A lot of muffins are being baked (and devoured even before they cool) in the Lekhni household recently. There were the oatmeal cookies I baked a few weeks ago (mostly for the neighbors) but otherwise, it has been muffins all the way. A big reason for this is that they are so easy to make.
Muffins are the most forgiving of baked goods. They are easygoing and demand nothing from the baker – no skill/ experience, and no specialized bakeware. Unlike their popular cousins, cupcakes, the humble muffins don’t even require a hand mixer. Neither do you need special bundt pans or loaf pans – while having a muffin pan is great, you can just as easily use a few cups or ramekins (in fact, that’s the route to go if you only want to make 3-4 muffins). All you really need (if your recipe uses eggs) is a fork or a spoon. Plus, muffins look really good and make great snacks for breakfast, or after work, or as a travel snack if you are planning a weekend trip to the zoo. Ideal if you are a novice baker, or if you have a toddler grabbing your arm insistently because she doesn’t want you in the kitchen.
Now, baking is a little less forgiving than cooking. Forgot to add the tamarind paste in rasam (even though that is step 2 after Boil the water) and the rasam is already done? No problem, just stir in the tamarind paste and boil some more (or boil the tamarind paste separately in a little water and mix). The thing with cooking is, no single ingredient is usually so integral to the dish that it cannot be added later. But with baking, if you forget something, say, that half teaspoon of baking soda, the dish is likely ruined. So it’s best to mentally run through a checklist of ingredients just after you finish mixing or at least before you put the dish in the oven, in case you’ve forgotten something (quite likely if that toddler has now graduated to gnawing on your arm).
One of my current favorites is the humble banana nut muffin (which can just easily be just a plain banana muffin). In my house, these usually get devoured while still warm from the oven, and are a great way to use up over-ripe bananas. (Insert joke here about going bananas, going nuts etc). They use whole wheat flour (partly) and brown sugar, which helps me feel less guilty at my toddler eating them.
BANANA NUT MUFFINS
- 3 to 4 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw) (optional)
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar (you can use 3/4 cup if you like less sugar, or 3/4 cup sugar and a tablespoon of honey)
- 1 egg, beaten, or 1/4 cup egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (or 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour or atta
- Milk/ Buttermilk/ water for mixing – maybe 1/4 cup.
Makes 12 muffins.
Melt the butter in the microwave for 2 minutes or until completely melted. You can melt it on the stove top if you prefer. Let it cool down. Then, mix all the wet ingredients together, i.e. the butter, egg, bananas and vanilla.
Now, mix the dry and wet ingredients together. DO NOT OVERMIX. This is the only thing to remember in baking muffins. Over-mixing results in hard muffins.
Ideally, use a flat, wide spoon like a spatula to mix and do not make than, say 7-8 turns of the spatula. Now, I find that invariably, the wet mixture is barely adequate to make a batter. To avoid over-mixing, I like to add some milk or buttermilk to make the mixing easier. You can also use water. Add only just enough so that the flour is all covered in liquid.
Pour this into a muffin pan (or cups or whatever you are using). Bake for at least 25 minutes. You can leave it on a little more if you want the crust to become a little darker brown, instead of golden brown. Depending on your oven and baking pan (glass takes longer, metal less), it can take anywhere between 25 to 35 minutes to bake. But the test of baking is the old toothpick trick – if a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, your muffins are done. Take them out and cool them. Remember, they will turn slightly browner as they cool.
They will easily last 1-2 days at room temperature – I keep them in glass storage containers lightly covered with lids. If you want your muffins to last longer, the best thing is to freeze them, either in said glass containers or ziploc bags, and thaw them in the microwave individually as needed. A couple of minutes in the microwave is all they usually need (and 2 day old muffins too can be freshened up with 15 seconds in the microwave).
Just don’t be surprised if your usually finicky toddler walks off with a still-warm muffin in her hand.