Bananas

October 13, 2008

I used to hate bananas. Actually, I sort of still hate bananas. I like banana sliced in some yogurt, or in a pancake, or in an oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie from Vegan Treats, but I can't make it through more than half of a plain old banana without retching. Luckily for my potassium intake there are so many ways to consume bananas other than their raw form. Subbing bananas for eggs in many baked goods is an excellent way to use up the slimy buggers, reap their nutritional benefits, avoid the cholesterol pitfalls of eggs and, at least in my experience, leave the resultant baked good with only the merest hint of banana flavor. Of course if you're going for a veritable banana bread you'll want to amp up the banana in the recipe, but by subbing about 3/4 to 1 mashed banana for each egg in a cookie or quick bread recipe you should not be reeling with banana after each bite.

Lately I've been obsessed with bananas and have eschewed eggs nearly all together. This has not always been successful, but it has not been the fault of bananas. (The incident of the lemon yogurt cake in which I subbed oil for butter and ground flax with blueberries for eggs will be referred to simply as The Unfortunate Collapse.) The obsession was primarily inspired by my discovery of a cache of frozen bananas in our new temporary freezer (thanks Elin!). Freezing bananas is ingenious. They look incredibly gross and sometimes leave an unsightly ooze on the freezer shelf but that's better than leaving them collecting fruit flies until you're obligated to whip out the flour or toss them. Forced baking never yields the best results (except for those vegan banana oat bombs I made awhile back, but I'd say those were more the result of a fixation). I argue that frozen bananas are even better for baking than the ripest of ripe bananas because the innards emerge post-thaw in such a gelatinous ooze that they mix right up with the rest of your wet ingredients without requiring much mashing.

Having learned to embrace a proclivity to boost the gas bill, I popped a couple frozen bananas into a bowl of warm water and messed around with this recipe with happy results. The muffins emerged moist (but not in that undercooked "I can tell something that was not egg or butter was used in this baked good" way) and perfectly crispy on top. Prepare for winter: make these post haste.


Banana-Nut(s) Muffins
I omitted the chocolate chips that were included in the original recipe because, come on, let's at least maintain the charade that muffins are not cake long enough for me to slather peanut butter, nutella, plain old butter or maybe something comparatively healthy but still not quite like apple butter on them. Also, I really don't like banana and chocolate together. I know. It just doesn't work for me, if I want chocolate I want chocolate, not banana-y chocolate. I might also omit the coconut next time, though I'm concerned that that might result in a drier crumb. Were blueberries still in season I would certainly have tossed some in. Ditto re crystallized ginger. And finally, as I am currently nursing a fondness for seeds, I might experiment with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds stuck on the tops (though such adornments typically lend themselves most harmoniously to breads including squash or pumpkin).
2 super-ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
6 Tbl unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup unsweeted soy milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup shredded coconut
3 tsp corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 and grease your muffin tins. I do this by rolling vegetable oil around in one depression, wiping most of it up with a paper towel and then distributing oil to each subsequent depression with the sopping towel.

Using a hand mixer beat bananas, sugar, apple sauce, vanilla, oil and soymilk until a semi-smooth mixture results. Don't worry if there are still some discernible pieces of banana in the mix, unless you prefer removing all traces of your ingredients' former selves. I like a chunk of banana now and then.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients and gradually stir into the wet mixture until just mixed.

Evenly distribute batter into muffin tin and bake for about 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool slightly in tin before turning them out on a rack to cool completely.

Makes about 9 muffins depending on size of muffin tin.

Ginger is King

October 7, 2008

I am a ginger addict. Give me a baggie of crystallized ginger at the Co-Op and you will find me a few minutes later sweating and shaking in line while polishing off the last medallion. Restraint isn't my strong suit anyway and when it comes to ginger any attempt at moderation is a wasted ten seconds of self-delusion. I try to stick chopped crystallized ginger in pretty much anything I bake, even though the resultant pebbles of tongue-searing spice aren't everyone's flavor of choice. Occasionally even I will admit that the pleasure of consuming the ensuing baked good might have been heightened by the omission of ginger, but generally I make wise decisions where butter and sugar are concerned. Stumbling across the following ginger cookie recipe was one of the smartest things I ever did. I meant to post them last winter but my first batch didn't even see tupperware due to being scarfed down by myself and some dinner guests. While not as bitingly gingery as the previously-posted vegan ginger snaps adapted from How It All Vegan, these cookies still have a nice zing to them and are less dense and more cakey. They cook up perfectly every time with nice cracked tops and freeze very well. You might even want to eat them with a few tablespoons of apple butter for dipping. These are the lengths to which people who were deprived Dunk-a-roos will go.


Almost Vegan Apple Butter Ginger Cookies
I riff on this recipe, using yogurt for my egg replacer (hence the not quite vegan-ness, though of course you can use soy yogurt if that's your prerogative ) and adding sundry fillings as desired. Dried cherries do pretty well and I'm sure some chocolate wouldn't hurt things.
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup sugar (I use florida crystals)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger (or more)
4 Tbl canola oil
4 Tbl blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup unsweetend apple butter (I like Kime's)
1/4 cup yogurt (any kind will do, even non-fat. If you'd like to use another egg replacer just use however much evens out to one egg, i.e. 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer. I have not tried using a banana in these for fear of imparting an unwelcome banana taste but maybe the ginger would take care of that).
Turbinado sugar for dusting.
Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk together wet ingredients.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough balls roughly 1-2 Tbl in size and roll in sugar to coat. Evenly place on baking sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until the cookies appear set. Remove from oven, let cool on rack.

Makes approximately 24 cookies.