as you like it: a story of banana muffins (or bread)

8 Jul

If you are thinking that these should really be called “cupcakes,” and not “muffins,” you are completely 100% right. These are, for all intents and purposes, banana cupcakes (with cream cheese frosting, but we’ll get to that later). However, these delicious cupcakes derived from my absolute favorite Martha Stewart banana bread recipe, and for that reason we can pretend, just a little bit, that they are not as intensely rich and cupcake-y as they became after several twists and turns.

You may recall from my last post that my wonderful friend (and college roommate!) Beckie recently moved to New York. Unfortunately, Beckie is gluten intolerant. Anyone being honest with you (and themselves) will admit that being “g-free” kind of sucks, and you have to constantly not only be aware of the foods you are and are not able to eat, but then also sadly denying yourself a lot of delicious, and sometimes unexpected, things (did you know soy sauce has gluten??). Luckily for Beckie, there are some really solid replacements for wheat flour — in addition to lots of gluten-free restaurants, stores, and bakeries here in NYC.

So when the recent heatwave quickly ripened all of the bananas I had just purchased, we decided to grab some g-free flour, head to my lovely boyfriend’s lovely air conditioned apartment, and whip up some delicious banana bread — and, hey, how about picking up some chocolate chips too?

It just so happened that Dan had [my] muffin tin, rather than a bread pan, and some pecans in the freezer, and half a package of cream cheese in the fridge, and…what’s that? Powdered sugar? Well golly, I think we have ourselves some cupcakes! Of course, since the electric mixer was stranded at my un-air conditioned apartment, Beckie and I made both cupcakes and cream cheese frosting with a pastry cutter, a whisk, several spatulas, and sheer determination (if you have ever made cream cheese frosting before, you know this is not a simple task).

In order to provide optimum customization, I’ve included all variations below and you can make them however you choose. Just be sure to be patient — those bananas need to be ripe and that butter and cream cheese need to be soft! (Trust me. We were not patient with the frosting, and chunky frosting is just not as good.)

Sour Cream Banana Bread (or Muffins) with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Martha Stewart (and Martha Stewart)

Bread or Muffins:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour (or all-purpose gluten free flour!)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (approx. 3 bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional: toast ’em!)
optional: 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pan (or 8″ x 8″ Pyrex) or prepare two muffin tins with liners; set aside. In an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, and beat to incorporate.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually pour dry ingredients into butter mixture while running mixer on a medium-low setting. Continue mixing until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Remove bowl from mixer and hand-mix in your nuts and/or chocolate chips. Pour all batter into prepared loaf pan or scoop into muffin tins (should make about 18 muffins).

If you are not frosting your muffins or cake, I recommend mixing together a few tablespoons of brown sugar with about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of granulated sugar. Sprinkle on top before baking for a tasty, cinnamon-y top.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. For a loaf pan, this is about 1 hour and 10-15 minutes (for an 8×8 pan, check around 45-50 minutes). For muffins, this is only about 20-25 minutes. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool. If you’re using a Pyrex, there’s no need to remove from the pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

(you could also use this awesome brown sugar recipe I used for carrot cupcakes)
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

If your butter and cream cheese are really nice and soft, you can do this by hand. Otherwise, and possibly even if they are, I recommend an electric mixer.

Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine. Do not attempt to frost your bread or cupcakes until they have completely cooled!

Here’s an example of a previous “leave it in the pan and snack ’til it’s gone” version of this recipe, sans nuts or chocolate chips, but with a nice sticky brown sugar top…

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