Banana Crumb Muffins

February 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’ve been experimenting with a new muffin recipe.  While I promise not to walk you through each of my blunders, Cooks’ Illustrated-style, I thought I’d take a moment to share two distinct changes I made from the original recipe, and why I veered off course.

If you take a peek at the ingredient list below, you’ll see a 1/3 of a cup of vegetable oil.  The original banana crumb recipe – inspired by Marcia, a Tucson Bunco Babe – called for 1/3 cup melted butter.  While that recipe yields delicious, flavorful results, I found that when I swapped oil for butter, the muffin was so moist it seemed to melt in my mouth.  What’s more, when I used oil, the shelf life of the leftovers was longer and maintained the texture, while my buttery muffins grew stale and chewier in the same amount of time.

The second distinct change I made was the inclusion of brown sugar in the batter.  I recently learned from the latest Cooks’ Illustrated magazine that brown sugar – like corn syrup – is hygroscopic (meaning both corn syrup and brown sugar attract and retain water).  That’s why cookie dough that contains high levels of either of these two ingredients yields moister, chewier cookies. The original muffin batter calls for 3/4 cup of sugar.  I swapped out a third of the sugar and replaced it with brown sugar.  The results were wonderful: the muffins were moist with a subtle, warmer flavor that I attributed to the more molasses-y taste of brown sugar.

For the record: I love dense muffins (especially berry-bran!).  But this time, I wanted to create a light, airy muffin that you might eat with an afternoon cup of coffee or tea.  I was aiming for coffee cake, not pound cake.

Muffin Ingredients:
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 bananas, mashed (approx. 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup lightly-packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Methods:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin tins.  In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, soda, powder, salt and spices.  Combine with a fork.

2.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg.  Add banana, sugars, oil and vanilla.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Slowly add flour mixture to liquid, gently stirring.  Stir just until incorporated; don’t over-beat.  (If the batter is over-stirred, gluten will form, yielding a denser muffin.)

3.  Prepare crumb mixture: combine flour, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Break in butter until the dough resembles coarse peas.  Set aside.

4.  Ladle muffin batter into greased tins.  Fill 3/4 of the way to the top.  Sprinkle with crumb topping.  Bake 15-18 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.  Let sit in muffin tins for about 5 minutes before removing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  These muffins also freeze and thaw wonderfully.

Diet Notes: Nut-free

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