment on this post, or to view any existing comments, please click the purple COMMENTS below!)


Nessa Robins said...

Wow, these look fantastic! My boy love nutella so i'm sure these muffins would be a big hit in my house!

Susi's Kochen und Backen said...

Jane, these muffins look amazing. They are so much more appealing to me than the original! I love the touch of the toasted hazelnut along with the Nutella, it reminds of the filling of a Ferrero Rocher candy. :o) This one is getting bookmarked!

june in ireland who loves to bake said...

Nutella...banana...muffins! I'm in heaven. These beauties look amazing and so delicious, especially in that very pretty muffin tin. I'm definitely going to bake a batch (as soon as the last of those Christmas pounds are well and truly least until Easter, when they're bound to make a temporary re-appearance). Thanks for sharing, Jane. I agree with your son even though I've not tasted them - definitely a big thumbs up. You bake such gorgeous stuff!

cocoa and coconut said...

It's never too late when nutella (or chocolate) is involved ;)
These look like a great recipe! They stand so tall and temptingly. said...

I don't think I have ever seen a mini muffin pan like that in which the muffins are so tall, just perfect room for the nutella :-)

Great recipe as always!!

Aveen said...

I actually have a muffin tin a bit like that where the cups are taller and skinnier than normal, mine's just from Ikea though:

I love this idea and I have two bags of ground hazelnuts to use up so these will definitely be made in our house soon :)

Butter Hearts Sugar said...

Late nutella is better than no nutella. They sound delicious and look great, I love the tall muffin pan. I had a hiding place in the back of my saucepan draw for the same reasons, too bad it wasn't hidden from myself.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

It's not as though I need another baking pan, but I really like the cork shape of your muffins. I think I have to have one!

Anonymous said...

Mini muffins are the best, and I love the combo you used here. Great recipe!

Jane said...

Hi Nessa,
Must be something about boys and Nutella! They just have a thing for it.
:) Thanks for visiting,

Hi there Susi,
Oh! I love those Ferrero Rocher candies. Now you're giving me ideas. ;)

Hello June,
Your baking list is getting longer and longer, isn't it? You've got quite a backlog! ;)
Your pal,

Hi Les Reves,
I know what you mean. I don't know who invented Nutella, but they should get some sort of award, don't you think?
;) Warmly,

Hi Miriam (EatGood4Life),
I loved the shape of these little muffins, too. Glad I finally have that pan! :)
Thanks very much,

Hello Aveen--
I'd never tried using a popover pan of any kind before for making muffins, but it seems to work pretty well. I'm even tempted to try making muffins in a bigger popover pan . . . not sure how that might work but seems worth a try!
Thanks for visiting,
Jane :)

Hi Butter Hearts Sugar,
I'm glad you agree! ;) I know there's a virtual onslaught of Nutella recipes out there now for baking, but I just couldn't help tossing in my two cents.
:) Jane

Hi T.W.,
That cork shape charmed me, too. Have you ever seen Williams Sonoma's little bouchon pan made of silicone? I considered buying that instead, but I'm pretty happy with the Nordicware pan. I think the bouchon pan's molds are even smaller. Interesting, though.
Thanks for visiting again!
Jane :)

Sheena said...

Nutella and banana would make a wonderful combination! These muffins look just perfect.

Anonymous said...

We are BIG Nutella fans at our house. I just bought two new jars. Aren't we lucky they sell them in a double pack? I am sure that we all would love this recipe. I also find the look very appealing. I will put it on my to bake list. Thanks!

Irene said...

Bananas... nutella... muffins! What a beautiful sight on a Wednesday morning! Thanks for cheering me up with the thought of these!

Emily Malloy said...

This looks SO GOOD!

Paula said...

Happy Belated 50th birthday. Your pan is a beauty and it made the best looking muffins!

Beth said...

These look delicious. A padlock for my baking cupboard -- now that's a great idea!

kitchen flavours said...

This looks really good. I have a jar of nutella that has not been opened yet! Perfect for this weekend. Just printed out your recipe. Thanks for sharing!

Denine Anderson-Regan said...

I love, love, love your mini-popover pan! The muffins look so cute that way!