Thursday, March 25, 2010

Banana Bread Muffins with Chocolate Pecan Streusel

I was going to call this Banana Bread with Derby Streusel, as in "Derby" Pie, but interestingly enough that name is a readily defended registered trademark of Kern's Kitchen. Sheesh. I thought it was just the common name given to that delectable combination of chocolate and pecans (or walnuts).

Anywho... how did I even get to that combination? Here goes:

At the end of last week, having heard that the coming weekend was going to be absolutely (uncharacteristically) beautiful, some friends had mentioned wanting to go for a picnic. So as if captive to some sort of mind-control device implanted by the cult of domesticity, I felt compelled to bake something that traveled well,  like muffins.

I clearly must have been coerced, because I got up before 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and started to bake... The night before, as you can guess by now, was less than filled with debauchery. Instead, I spent it scouring the internet looking for a recipe--specifically one for banana bread/muffins because I happened to have amassed a collection of bananas from the dining hall. Because I still had buttermilk in my mini-fridge that I needed to use up, I made that a criterion as well.

Muffin tin ready to go into the oven next to my sustenance

Eventually, I pieced together an idea of what I wanted to create. Rose's "Best Ever Banana Bread" recipe for buttermilk banana bread sounded like... the best. To make it even bester, though, I wanted to use Brown Eyed Baker's brilliant idea for a nut streusel topping that she uses to jazz up her Bananas Foster Banana Bread (which I've made in its entirety and is delicious.  I might have some pictures lying around somewhere. It was definitely pretty enough to warrant them...). For my streusel, I wanted to use two elements, pecans and mini chocolate chips, because they are two flavors that work extremely well together, as I first experienced in a Derby Pie (TM?).

Besides adding some goodies to the top of the muffins, though, I decided to throw some pecans and mini chocolate chips into the batter (because who didn't start eating banana bread because there were chocolate chips in it?). I also added pudding mix (although jello mix might work, Blair ;) ) to keep it moist because I wanted to cut out some of the oil with all these extra goodies going in. Or, because I ran out of vanilla extract, but still wanted to have that smooth flavor behind the banana. But I can pretend that I'm health-conscious, right?

Even if I admitted these were the least healthy form bananas could ever take (besides deep fried, I guess), these little muffins (they really were too small...) are worth it. The cult of domesticity would be pleased. My suitemates certainly were. As was my nose, right from when I first toasted the pecans for the streusel to the end when I brought the muffins upstairs to finish cooling. The mixture of toasted pecans, banana, vanilla, cinnamon, butter and brown sugar was just decadent... Can a smell be decadent? The muffins were, for sure. But the smell made everything--like the fact that I had gotten up at 8:30--perfectly okay. To use the words Alex Guarnaschelli (Food Network's Chopped, exec. chef at Butter, NYC) once used to describe the perfect cannoli: the scent wafting up from these muffins as they cooled on the windowsill, mixed with the fresh spring air and sunlight coming through the window "fixed the universe". Really. You should try it sometime.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Pecan Streusel



2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup minus 2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups mashed bananas (3-4 medium very ripe bananas)
1/2 3.4 oz. package vanilla pudding mix
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Streusel topping:

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1/2 to 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 tbs. butter, softened


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray one 9x5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray coating. Or line about two dozen muffin cups with paper liners.
2. Blend together streusel ingredients in a medium bowl using your hands to make it crumbly with the butter evenly distributed.
3. In a large bowl, blend together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, bananas and pudding mix.
4. Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Mix well.
5. Pour into prepared loaf pan (or muffin tins) and sprinkle streusel evenly on top.
6. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes (about 18 minutes for muffins) or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.


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