Batter Licker

March 21, 2012

cherry-studded banana bran whole grain muffins

I recently started setting up a sort of brown banana renewal system. I’ll buy a few super green ones and a few yellow ones each week, and then find myself with a consistent supply of brown, spotted mushiness that is sufficient for my peanut butter shake and green smoothie purposes.

It was all working out swimmingly until I got tempted by the very cheap, very large bunch of jet-sized bananas at Costco. Suddenly, I had a serious overflow problem.

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The first resolution that came to mind was banana bread, which would also conveniently free up some precious space in my overstuffed pantry. Okay, maybe it was actually equal parts resolution and excuse to fill my apartment with the fragrant aroma of freshly baked banana bread.

Either way, I wanted to make a more portable, healthful, whole grain, breakfast-appropriate version.

I’ve always loved bran muffins and happened to have a HUGE bag of wheat bran on hand from my last bulk bin binge, so I figured why not combine two of my favorite baked goods into a whole grain banana bran muffin?

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I studded the muffins with dried cherries because I love the slightly tart sweetness they add, which is so much more interesting than plain ol’ raisins. Along with the bananas themselves, the cherries help keep the muffins quite moist, while also adding a nice textural contrast.

Warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave and splayed open with a pat of melting butter on top, these muffins taste like a real treat, especially on an otherwise gray and grumpy morning.

Cherry-Studded Banana Bran Muffins (adapted from Ina Garten)
Makes about 15 cupcake-sized muffins

I substituted 2/3 of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour, adjusted the baking soda/powder content accordingly, reduced the molasses content by half for a less-sweet breakfast version, and used dried cherries (my favorite dried fruit – especially in muffins!). Also, I found my muffins were done after about 17 minutes, rather than the 25-30 minutes Ina recommended; but I recommend still doing the toothpick test for doneness, as cupcake/muffin pan sizes may vary (along with the scoop of batter you put in them) and ovens aren’t always consistent. Finally, because these muffins freeze pretty well, I typically double the batch and take a muffin or two out of the freezer the night before (still in plastic wrap or an airtight container).

1 c. unprocessed wheat bran
1 c. buttermilk, well-shaken
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c. brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 Tbsp. molasses (unsulphured)
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 c. dried cherries, halved
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Lightly oil or butter each cup in the pan, or line with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bran and buttermilk until combined, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer until very light and fluffy. Mix in one egg at a time. Mix in the molasses, orange zest, and vanilla. (The batter will look curdled at this point.) Add the bran/buttermilk, and mix to combine. Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir to combine. Slowly sift both wheat and all purpose flours into the batter, mixing until just combined (don’t overmix, or muffins will be tough!). Fold in the mashed banana, cherries and walnuts with a spatula.

Fill each cup in the cupcake pan 3/4 of the way to the top, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 17 to 20 minutes (or a bit longer if using a large muffin pan instead of a cupcake pan). Best served warm with a small pat of butter.

Do ahead: Baked muffins will keep for 2 to 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature, or for a few weeks in a frozen airtight container (I usually let the muffins cool completely, then muffin in plastic wrap before storing them in freezer bags).

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