Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Recently my sister Tricia opened my eyes to the glories of muffin baking.  In her quest to fill her and her son's belly with whole foods, she makes a batch of some sort of whole wheat muffin so that she always has a healthy snack within reach.  

I've got to tell you that there is beauty and serenity in the art of muffin baking.  Sounds crazy, I know.  But consider this:  you don't need any fancy equipment.  Two bowls, a wooden spoon, and an ice cream scoop.  That's as fancy as it gets.  The repetitive but mindless activity of filling each well in the muffin tin with thick, fluffy batter is so gratifying!  I LOVE MAKING MUFFINS!  

Think you're too busy to make muffins?  Not a baker?  I tell you you're too busy NOT to make them!  Why don't you stop for a moment and sample what life might be like if you were June Cleaver? Where else in your hectic life do you get the chance to have a Betty Crocker moment in a Lean Cuisine world?  I'm telling you, freshly baked muffins are the ticket!  Besides, after you've made them, your normal life will be waiting right where you left it, but you'll have fantastic muffins to eat for the next few days.  Bonus!

Before I give you the recipe, I must say a few words about the ingredients.  There are a few specialty items that are needed, but once you have them on-hand, the muffin possibilities are endless!  Simply go to Pinch My Salt and search the recipes there for whole grain muffins.  Make a new batch of muffins each week, trying out different recipes.  You'll already have most of the hard-to-find ingredients. You'll be so glad you did. 
  1. Bananas:  These aren't exactly hard to find, but you do need to understand one important thing:  the blacker the banana, the better the muffin.  Trust me.  You might be scared to let your bananas ripen to the point of blackness, but believe me, once you taste the muffins made from them, you will kiss my feet.  I buy a bag of discounted, over-ripe bananas from my grocery store and I leave them out for a week or two extra, until they are black all over.  If you want to help this process along, pop them in the fridge.  Store unused bananas in the freezer in bags (just the flesh, not the peels). Thaw them in short bursts in the microwave for your baking delight.
  2. White Whole Wheat Flour:  I found this in the baking section of my grocery store.  Hyvee, to be exact.  It is a special type of whole wheat flour that is supposed to be a little bit lighter than regular whole wheat flour.  
  3. Low-Fat Buttermilk:  Did you know that buttermilk is naturally low in fat?  Cool, huh?  I now keep a large container of buttermilk in my fridge and use it as needed, mostly for muffins.  It lasts forever.  My sister uses dried buttermilk, which she found next to the powdered milk in her grocery store.   
  4. Wheat Bran:  I found this in the health food section of Hyvee.  It was approximately $2. 
  5. Flax Seed Meal:  Not called for in this recipe, but used in a lot of other Pinch My Salt muffin recipes.  It is also called ground flax seed and is approximately $2.  Store this in a freezer bag in the freezer, for optimum freshness.
I adapted this recipe from the banana muffin recipe on Pinch My Salt.  My sister suggested that the muffins were too big for a snack, so she recommended dividing the batter to make smaller muffins.  I also increased the quantity of banana, because I like a little more banana punch.  The original recipe calls for pecan meal, which is essentially very finely ground pecans.  Sounds fantastic, but it was so expensive, I decided not to try it.  Instead, I use 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.  Sometimes I just break them up roughly with my hands, or pop them in a bag and give 'em a good whack with something heavy.  This time around I also added some miniature chocolate chips for a chocolate kick.  Feel free to leave them out if you'd like.  Finally, I added some vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the batter because I can't fathom a muffin without said ingredients.  If you disagree, leave them out.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins 
Servings: 18 muffins
Points per serving: 4 pts with chocolate chips; 3 pts without chocolate chips

Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • (Optional:  1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips)
Wet Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup honey (Spray measuring cup with cooking spray first.  The honey will slide right out of the cup.)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups mashed banana (approximately 3 bananas)
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  
  2. Spray two muffin tins with cooking spray.  I don't bother with those pesky paper cups, but feel free, if it suits you.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a large bowl and give them a good stir with a whisk to aerate and work out any lumps. Set dry ingredients aside.
  4. Combine wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and mix well with a whisk.  
  5. Add wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and GENTLY fold the mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula until batter is just combined.  Do not overwork or stir too much!  It's even OK to have a few lumps in the batter.  
  6. If including chocolate chips in the recipe add them now by GENTLY folding them into the batter so that they are evenly distributed throughout.  
  7. Once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, you want to work quickly and get the batter in the oven as soon as possible.  Immediately scoop the batter into the muffin tins with an ice cream scooper.  The muffin cups will be about 2/3 of the way full.  I usually get about 18 muffins from the batter.  
  8. Bake muffins for approximately 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  I usually rotate the pans once during the middle of the cooking, so both pans bake evenly.
  9. As soon as possible, take muffins out of tins and leave on a wire rack to cool.  
  10. Enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment