The Black Banana Solution: Banana Walnut Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins - The Rising Spoon

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Black Banana Solution: Banana Walnut Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

The Rising Spoon Blog: Banana Walnut Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins

I have a number of not-so-healthy recipes in the works, but since this is my first post since Thanksgiving, I figure I'd concentrate on something a bit lighter and healthier, like muffins. 

Muffins, healthy? 

Yep! I used my pumpkin-apple harvest muffin recipe as a basis for these muffins, which uses applesauce instead of butter. And guess what? It yields the moistest muffins I've ever eaten! 

The only difference (aside from the ingredients) is that the banana muffins are slightly less moist than the pumpkin muffins. I attribute this to the pumpkin puree, which I believe adds more moisture to baked goods than bananas. Perhaps this can be amended by adding one extra banana. 

Either way, they're still fantastic, not to mention popular. I brought a batch of each to my grandmother's for Thanksgiving and the banana muffins quickly disappeared. At first I was surprised (I favored the Pumpkin-Apple Muffins), then I realized my sister had a huge chocolate craving. Duh. Put chocolate in anything and it's going to win with the ladies. 

While adding chocolate seems a given, the walnuts may not. I urge you to include them! I used to be neutral about nuts in baked goods, but now I'm a big fan. I've developed an appreciation for the crunch it brings in every other bite. Of course you can substitute other crunchy things (like small apple chunks) that will easily yield the same contrasting texture. 

But before I prattle on about add ins, we need to focus on the essential ingredient: bananas. 

Please don't run to the store, nab a vivid yellow banana bundle and expect to make these muffins today.

In order to make proper banana goodies, your fruit need to be super ripe. In other words, heavily blackened or spotted, at the very least. The more black spots a banana has, the more ripe it is. 

What does this mean? As a banana ripens, transforming from green to yellow to spotted to black, the sugars are developing while the starch level is decreasing. This make the banana softer and sweeter. You want your muffin to taste like banana, right? If you use a slightly green or bright yellow (unripe) banana, the flavor will NOT come through. 

Let's say your bananas are nowhere near ready. Rather than wait a week or two for them to develop, you can ripen them quickly by placing them in a paper bag. Bananas are one of many fruits that give off ethylene gas while ripening. The bag trick concentrates the gas, thus speeding up the process. 

Tip: You can quickly ripen fruit (like avocados and peaches) by placing it next to bananas (or in a bag together). Conversely, avoid stashing ripe fruit next to bananas. This will cause them to quickly spoil! 

The Rising Spoon Blog: Blackened Bananas for Banana Walnut Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins
These are extremely black bananas. You certainly don't have to wait until they are this dark. I happened to procrastinate making the muffins by 3 or 4 days, which is why they're practically all black. However, despite appearances, the flavor is concentrated and great for baking!  
My usual procedure is to buy two large bundles with little to no green on them. After a few days (when there are a few dark spots) I'll begin using sliced banana in cereal or my current obsession, vegan pumpkin spice & cinnamon oatmeal. Several days later, I'll pick the three or four darkest bananas and set them aside to further ripen for baking. If I have any left over after that, I'll peel, slice and freeze the remaining bananas to use in smoothies. If I don't feel like baking, I'll simply freeze all of the leftover bananas.  

Do you have children or loved ones that are finicky about spots on their bananas? Green smoothies are an excellent way to use up leftover greens and fruits that "seem" inedible  They're healthy, great for your wallet (no waste) and a sneaky way to incorporate extra vitamins into your loved ones lives. :) Just a suggestion.

So, please, please, please don't throw away your bananas! Eat them while they're ripe, then when they're slightly over-ripe use them to make smoothies, shakes and ice cream. Then, when they're REALLY ripe, make muffins or bread!

Banana Walnut Dark Chocolate Chip Muffins
Incredibly moist banana muffins with a touch of cinnamon & nutmeg and chock full of chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips. Mashed, overripe banana and unsweetened applesauce lend moisture and lower fat content, while the whole wheat flour, oats, walnuts and dark chocolate boost the nutrition value.  Easily substitute extra mashed ripened banana or applesauce for the eggs to make it vegan friendly. 
Yields: 12 Muffins

4 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup of turbinado or brown sugar
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
2 pastured eggs*
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup stone ground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract (learn how to make it here)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

(I recommend Pink HimalayanCeltic or Utah sourced salt)
1/2 cup of walnuts, chopped 
1/4 cup bittersweet (dark) chocolate chips

Butter or coconut oil, for greasing

Recommended Equipment

12-Cup Muffin Pan or Silicone Baking CupsDirections
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-count muffin tin with butter or coconut oil. If using muffin liners, insert into tin and grease those instead. In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (sugar, flour, oats, baking powder, spices, & salt) and stir. Peel the bananas, drop them into another large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the rest of the wet ingredients  (applesauce, eggs, vanilla) and give them a quick stir. Slowly pour and stir the dry mix into the wet mix. Don't over-mix. Gently stir the chopped walnuts and dark chocolate chips into batter. Fill each muffin tin equally until all the batter is used up. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or fork stuck into the middle of a muffin comes out clean (with no wet batter).

*Vegan Method 
To make these vegan friendly, substitute 1/4 cup of additional mashed banana or unsweetened applesauce for each egg (1/2 cup total for this recipe). 

Notes & Tips
If you dislike applesauce or have apple allergies, use 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil and 1/4 cup of water instead.

Use whatever flour you have on hand. The ratio I used was my own preference. You can go with all-purpose, whole wheat, etc. Using only whole wheat flour will likely make the muffins more dense, though. Keep that in mind.

If you have oranges on hand, grate 1 tablespoon of zest into the mixture. This is very popular. I've also heard adding a bit of good quality coffee liqueur really compliments the banana flavor.

Real Food Resources

Real Food Survival Guide For Busy Moms

"This e-book is perfect for busy folks who need help maximizing their time in the kitchen so they can fix nutritious, real food snacks and meals to eat at home and on the go. In addition to realistic advice, this book provides recipes for real food staples you can make in bulk ahead of time, which ensures you always have nutrient dense foods at hand. And it’s especially helpful if you’re interested in implementing homemade fermented foods into your diet."

From Scratch: Easy Recipes for Traditionally Prepared Whole-Food Dishes 

"If you're looking for a cookbook that is as entertaining as it is delicious, then look no further. From Scratch is a breath of fresh air when it comes to learning how to traditionally prepare and cook nutritious food. Shaye does not disappoint in her recipes and this cookbook reads like a letter from a close friend. These meals are easily prepared and yes, easily devoured."  

Question for DiscussionWhat's your favorite thing to do with overripe banana?  

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Elaina Newton is the creator, writer, and foodie behind the blog, The Rising Spoon. She's a self-taught cook and passionate about spreading basic cooking skills and information about real foods. She loves reading fiction, crafting, video games, dark roast coffee, cats, and rainy days. Connect with her on Pinterest, Facebook, Google +, and Twitter

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