Sunday, April 17, 2016

Banana French Toast Muffins

Let's face it, banana-nut anything is always a welcome treat. However, it is very difficult to achieve a cake like quality when using them in baking. That is why I refer to these as muffins instead of cupcakes. They are not as dense as banana bread, but they do not have the lightness of cupcakes either.

Is this just a lighter banana bread in muffin form? In some ways yes and some ways no. Included in the muffin is chunks of candied walnuts. Like French toast, the maple flavor is on top. Swirled with a mixture of maple flavored cream cheese frosting, the flavor pairing of these muffins is quite tasty. Biting into one of these treats is just a great way to start the day or perk you up in the afternoon.

Also, I know that candied nuts can be quite expensive. In this recipe is a very simple and easy way to make them. If you are not into the whole muffin thing, the sweet nuts make a great snack-so read on...

This recipe makes about 2 dz muffins.

Banana French Toast Muffins
adapted from Wilton

1 3/4 cup mashed bananas
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbs maple syrup
3 eggs
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter (cut into 1/4 inch cubes)
2 3/4 cup of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp maple extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
8 oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
4 oz or 1 stick of butter
24 whole walnuts
1/4 cup of maple syrup

To start, you will make 2 batches of the candied nuts. Pour the chopped nuts into a saucepan set over low heat. Let the nuts cook until toasty, stirring at random intervals. After about 5 minutes, the nuts will be done. Pour in the 2 tbs of maple syrup and mix with the nuts. As the syrup cooks it becomes more solid, looking somewhat like praline candy. Once the liquid syrup becomes solid, remove from heat and transfer coated nuts to a bowl. Set bowl aside.

For the whole nuts, lay a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Follow the same coating process as noted above, this time using 1/4 cup of maple syrup. Due to the higher amount of syrup, the cook time will take longer. Once coated and solid, remove each walnut from the pan and lay on parchment paper, spacing apart.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and fill the cavities of a muffin tin with paper liners.

Prepare the batter by filling the bowl of a stand mixer with both types of sugar and drop in butter cubes. Cream together with the paddle attachment, beating for about 2 minutes and stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Pour in the vanilla extract and add one egg. Mix together for about 30 seconds, with mixer on medium speed. Add each additional egg, blending after each addition. Then pour in the mashed bananas and mix on medium until just incorporated into batter. Remove bowl from mixer.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in 1/3 of the sifted ingredients into the banana batter, using a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 of the sour cream, then stir to blend.  Repeat the process, ending with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Then mix in the candied chopped walnuts.

Using a spoon or a scoop, fill the cavities of the prepared muffin tin with the batter. Fill approximately 2/3 full.

Put pans in oven and bake until tester comes out clean. Bake time is about 20-25 minutes, so rotate pans at the halfway point. Remove pans and let rest about 2 minutes. Then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting/icing, start by beating the cream cheese with the butter until it is silky and smooth. Then beat in the maple extract until distributed throughout the frosting. Sift in 1 cup of confectioner's sugar and beat into the cream cheese/butter mixture. Repeat the process until all confectioner's sugar is blended in.

Once muffins have cooled, ice with frosting as desired and top with candied walnut.

Tips and Notes:

1. This frosting recipe had an error which I corrected above. It did not have butter listed as an ingredient but listed 2-8 oz packages of cream cheese. I followed the recipe, resulting in a quite tangy frosting. Cream cheese frosting I have seen with an equal ratio of butter to cream cheese and 1/2 the amount of butter to cream cheese. I would chose the ratio of 1/2 to one, but either way you only need one 8 oz package of cream cheese.

2. A note on the cute squares: I used a heavy duty, non stick square cavity baking pan. After researching, I read that the square liners have a tendency to fold into the muffins when baked. However, the round liners expand to fit the square. So, if you use the square cavity pan, skip buying the square liners.

3. The candied nut coating can be as thin or thick as you like. I much preferred the thicker, so you may want to use more maple syrup in the pan when using the chopped nuts. Keep in mind that with more syrup, the nuts have a tendency to clump together.

4. How ripe the bananas you use is personal preference. The more ripe the banana, the stronger the flavor. Also, be sure to use a fork and mash the bananas. This method gives the muffins a more pop of banana flavor than adding pureed bananas.
                                   **TWO YEARS AGO: Black Walnut Madeira Cake