Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sour Cream Banana Chip Muffins (Best.Banana.Muffins.Ever.)

I love America's Test Kitchen. I'm a regular subscriber to Cooks Illustrated and I love their experimental approach to cooking. I wish they would take me on as a contributing writer. I'd have a grand time being scientific in the kitchen (I have a devoted kitchen calculator, a kitchen laptop equipped with matlab is on the horizon), and I already have an established taste tester pool at work. I just hope moving to Vermont isn't part of the deal...

I own the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, a giant 5-ring binder of recipes that can be conveniently unclipped and taken individually to the kitchen. I was looking for ways to use up some ripe bananas, and I inadvertently stumbled upon a culinary bombshell.

You can ripen bananas by roasting them in the oven.

The idea is to pop whole bananas, unpeeled, into the heated oven while you prepare and measure the other ingredients for banana cake. After 15 minutes, the skins will turn black but the flesh will be brown, soft, and sweet.

And let me tell you, it totally works. I was rewarded with a very fragrant kitchen and lusciously sweet bananas that tasted slightly caramelized. Hmmm... I think that's how they make those intensely aromatic banana breads in Maui.

I know it's not the prettiest picture, but man, this banana bread from Eastern Maui is ridiculously good. They sell it in plastic bags, all the better to keep the heady aromas of banana and caramelized sugar inside. I can still smell it in my head, really.

Vacation memories aside, I took my precious roasted banana pulp and made a batch of muffins with sour cream and chopped chocolate (I recently discovered the banana+chocolate combination when a coworker - whose wife is a very talented baker - brought some banana chip muffins to work).

The muffins were deliciously aromatic, and had a fluffy, tender crumb (I think the sour cream helped). I love the tiny - and not so tiny - flicks of chocolate that melts on the tongue.

There will be a lot more roasting of bananas in the future.

Sour Cream Banana Chip Muffins
(Makes 12 very overfilled muffins, and probably 16 normal ones)
Adopted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook's Banana Chip Snack Cakes

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 large ripe bananas, roasted and mashed
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (or as much as you like, really. You can use chocolate chips but I like the texture and visual appeal of chopped chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in bananas, sour cream, water, and vanilla.

Fold in the dry mixture into the wet until just combined. Stir in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into muffin tins and bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached (it'll be most likely covered in melted chocolate as well, just check that there's no wet batter). With my very tall muffins it took around 30 minutes. Let it cool (or not), and eat.

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