The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Dr Smiter’s Very Ap-PEEL-ing Banana Muffins

I’ve always maintained that bananas are the fickle friends of the fruit world.

Before...

One moment they are perky, brightly coloured, tempting, and sweet, available at a moment’s notice for a quick bite either solo or with a dollop of peanut butter or Nutella. (Apologies here to my friend Ann, who loathes nuts and is now discreetly gagging into a hanky.)

And the next moment, with no fanfare or “by your leave” whatsoever, they are limp, flaccid shadows of their former selves — spotted with brown, dry around the ends, and smelling faintly of acetone. (It occurs to me that this is an apt description of some people I have known, but never mind.)

I once worked with a guy who actually loved eating bananas in this state of dereliction, but frankly if I wanted pudding, I’d order pudding. It makes me retch a bit to think of it, to be perfectly honest.

After.

And with bananas at nearly a buck a pound up here in the Colonies, binning them is simply not an option either.

My stars — what’s a Smiter to do? Well, the excellent  news is that, as with many other foodstuffs that have passed their movie-star days, bananas too can be repurposed into tasty, prize-winning comestibles, in this case banana muffins.  These particular babies have been served to many of my friends with excellent results (“Oh, you shouldn’t have — now hand ’em over before I hurt you!”) and are an awesome little snack to keep on standby for yourself as well.

And happier news yet, you don’t need to down tools and cook up a batch of muffins every time your bananas suffer from The Limpness That Dare Not Speak Its Name: simply bung them in the freezer, skins and all. They freeze beautifully, just like that, and using them later is a gas: simply thaw them on a plate for a couple of hours (they “sweat” as they thaw… ewww) and when you’re ready, snip the stem end off and squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze the pulp out into your mixing bowl like toothpaste. If you have kids, they will be wondrously grossed out by this and probably beg to be your Kitchen Assistants. If you’re like me, sans kids, you will enjoy grossing yourself out. 🙂

All right, then. Ready? Here we go. They take about 10-15 mins to mix up, 25 mins to cook, and about a nanosecond to chow down with a nice cup of tea. (We alligators rarely chew our prey, but then you knew that.)

Before you get going:

First, heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Assemble your muffin tins and line each cup (about 9-12) with a paper liner, or grease each with butter or margarine.

Next, assemble your ingredients (although if you’re smart, you’ll do this bit first, as nothing ticks me off more than having to run out and get, say, flour on short notice).

You will need:

  • 1 cup (or slightly less) of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use sunflower)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk or soured milk* (*scant 1/2 c milk with 1 tbsp vinegar stirred in)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour (whole wheat is good if you’re looking for a bit more nutrition)

In large-ish mixing bowl, combine the sugar and the oil. Beat the hell out of this with a hand blender or a whisk. Add in the eggs and really go to town on it with the beaters. (This is excellent therapy, for those of you who need it.)

What you should buy if you can't stop beating your muffins.
Wait, that sounds funny....

Mush up the bananas in a separate bowl, using a fork or a hand blender, then mix them into the sugar/oil/egg mixture.

Now add the baking soda to the buttermilk or sour milk; it will foam up a bit. It’s kinda cool, so again if you have kids, let them do this bit.

Now, step away from your hand blender or whisk — seriously, put it down. You’re going to add the flour and if you beat it too much at this point, you’ll end up with hockey pucks instead of muffins.

Grab a nice wooden spoon instead, and add the flour about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring each addition gently. Stir right down to the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure there are no dry bits. But be gentle. Did I mention that?

Now fill your muffin cups to about 1/2 cm from the top — you want nice “muffin tops” but you don’t want a mess of banana lava overflowing all over your oven.

Carefully slide your beauties into the oven and set a timer for about 20 minutes. Every oven is different and even the weather can affect cooking time — weird but true.

Your muffins are done when you can slide a butter knife into one and have it come out clean (i.e., with no sticky blobs of dough on it).

When they’re baked to your satisfaction, I highly recommend testing them first, with a dollop of butter and a nice cup of tea, before giving them away or serving them to anyone else. Wouldn’t want to give away spotty-quality baked goods, now, would we? And if in doubt, test two. 🙂

Total expenditure:

About $1.50 for 3 bananas

maybe a buck for the other ingredients, which most people have on hand anyway

So: a dozen muffins for $2.50. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Bon appetit!

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