Cousin Martin, in his frequent travels to Costa Rica, always seeks out locally-produced cookbooks for me. I adapted these muffins from a banana cake recipe in one of his recent finds, The Best Recipes: Costa Rica, published by Ediciones Jadine S.A. in San José.
When I made the cake according to the original recipe, I wasn't thrilled with the texture, though the flavor was nicely spiced and not too sweet. After a tweak here and there, and the last-minute addition of a handful of chocolate chips to half of the batter, I'm happy to recommend these muffins to you. The flavor of banana takes center stage, and you'll love the subtle notes of clove and vanilla, too. Eliminate the nuts if they're not your thing, or add more chocolate chips. Serve these muffins with afternoon tea or morning coffee, or sneak one into your child's lunch box.
Costa Rican banana nut muffins, with or without chocolate chips
Adapted from a recipe for banana cake in The Best Recipes: Costa Rica. Makes 18 muffins.
4-1/2 very ripe bananas, peeled
4 Tbsp margarine (I used Smart Balance)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose unbleached flour, divided
2 Tbsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp ground cloves
1-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half (not fat-free)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two muffin pans with baking spray, or line with paper muffin cups, and set aside.
In the work bowl of a KitchenAid type stand mixer, add the bananas (mash them a bit in your hands), margarine and sugar. Mix on low speed until well incorporated into an almost-smooth purée.
While the bananas are mixing, in a separate bowl sift together 1 cup of flour, baking powder, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
When the banana mixture is smooth, turn the mixer to medium speed. Add the egg, and beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low, and alternately add the half-and-half and flour mixture, a bit at a time, until well incorporated and a bit fluffy, 1 minute. Turn the mixer off, and remove the work bowl.
In the bowl that held the flour, toss the nuts (and optional chocolate chips) with a tablespoon of flour, and fold into the cake batter. Use an ice cream scoop with a release (called a disher), or a soup spoon, to transfer the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
Bake at 350F for 25-27 minutes (the longer time is for the chocolate chip muffins). Remove from the oven, and set the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, turn the muffins out onto the rack, and allow to cool.
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