Have bananas turning dark and spotted on your kitchen counter? Good for you. Don’t toss them, don’t hesitate, just grab flour, sugar, and eggs and you’re making banana muffins. Homemade muffins really do come together very quickly, and it’s hard to imagine a homier snack or treat or brunch offering. Let’s face it, muffins are a very close cousin of cake, and cake is always welcome. You can make these muffins with a standing mixer, but if you do, use the paddle attachment and do not overbeat. Overbeating quick bread batters results in tough breads and muffins. You want to still see faint streaks of flour and mashed banana.
Yield: Makes 12 generous regular-size muffins
1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 cup)
½ cup buttermilk, heavy (whipping) cream, or sour cream
½ teaspoon grated orange zest, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1⁄3 cup mini chocolate chips (optional), for sprinkling on top
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pop paper liners in the cups of a regular-size 12-muffin tin.
2. Place the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Set the flour mixture aside.
3. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat them until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Blend in the mashed bananas and buttermilk along with the orange zest or cinnamon, if using.
4. Using a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture to the banana mixture in batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. At the end the batter should be barely blended (it will be thick). Fill each muffin cup liner three quarters full of batter. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips evenly over the tops of the muffins, if using.
5. Bake the muffins until they spring back when pressed lightly in the center and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 23 to 27 minutes. Let the muffins sit in the muffin tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then gently turn them out of the tin and let them cool upright on a wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variation: Banana Bread
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the batter into a 9 by 5–inch loaf pan that has been greased with butter or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top, if desired. Bake the banana bread until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let the banana bread cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the loaf out of the pan and let it finish cooling upright on the wire rack.
Cooking Tip: Paper muffin cup liners are very handy. They ensure muffins won’t stick to the pan, which is very frustrating after all of your effort. They also make the muffins easier to transport and serve. And there’s something to be said for the fact that some kids (not mine, of course, but I’ve heard stories) tend to want to touch a few muffins before landing on the one they feel is their destined muffin soul mate, and the paper liners make this a little less germy feeling.
What the Kids Can Do: Kids can put the liners in the muffin tin and mash the bananas (if you have an old-fashioned potato masher this becomes much more fun; if not use a fork). They can measure the ingredients, crack the eggs, stir the batter, and then scoop it into the muffin tin and sprinkle chocolate chips on top, if desired.
Make Ahead: The banana muffins or bread will last in a tightly sealed container for up to three days without drying out much, thanks to the bananas and dairy. You can freeze muffins easily, which is very useful for weekday breakfasts and spur-of-the-moment snacks. Put them in a freezer-proof, zipper-top plastic bag, squeeze out any extra air, trying not to squeeze the muffins, and put them in the freezer. You can defrost the muffins at room temperature or in a microwave oven, or you can reheat them in a 375°F oven for fifteen minutes or so. Give a muffin a light squeeze or insert a toothpick into the center to see if it’s fully thawed. Or eat one.