I like muffins. They are infinitely more interesting than a cupcake. Sweet, savoury, something in between (think carrot and rosemary) it’s ok to be courageous in your flavours. You can eat a muffin for breakfast, yes it’s acceptable, just perhaps not everyday!
We make slightly healthier muffins for snacks, they’re good for taking to work and cheer up a day in the office. Sometimes though, you just want one of those big fat chocolate filled muffins. Yes those ones, found in just about every coffee shop, snuggled next to the fancier looking pastries and tarts which never seem to taste quite as good as they look. Don’t you think though that these coffee shop muffins are a bit hit or miss? Occasionally light and fluffy, yet moist and moreish, but far too frequently dry and crumbly, with a texture that cries out “I’m past my best”.
My memory of muffins is slightly skewed from spending time in New Zealand as a child. Most of my childhood memories are based around food and if there was something I loved to eat, well those memories are the best…
In New Zealand if you wanted to go shopping you went to a Mall. They had these vast food courts (they seemed big to a 9yr old me), filled with fast food vendors and coffee shops with one in particular – Muffin Break.
I remember giant towers of muffins billowing over their tulip skirts, frothy cappuccinos for the parent’s, milkshakes for us. The smell of Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips next door wafting through the sweet caffeinated air, confusing the senses… And when you could finish your mammoth muffin, tucking it up in a napkin and popping it into your pocket, saving it for later or generally just making a mess out of the squashed remains.
We came back to England. Mum and Dad talked about how we had nothing like that in this country, it’s true, back in the 90’s we didn’t have Costa, Café Nero and Starbucks on every corner. We had quaint bakeries that sold incredible Lardy Cakes (if you haven’t had one, go and get one) and such like – the Twin always like Iced Buns, he still does.
Now coffee shops are two a penny amongst charity shops on the high street. Drinks are alike, cakes and pastries are much of a muchness. Then you stumble upon a gem of a place – a REAL café, where they bake on the premises and offer giant loaves of sourdough at the counter or sumptuous brownies that you could eat 5 of if no one was watching.
I think this muffin recipe belongs to this category. It’s light and fluffy, moist with bananas yet gooey with chocolate chips and a little nutty crunch with the walnuts. It keeps so well in a tin (if you don’t eat them all) and even freezes well if like me, you batch bake ready for a greedy day.
It’s adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe –
3 very ripe or overripe bananas
100 millilitres rapeseed oil
2 large eggs
100 grams muscovado sugar
225 grams self raising flour
1 pack of chocolate chips (white/milk/dark)
handful of chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder (sifted)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line a 12-bun muffin tin with papers.
Peel the bananas and place in a large mixing bowl. Mash with an electric mixer. Still beating and mashing, add the oil followed by the eggs and sugar.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb together and add this mixture, beating gently, to the banana mixture. Finally stir in the chocolate chips and walnut pieces, then spoon it into the prepared papers.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes, by which time the muffins should be dark, rounded and peeking proudly out of their cases. Allow to cool slightly in their tin before removing to a wire rack.