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Think beyond banana bread

  • LOS ANGELES TIMES
                                Butter Pecan Banana Muffins are a fluffy alternative to yet another loaf of banana bread.

    LOS ANGELES TIMES

    Butter Pecan Banana Muffins are a fluffy alternative to yet another loaf of banana bread.

The current surge in home baking — accompanying a surge in stay-at-home time — has resulted in a huge interest in bananas. Go figure. Search out the Instagram hashtag #bananabread and you can browse 1.5 million photos; at #bananabaking, 500,000.

Banana bread may be the go-to crowd-pleaser, but after baking loaf after loaf, many bakers (and eaters) could use another idea. Here are two.

BUTTER PECAN BANANA MUFFINS

Because muffins bake more quickly than bread, and at a higher temperature, they’re fluffier, making them ideal for whole wheat flour, which can turn a loaf of bread dry or heavy. Whole wheat has health advantages, but its real appeal is in its complex, almost nutty flavor, perfect with overripe bananas. Toasted and buttered pecans transform these muffins into a breakfast as delicious as dessert.

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1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1-1/4 cups whole-wheat flour (or 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (see note)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.

Spread pecans on small rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Add butter and toss until evenly coated. Cool on sheet while preparing batter.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk remaining ingredients together in separate bowl until smooth.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Fold gently until no traces of flour remain. Divide batter among muffin cups and sprinkle tops with buttered pecans.

Bake, rotating tin halfway through, until a pick inserted in a muffin comes out clean, 16 to 18 minutes. Cool muffins in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then unmold. Makes 12.

NOTE: If you don’t have buttermilk, mix 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice into 1/2 cup milk and let stand 5 minutes.

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Genevieve Ko, Los Angeles Times

Variations

>> Spiced Banana Muffins: Add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom to the flour mixture.

>> Nuttier Banana Muffins: Substitute walnut or other nut oil for the vegetable oil. Stir 1 cup chopped toasted pecans into the batter before sprinkling the buttered nuts on top.

>> Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins: Stir 1 cup chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate into the batter.

Make Ahead

Muffins can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the freezer up to 3 months. Thaw before reheating in a toaster oven or oven set to 350 degrees.

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BANANA PANCAKES

“Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and delicately flavored with bananas and vanilla — these are amazing pancakes,” writes Jennifer Segal, who included the recipe in her cookbook, “Once Upon a Chef.”

Segal adapted the recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s ‘The Kid’s Cookbook,” so you know these pancakes are simple to make. “I like to top them with a heap of fresh sliced bananas to dress them up and hint at what’s inside,” she says.

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Adapted from “Once Upon a Chef” by Jennifer Segal, Chronicle Books ($29.99).

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 small, overripe banana (the browner, the better)

2 eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Unsalted butter, for frying

Vegetable oil, for frying

Pure maple syrup and sliced bananas (optional), for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a medium bowl, mash banana with a fork until almost smooth. Whisk in eggs. Add milk and vanilla and whisk until well blended.

Pour banana mixture and melted butter into flour mixture. Fold batter gently with a rubber spatula until just blended; do not overmix. The batter should be thick and a bit lumpy.

Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over medium. Put 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on griddle and swirl it around until butter is melted.

Using a 2-ounce ladle or 1/4-cup dry measure, drop batter onto griddle, spacing pancakes about 2-inches apart. Cook until a few holes form on top of each pancake and undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Flip pancakes and cook until bottoms are golden and tops are puffed, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer pancakes to a warm serving plate.

Wipe griddle clean with paper towels, add more butter and oil, and repeat with remaining batter. Serve pancakes while hot, topped with maple syrup and sliced bananas (if using). Makes a dozen 4-inch pancakes.

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Carole Kotkin, Miami Herald

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Banana basics

>> The Cavendish is the most common type of banana sold in the supermarket, but there are more than 300 varieties. Red bananas, small finger bananas and slightly larger manzano bananas can be also be found in markets.

>> Bananas are picked green to ripen uncovered at room temperature. Ripe bananas can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, but the peel will darken. The darker and uglier they get, the more flavor they’ll bring to your recipe.

>> Don’t toss them out when brown spots start appearing; ripe bananas are welcome additions to quick breads, pancakes, brownies, French toast, banana cream pie and smoothies. They can also be grilled, sauteed or baked to serve alongside grilled fish, poultry or meat.

Freeze, please

Bananas freeze well: Peel and slice, then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place frozen slices in an airtight bag to use in shakes, smoothies and ice cream.

One of the best things to do with frozen bananas is to spin them into a creamy dessert: Place 2 frozen bananas, 1/4 cup yogurt and sweetener of your choice in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Add frozen strawberries, mangoes or a few tablespoons of Nutella.

Source: Miami Herald

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