Nutella-Swirled Banana Muffins

nutella swirl muffinsMmm, Nutella. This delicious hazelnut spread isn’t something I eat very often, but I’ve become very interested in baking with it recently and have pinned many a Nutella-based recipe on my Pinterest baking board. Pinterest is quite a playground for food bloggers, and I found this recipe there from fellow blogger Maya at Alaska from Scratch; I just tweaked very slightly (including a bit more vanilla and Nutella) in the recipe below.

Banana muffins are a great base for many additions, including nuts or chocolate chips (or both). This Nutella-swirled version looks amazing when finished, and I imagine that serving them with Nutella for spreading would be a great idea. I also think this could make a wonderful quick bread and would like to experiment with baking it on loaf form sometime in the future, perhaps with some nuts mixed into the batter.

Since I’m still fasting from sugar (and baked goods in particular) for Lent, it’s quite a challenge for me to not crack open one of these, slather it with some Nutella, and chow down. I will refrain for a few more weeks though, and will have to rely on Mike’s assessment of these muffins to learn whether they’re tasty or not. Sometime tells me they’ll be delicious!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • heaping 1/2 cup Nutella

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin tins with paper liners; my batch yielded 20 muffins.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In another large bowl, combine mashed bananas, sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir together to combine, then add all at once to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Batter will be lumpy.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave Nutella in 15-second intervals until thinned and easy to stir. Using a tablespoon from your flatware, drop dollops of Nutella onto the top of each muffin and swirl with a toothpick to spread; I used about 1 tablespoon on each.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire racks.

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Bars

banana chocolate chip bars

 

 

 

 

 

Something has gone awry in my homemade vanilla extract. For the past three months I’ve been steeping a vanilla bean in vodka in a well-sealed glass bottle in the dark recesses of one of my kitchen cabinets, a process I learned after buying a few vanilla beans on our honeymoon at Colonial Williamsburg 13 years ago. I’ve made countless batches of homemade extract since then, and they’ve all turned out well. Alas, this bottle had unpleasant globs of some unidentifiable substance floating in the otherwise lovely amber liquid, rendering it unusable.

Finding myself completely out of commercial vanilla (how that happened, I will never know), I resorted to the vanilla beans in my pantry. This is one of the many things I love about baking—that you can improvise. Although most cooks believe baking to be too restrictive, requiring precise measurements of this and that, I find it liberating to substitute vanilla extract with the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean, or to use up my miniature semisweet chocolate chips and mix them in with milk chocolate ones for this recipe. While I intend to scour the internet for various troubleshooting tips for making homemade vanilla, it seems that the bean did just fine.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 10 x 15 x 1 jelly roll pan; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add white and brown sugars, baking powder, and salt; cream together until fluffy.

Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds; discard the pod.

Add egg, mashed bananas, and vanilla bean seeds; beat until well-blended.

Add flour and beat until combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into pan and smooth with an offset spatula to even out the top.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the top is totally set and begins to turn golden.

Cool completely in the pan; cut into squares and store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper.

Banana Bread

banana bread

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1930s, recipes for banana bread began to appear in American cookbooks. Some culinary historians cite the availability of baking soda and baking powder as the impetus for this treat, while others believe it came simply from the kitchen of an enterprising and thrifty gal who didn’t want her overripe and hard-earned bananas to go to waste. I’d wager that both are the truth, and being a thrifty baker myself, applaud the woman who mashed up her spotty bananas and whipped up the first heavenly-scented loaf of banana bread.

Banana bread is simple, and very easy to make. Being a quick bread, there is no yeast, kneading, or rising time involved; the whole process, from mixing bowl to table, takes about an hour. Banana bread can be served warm but many bakers, myself included, believe that it tastes better after a day or so, when the flavors have had time to settle.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • generous 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8x4x2 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center and set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine egg, mashed bananas, sugar, and vegetable oil.

Pour into flour mixture and stir until combined.

Pour into loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean; check the bread at about 40 minutes to make sure the top isn’t browning too quickly; if it is, make a tent of aluminum foil and cover the bread until it is through baking.

Cool completely in the plan.

 

Banana Pecan Chocolate Chip Bread

 

 

 

 

 

Some recipes are easy to embellish, and this recipe is one of those.  Take basic banana bread, add some nuts and chocolate chips, and you have a whole new treat.  I used pecans and milk chocolate chips, but you could certainly use walnuts and semi-sweet if you like.

I think one of the things that draws me to baking-other than the predictability of the outcome-is the possibility of creativity, and how there are endless ways to make a recipe more interesting.  Add flavoring to cake batter, and you change the cake.  Add nuts to brownie batter, and you change the brownie.  There’s something oddly liberating in that, in imagining the possibilities.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • generous 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8x4x2 loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Make a well in the center and set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine egg, mashed bananas, sugar, and vegetable oil.

Pour into flour mixture and stir until combined.

Add pecans and chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Pour into loaf pan and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in pan or serve warm.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

Bananas fare poorly in our kitchen.  Perhaps we have improper air flow, or really need one of those banana hanger gadgets.  Either way, before I know it even the greenest of bananas turn spotted and brown on our counter top.  When I pass them, I swear they whisper that I’m a bad hostess.

I once asked Mike if a particularly leopard-looking bunch was a nonverbal request for banana bread, to which he replied, “no, but if you wanted to make some that would be nice.”  I thought about making banana bread with our uber-ripe bananas tonight, but then I flipped through a cookie book and found a sticky note, left by Mike, on the page with this recipe.  I suspect that adding a bit of peanut butter to the batter would make them even more enticing, so stay tuned for Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies in another post.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup thoroughly mashed very ripe banana (2 small bananas or 1 medium banana)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line several baking sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.

Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Add flour mixture and banana and beat until combined.

Stir in oats and chocolate chips until well combined.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop cookies onto prepared baking sheets about two inches apart; you should have six cookies per sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until light golden brown all over and centers are almost firm when pressed.

Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes to firm up slightly.

Transfer cookies from the baking sheet to another wire rack to cool completely.