Monday, July 13, 2009
Banana Bran Muffins
I have been eating blueberry muffins every day at work for about the past month. Even if I eat before I leave the house, I am starving by the time I get to work. I love this morning ritual of having a delicious fruity whole wheat muffin with my latte. Sadly, I am getting just a little bit bored of blueberry muffins after a whole month of them, and blueberries aren't getting any cheaper either. I have been looking at a variety of muffin recipes lately, particularly healthy ones, and I have seen wheat bran as an ingredient in many. I decided to pick some up so I would have it in case I found one I wanted to try. Last night, I really wanted to make muffins, so I looked for recipes using ingredients I had already - frozen bananas and wheat bran. I found this recipe for Banana Bran Muffins, and conveniently found a small amount of walnuts hanging out in my snack cabinet.
This recipe seems pretty healthy already, since banana and wheat bran are pretty healthy things. But it still calls for all-purpose flour, so of course I had to replace 1 cup with white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour is one of my favorite healthy things, because you can barely tell the difference! My blueberry muffins come out still looking like I used all-purpose flour.
The frozen bananas were a little bit of a disaster. I have read online that you can use them in baking and they supposedly work really well because they are already very mushy. However, I thought I was going to get frostbite from handling these things. The recipe called for three of these suckers, and most of my time spent on this recipe was spent wrestling these bananas, trying to peel off the skin so it wouldn't get in my muffins. The most success I had was by slicing on the inside curve from the top to bottom and then kind of peeling it off. (Think of what you see people on Food Network doing to make stuffed plantains.) I ended up with a plate full of gunk that I had to scrape off of these bananas. I will definitely be doing some more research to see how others overcome these problems. I would have taken a picture of this catastrophe, but you would probably lose your appetite!
Another issue I had was that the butter wasn't really soft enough, and the brown sugar was too attached to itself. These two things had to be creamed together until fluffy. They were fluffy, but the bottom of the mixing bowl was coated in sticky brown sugar, which just would not scrape off with the poor overworked spatula. This resulted in some little spots of brown sugar on my muffins. It wasn't enough to ruin them, but I would like to not have this problem again.
When I finally got all this working, I put the walnuts in my beautiful food processor to chop them up. Some got a little too chopped. I'm going to have to work out the logistics of this machine to get it right. I didn't measure the walnuts. I don't measure my blueberries in muffins either. I don't think it's necessary. If you have more goodness one time than another, so be it! You can easily see whether you have enough, so why dirty another measuring cup?
I put the muffins in the oven and baked them for about 22 minutes. I find that to usually be the optimum cooking time for muffins. One thing that is tricky about banana muffins is the gooeyness of bananas in general. It is harder to test with a toothpick, because you might get a stick full of banana goo when your batter is actually fully cooked. I think that may be the case here, because they are just slightly on the dry side. I will have to think of a way to moisten them up for next time. I am considering using some ground flax seed. This is easy to add to anything - you just grind it in a coffee grinder, and sprinkle it on whatever you want. According to my research you really need to grind it to get the optimal benefit.
So, the muffins came out yummy. I took them out of the pan and put them on a cooling rack so they could cool more evenly. They seemed very greasy on the bottoms so I put them on a paper towel to absorb that moisture. When they were fully cooled, I individually wrapped them in plastic wrap and put half in a bag in the freezer, and left the other half out to eat in the next few days. When freezing muffins, it's best to do it sooner rather than later so that you preserve the quality for when you decide to eat them.