“Quick” breads and muffins show up all over the place because they are so easy to make and easy to manipulate. By manipulate, I mean you can make them virtually fat-free by the cunning addition of more pureed fruit and less shortening. Or even NO shortening. I am not advocating this. This trend is responsible for the proliferation of dry-as-sawdust banana breads and muffins out there — an appalling trend. I remember a particular offender from a diet years ago that involved bran cereal…But I digress…
The most important thing to remember about these recipes is that they are a great way to use bananas that have turned black that you were going to throw away anyway. Add some raisins too and they are a potassium bonanza. Walnuts are also good for you in moderate amounts and add that crucial crunchy contrast. In a perfect world, your breads and muffins should also be insanely delicious. Interested in how? Read on!
I am also against lumps of banana in my breads and muffins. I soak the banana beforehand in booze (especially if it’s not super overripe) and then beat it on its own till it’s a liquid for this reason. I don’t like biting into something and getting a big oozy mouthful of mashed banana. Here’s what it looked like when it was ready to add:
The other delicious addition that can be soaked in hooch beforehand are the raisins. The alcohol burns off in baking but I like the flavor it leaves behind. My favorite tipple for this type of prep is cheap rum but today all I had on hand was Triple Sec and I believe any kind of fruit brandy will do the trick also.
As you know, I am a big advocate of Bisquick as a secret ingredient. I have often wondered if trans-fat WAS the secret ingredient in Bisquick. The only way to find out for sure? I bought some trans-fat FREE Bisquick and tried it out.
Brown Sugar Walnut Banana Quick Muffins
2 or 3 overripe bananas — well pureed to make about 2 cups liquid banana
1/4 cup of raisins (optional
1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts (optional)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/2 cup Earth Balance (one stick) — room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons for topping
1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups of Bisquick (try trans fat-free!)
1/2 cup of cheap booze e.g. rum (optional)
2 or 3 teaspoons of cinnamon to taste
Put out a stick of Earth Balance to reach room temperature and mash your bananas in a bowl of booze. Add raisins, if desired, and a pinch of cinnamon, and stir. Let sit out, covered, for an hour or so or overnight.
When ready, preheat your oven to 350 and grease and flour muffin tins if you don’t have non-stick ones (but buy some! They are awesome!). You can also use muffin/cupcake papers but I find them annoying.
NOTE: This recipe can just as easily be poured into any size loaf pan (but those you will have to butter and flour well). If you are going the bread route, it will bake slightly longer and be ready when a toothpick to the center comes out clean.
Cream the sugars and Earth Balance together using the paddle of your stand mixer (although I used my handy hand mixer which is in some ways superior to my super pricey KitchenAid). “Cream” means beat until they are not just completely blended but creamy looking. Recipes which call for creaming always require room temperature shortening, by the way. There are recipes that just call for oil instead of creamed shortening, and while they are super easy and fast, you can verge on that dry-as-dust in the mouth territory if you aren’t careful — which will never happen with this recipe.
Once your shortening and sugars are creamed, add the eggs and combine well. Here’s where you have to be careful. Many of the recipes I have seen caution that overbeating once the flour goes in (or in this case, Bisquick), can lead to a tough muffin. I avoid this problem (I believe) by alternating the Bisquick with the banana/raisin mixture in thirds. Add the nuts last, reserving about a quarter of a cup for topping. Pour equal amounts of batter in your muffin tins, leaving room at the top for rising. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar and nuts on top with a last pinch of cinnamon.
Put the tins in the middle of your oven and bake about 25 to 35 minutes, depending on your oven. When a toothpick to the center of the center muffin comes out clean and the tops are golden brown, they are ready.
A word on storage: Storing baked goods in plastic softens away that crunchy top we all love so much. I use a tin, whenever possible, but a quick reheat in the toaster oven does the trick too. These muffins freeze like a dream.
Run a knife along the edges and cool for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Yields about twenty muffins, depending on size.