Baked Treats

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Banana Double-Chocolate Chunk)

June 27, 2017

I love bananas, their shape, color, scent & taste…that they come wrapped in their own packaging & with a handle to boot. I always look for the shapeliest bunch, wait patiently for them to ripen and buy the exotic ones when I can find them. I even did an entire geek-research story on banana varieties once. But banana-love doesn’t mean those beautiful yellow bundles all get eaten when perfectly ripe. There are always, always, one or two left behind, their skins gone past freckled to bruisy black, poor bodies gone slack with waiting. But ugly as they are, I NEVER throw those holdovers away, and you shouldn’t either. Why? Because they are the secret to really good banana muffins.This recipe redeems those overripe bananas in a muffin that uses  two special techniques that make the resulting treat truly special. One I learned from Christopher Kimball when he was at America’s Test Kitchen: To enhance flavor and reduce the gumminess that can happen with banana quick breads, heat your really ripe peeled bananas for a few minutes in the microwave until they release their juice, drain this from the bananas, reduce the liquid by half in a little sauce pan, and proceed with the recipe. The other technique I borrowed from a favorite vintage chocolate cake recipe, is to dissolve cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a little boiling water and mix that into the batter. The mixture foams up and the chemistry in the equation makes the crumb of the finished muffins exceedingly tender. Rather than use chocolate chips, chop up a good-quality chunk of chocolate bar, or, buy a package of semi-sweet chocolate chunks from your favorite purveyor. My kids don’t like the toasted walnuts that are included in the ice cream branded with the Chunky Monkey moniker, so I leave them out, but the added crunch is a nice add.

Chunky Monkey Muffins (Banana Double-Chocolate Chunk)
Yields 24
These choco-loaded banana muffins are very tender and moist--the best I have ever had. They hold up well for travel, work well in summer-school lunches or as an easy-tote picnic dessert
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  1. 6 or 7 very ripe (overripe) bananas, peeled, skins discarded. Once mashed later in this recipe, bananas should measure 2 cups (NOTE: I always freeze my overripe bananas. If using from-frozen, be sure to thaw them well before making the recipe)
  2. 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use White Lily)
  3. 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 cup boiling water
  7. 8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled
  8. 2 large eggs, beaten
  9. 1 cup packed brown sugar
  10. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  11. 10-ounce package semisweet chocolate chunks
  12. 3/4 cup toasted walnuts (optional)
  1. Place oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Put peeled bananas in microwaveable bowl; heat for 2 minutes until bananas release their liquid. Dump mixture into a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Collect the juice. You should have 1/2 cup.
  3. Place liquid in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until reduced by half. You will have 1/4 cup banana syrup.
  4. In a large, deep bowl, mix together cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Add boiling water and stir. NOTE: the mixture will foam up, so be careful to use a large bowl so that it won't overflow.
  5. Add bananas to the cocoa-soda mixture and mash well. Add the melted butter, the eggs, the sugar, vanilla and the banana syrup. Stir to mix all well. Sift flour into the bowl and stir until just combined, with no streaks remaining. Stir in chocolate chunks. Add nuts (if using.) Set aside.
  6. Using vegetable shortening or vegetable cooking spray, well coat the inside of two 12-unit muffin tins. Flour the coated tins. Invert and tap to release any excess flour. Fill each muffin-pan indentation with 1/4 cup of the batter. Place muffin tins in oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and remove muffins from tins to cool on a rack.
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