Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Ripe is A Perfectly Ripe Banana?

Banana Ripeness.  That's what we're here to talk about today.  I am taking a poll about when a banana is perfectly ripe for eating. There is some debate on this topic.  If fact, in our family there is some disagreement on this matter (which actually comes in handy since there are only 1 or 2 days that each of us deem the bananas "perfectly ripe", so there is usually an eater for each day of the week that bananas are in our fruit bowl.)  I tend to like my bananas a with a touch of green still on the peeling.  My sister has always teased me about liking green bananas, which is a slight exaggeration, as I don't want them too green to be able to peel, or too bitter tasting. However, I do not like them to be spotted at all! (Unless they are mashed up inside of a banana muffin!). My grandmother used to eat them so ripe - the stem was black and shriveled, the skin streaked and spotted brown and the inside was mushy.   But she didn't mind.  She was not picky at all. What about you? 


The great thing about over-ripe bananas is that you can make banana bread and muffins!  In fact, I see a few over-ripe bananas hanging out in my fruit bowl as an invitation to make some banana muffins.   Banana muffins are as simple as you can get, but are a crowd pleaser.



My friend, Connie, gave me this recipe a couple of years ago and I have been making them a lot lately.  It is made with all whole wheat flour (though you can use all-purpose) and because of the bananas, the whole wheat is not evident in look, texture or taste.  The recipe is so easy and healthy.  They are a little salty and have a nice crust and tender crumb.  I have been dusting the tops with turbinado sugar lately and I think it must be the salty/sweet combo and the crystalized sugar on top that take them up a notch...I'm not quite sure but several times lately people have asked for the recipe.  I figured if they want it, you might too.

You can mix in different things: chocolate chips (I like to use the mini ones- not as overpowering and messy), pecans, walnuts, or dried fruit. (You know how much I love varying recipes and customizing them to one's liking.  This week, I got wild and added pecans and dates after talking to my friend Sara Beth about the tastiness and under-utilization of dates in recipes.)  When sending them to the kids' teachers this morning, I stuck with pecan and plain...just to be safe.

Banana Muffins
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 medium sized, ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, etc. (optional)
turbinado sugar for tops (optional)

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla together.  Add flour, salt and baking soda.  Blend well.  Add mashed bananas and optional mix-ins.  Scoop into greased or lined muffin tin.  Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for a few minutes.
(I told you it was simple!)

the mashing

A tip:  The recipe calls for 3 ripe bananas, if you only have 1 or 2, you can always peel and slice the bananas and place them in a zipped bag in the freezer until you have enough to make the bread.  (You will just need to thaw them on the counter, in the fridge or defrost in the microwave to get them softened before using them in the recipe.)

And a new trick I learned from The Muffin Lady cookbook, which I recently read, is to use parchment paper, cut into squares for lining the muffin tin. The first time I tried it they were a little lop-sided as the bottoms were strangely shaped.  But this time I tried using something to shove the paper down into the tin to form a flat "base".  I tried a few items and found that this water bottle of Lucy's worked well.  I just cut a stack of 5 inch X 5 inch squares of parchment paper, placed each square over the tin, shoved the bottle down to form it, and then lightly sprayed it with cooking spray (so that you don't lose any muffin when you eat it!) I used my scoop to scoop the batter in.  I think they are fun and festive looking and so much cheaper than buying paper muffin liners!  I think I will get my kids to help me cut some out with fun-edged scissors (scalloped, pinking shears, etc) and see how those look.
making parchment muffin liners


For more extensive tips on muffin-making hop on over to THIS PAGE where I share other tips I've learned along the way.

So what do you think?  What is your definition of the "perfectly ripe banana" and what is your mix-in of choice in a banana muffin?
a variety of banana muffin happiness


6 comments:

  1. Love the parchment paper! That is adorable! My favorite mix-in is freshly shelled walnuts from my aunt and uncle in California. They sent a box each year and, oh my goodness, they are so yummy mixed into banana bread muffins!

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  2. I like bananas with just a few spots on them. They're not too mushy, but sweet! Just like a good greeting card.

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  3. I'm pretty easy-going on this issue. I can take a little bit of green or quite a bit of brown on the peel, as long as the fruit itself is mostly spot-free.

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  4. I'm not too picky either. I'll eat a banana at pretty much any state it's in...well that is until the whole peel is brown and icky all over. I can't wait to check our bananas in the morning and see if they are perfect for these muffins! Thanks so much for the recipe! I just wish I could get around to trying all of your recipes! :)

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  5. Absolutely fantastic!
    Thanks for sharing, you're wonderful!

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  6. I like to eat a "green" banana" too. Not so green that you can't peel it, but I don't like spots either. Too soft and strong tasting. I'm going to try out these muffins in the morning! They look yummy!

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