Thursday, 26 June 2008

Brilliant Banana Muffins

Yesterday afternoon, I found two leftover bananas that were just ready to bake sitting in the fruit bowl in all their brown spotted squidgy glory, so I decided that I'd make good use of them. I developed this recipe years ago and it is one I come back to time and time again. You can use anything from two to three medium bananas for it. Two bananas makes for firmer muffins, three makes for squidgier ones - squidgier being a technical term, of course! Both are delicious, so just go with what you have.

These muffins are great for breakfast, lunch boxes, tea time or an anytime snack. You can freeze them as well. Either just pop them into a lunch box frozen and and let them thaw at room temperature (while also helping to keep other things in the lunch box cold) or thaw and then microwave for twenty seconds on half power just to warm them up a bit. Of course, they are most delicious when they are fresh. Alex and Guy like them straight out of the oven, but I find them too crumbly and squishy at that stage. I prefer mine just off warm with a nice cup of coffee!
Banana and Sultana Muffins

Makes 12 - 15

1/2 cup good unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
about 2 to 3 medium bananas, mashed
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 cup sultanas or raisins
Demerera sugar for sprinkling

You'll need about 12 - 15 large muffin cups for this recipe. I always line them with paper liners as I am far too impatient to butter and flour them, and anyway, I find no matter what you do, muffins stick if you don't use paper liners. I don't mean to be bossy, but I suggest you do this first as it makes it easier in the long run. Putting liners in muffin cups with sticky fingers is not fun!
Preheat the oven to about 170C or 350F. Remember ovens are very temperamental and they are all different so you need to go carefully when baking. Err on the side of lower temperature, less time. You can always cook something more - but you can't save it once it's burnt!

Cream the butter and sugars together. You can use an electric mixer for this if you want, or be brave and do it by hand! Add the vanilla and then the eggs. one at a time, stirring well after each addition.

If you have been using an electric mixer, it's time to switch to the good old fashioned method of using a wooden spoon. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mixed spice to the creamed butter mixture. Stir the flour, leavening and spice in really gently, just to mix. Do not beat or your muffins will have tunnels! Now, gently fold in the bananas and the sultanas or raisins.
Put the mixture into the muffin cups. I use an ice cream scoop for this and it makes it so much easier. If you don't have an ice creams scoop I do recommend getting one, but in the meantime, you can use two dessert spoons, one to scoop the muffin mixture out of the bowl and the other to push it off the spoon into the muffin cup. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a bit of demerera sugar, just to give them a lovely crunchy topping.

Put the muffin pans in the oven and bake the muffins for about 15 minutes. Check them at this point by taking a piece of spaghetti and poking it into the centre of one of the muffins. If it comes out clean, they are done. If not, they need to go back in the oven. Go gently at this point, adding another five minutes at a time until the spaghetti is coming out clean and the muffin tops are starting to go a golden colour. Don't be afraid to play with the oven temperature if it is too hot/cold. Once you've made the recipe in your oven once, you'll have a better idea of how hot the oven needs to be and how long you need to cook them for.

When the muffins are cooked, remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool in the pans for about five minutes. When they are cool enough to touch, remove them from the pans and allow to cool on wire racks. Once cool, store them in an airtight container. If you know you will have too many and need to freeze some, now is the ideal time to do so as they are super fresh. They will keep at room temperature for about two days.

But they are at their best on the first day, just off warm with a nice hot drink. Enjoy!

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