I have a recurring problem. Every Saturday morning, while on my grocery run, I buy too many bananas. Really, every week – it never fails. The majority of these bananas are eaten over the course of the week – on top of cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, as a midmorning snack at my desk, or with a glass of milk as a late-night nibble before bed. There are, however, a few bananas that remain in the fruit bowl, slowly browning, freckling and softening by the day, until Saturday rolls around – again – and I’m stuck with a couple (if not three or four) essentially inedible bananas. What a waste! That is, until I sought out solution.
There are probably tens, if not hundreds, of banana bread recipes out there, and everyone seems to have their favorite. Some like it spiced, some like it nutty, others like it plain and simple. Having a sweet tooth the size of Canada, I like mine sweet – with some even sweeter add-ins. I hunted down a solid, goof-proof banana bread recipe, and planned on turning up the volume.
I eventually came across Ina Garten’s basic banana bread recipe – for those of you who don’t know who Ina is, she is the former owner of the Barefoot Contessa gourmet store in East Hampton and now has a slew of cookbooks and food products, and even hosts her own show on the Food Network. If you’ve never seen her show, check it out – it’s a prime example of how the other half lives. Everything that comes from Ina’s kitchen is high-quality, luxurious and “juuust faaabulous”. While watching her show (which I religiously record weekly), I find myself going back and forth between, “Oh Ina, you’re so classy and elegant”, and “Well, laa-dee-daa, Snooty Snooterpants”. Don’t worry, Ina. I still adore you.
So to up the ante on Ina’s basic banana bread recipe, I added several things: shredded coconut, toasted walnuts and granola. Now this isn’t just any ol’ granola – perusing the aisles of Marvin’s IGA, I came across Ozark Natural Breads’ Dark Chocolate Almond Granola – chunks of dark chocolate, whole almonds, and big nuggets of chocolate granola – now how in the world was I supposed to pass that up?! So I grabbed a bag, along with a few other ingredients, and hightailed it home to begin baking.
Another twist I added to the recipe was instead of making a loaf of banana bread, why not make muffins? That way everyone gets their own miniature loaf, of sorts, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a perfectly baked muffin top. I started by buttering and flouring 12 Texas-sized muffin cups. For those who didn’t forget the paper liners at the store (like yours truly), definitely opt for the liners – you can skip the butter-and-flour step, saving some time and a bit of a mess, and ensuring each muffin is a perfect muffin.
The batter is a standard, simple quickbread batter – that is, until the addition of the bananas, toasted walnuts, shredded coconut and granola. Topped with a bit more shredded coconut just before baking, these little monsters went into the oven for just over 30 minutes, until the tops were golden brown and an inserted toothpick came clean.
The aroma in the kitchen was indescribable, and only surpassed by the first bite of a fresh, hot muffin – sweet, rich and incredibly banana-y. Feel free to make this recipe in muffin tins of any size, in a small loaf pan, or even in a Bundt cake mold. You can say bye-bye to those funky ol’ bananas, and hello to a sweet, decadent treat. Enjoy!
Bye Bye Banana Muffins
(makes 10-12 extra large muffins)
3 c. all purpose flour
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
3/4 c. whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)
1 c. diced bananas (about 1 banana)
1 c. chopped toasted walnuts
1 c. favorite granola
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut (plus more for sprinkling)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 10-12 muffin cups with paper liners. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a sifter, and sift to combine. Add the melted butter and blend, using a hand mixer or standing mixer with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla and mashed bananas, and slowly pour them into the flour-butter mixture. Blend well, but don’t overmix.
Carefully fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola and coconut into the batter. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the paper liners each to the top with batter. Top each muffin with more shredded coconut, if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan and serve.
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Laura Hobbs is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. Born and raised in Fayetteville, Laura is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, visit her author page.