When I was small, my mom seemed to always have a loaf of zucchini or banana bread tucked away somewhere in the freezer. And if she just so happened to take out a loaf or two—if us kids saw them sitting patiently on the counter—we instantaneously understood. It was like some unspoken “code,” which everyone naturally understood.
“Who’s coming over to visit, mom?”
The bread would be warmed and sliced into soft, thick hunks of sweetness. Placed just so, on a tea style plate for when company would arrive. Coffee for the adults. Milk and juice for the kids. And if we were really, really lucky, there would be slices of both zucchini and banana bread sitting on the table. Which, of course, means that you can have a slice of each. Of course.
Last night, I came home from work a little earlier than normal. Early enough to actually do something before preparing dinner or going for a run or diving head first into homework.
First thought: I want to take a nap. Second thought: I want a banana bran muffin. Always place your bets on the muffin; they always win. I never take naps, but they sure sound nice.
At first, I set out to make a standard, favorite, and very well-loved version of the banana bread, but I’ve been wanting to use some of my pantry’s wheat bran for a while now. Banana and bran go so well together, that it seemed impossible not to take the muffins in such a direction. Impossible! Besides, I wanted my muffins to be sturdy and satisfying. I also wanted them sweet and delicate enough to pass for dessert. Hearty and healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast.
Banana bran muffins. Yes. That is exactly what I wanted.
Muffins have the glorious concept of being able to freeze individually. They travel well, when breakfast needs to be taken on the road. They’re versatile enough to be crumbled over oats or yogurt, slathered with peanut butter,or broiled in the oven with a pat of butter. And while they are, of course, most delicious served hot from the oven, they can be easily rewarmed with results that are just as yummy.
You could bake them for when company comes over. Say, you know, for brunch or an afternoon cup of coffee. Or you could bake a batch, just because. Just because you have a little extra time. Just because you feel like eating a banana bran muffin.
Banana Bran Muffins—tweaked from an original Eating Well recipe
If you ever want to change things up, add a sprinkle of walnuts to the batter. Or chocolate chips. Or raisins, pumpkin seeds, apricots, blueberries, etc. You can make these muffins as personalized as you like.
If you’re not used to cooking with all whole-wheat flour or unprocessed bran, don’t be intimidated! The bananas and small amount of oil help to keep these babies soft, moist and perfectly tender. There’s absolutely nothing that’s overly grainy or dry about them.
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 c. milk with 1 T. lemon juice (or 1 cup buttermilk)
- 1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- walnuts for top (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in bananas, buttermilk, wheat bran, oil and vanilla.
3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they’ll be quite full). Sprinkle with walnuts, if using.
4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.
QUESTION: What seems to always be in your freezer?