I was never a big soap opera fan and never got caught up in any of the story lines or characters of the main shows of the time, but for some reason during my last year of high school (I'm not divulging how long ago that was) I started watching an episode here and there of The Bold and the Beautiful, and got hooked. I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with a certain dark-haired, manly, though perfectly coifed, main character with a jaw line you could slice cheese on. There was just something mesmerizing about the show for me, and I was hooked for a year of two (what did he see in her...or her...I mean really!).
So, what do banana nut muffins and a soap opera have in common? Well, for some reason while baking and subsequently admiring these lovelies, that show title came to mind, and it seemed fitting...these banana muffins are definitely bold and beautiful, slightly addictive, somewhat nutty, and a great way to wind down in the afternoon with a cup of tea or coffee. Where the muffins and show part company however is on Good For You Street (muffins good, ongoing daytime soapie emotional drama bad). The muffins are packed with full-on, one might even say bold banana and toasted walnut flavors, carried on a sweet, moist and slightly dense (but not heavy) cloud of whole wheat goodness, and are blessed with a mesmerizing spice aroma and exterior that are, simply, beautiful. However, unlike some other stars out there, these lovelies get their good looks, eh hem, naturally.
OK, so I admit to some minor photoshopping, but there was no airbrushing or reducing of waist sizes (or other types of enhancements shall we say) in any of the photos...simply minor touch-ups. They really are beautiful all by themselves, and achieved their lovely domes without the use of any artificial elements (baking soda is natural, right?)
Although made with 100% whole wheat flours, they are surprisingly moist and tender. You will forget about all the good-for-you ingredients packed in there once you take a bite, as these are simply tops in the flavor department...the good for you aspect is just a happy side bar. The story line here is favorite bakery muffin, even though the credits roll with names like 'whole wheat pastry flour', 'olive oil', 'agave'.
I made both regular and jumbo-sized muffins. You could also bake this in a loaf pan and serve in slices. I personally prefer the muffins or bread plain, but a thin skim of butter is also quite divine. If you prefer a lighter texture in the muffin, half of the whole wheat could be substituted out for regular all-purpose flour. I like the dense nature, though, as they then become, when paired with a warm cup of tea or coffee, or a cold glass of milk, a mini-meal, a healthy snack, a protein and fiber-rich, healthy carb breakfast, pre-exercise energy boost or school-run pick-me-up. They can be celebrated so many ways!
Here they are posing for their close-ups...
As previously mentioned, the texture is definitely more quick-bread than cake-like. I tried to capture the moist quality of the interior, with the little bits of banana, but the pictures really don't do them justice. The yogurt in the recipe helps balance out some of the naturally heavier and drier nature of the whole wheat flour with some much-needed moisture. I also use a high quantity of bananas for both flavor and moisture. It is important not to over-bake these as they don't brown as much when using a high proportion of whole wheat flour, so you have to take them out when only just done (use a wooden skewer) and not when they look done. And you are sifting your dry ingredients, right? It helps make a lighter, more airy crumb.
The coconut oil adds just a hint of 'tropical' to these muffins that most people are hard-pressed to identify, but they just know they taste good. You could certainly use butter if you prefer or if you don't have any coconut oil, but coconut oil is also a heart-healthy fat (along with the olive oil), so I urge you to give it a try. I mean, dear friends, I worked hard to substitute out a whole stick of butter out of the original recipe.
The toasted walnuts and spices are the necessary bling here, or the dramatic music equivalent in the show. They bring a flavor complexity and warmth that would be so missed if they weren't there. Think soap opera without the da-da-daaaaaaaaaaaaa moments. The nuts also add protein and some heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, but I prefer to refer to them as muffin bling...much more glamorous (but still healthy and good for you). And I simply love freshly grated nutmeg and ground coriander in just about everything these days. The smells and flavors are intoxicating (more where-were-you-20-years-ago kind of things that I've recently discovered and am now totally enamored with).
Bold and beautiful banana nut muffins. Bake them....you will be hooked, a fan, who knows...maybe even a groupie.
Banana Nut Muffins:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup natural sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon banana extract (it's not cheating, I just like LOTS of banana flavor)
4 medium very ripe bananas (black skin is good), at least 1 1/2 cups mashed
1/4 cup agave
2 large organic eggs
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt (not no-fat)
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or just use two cups total of whatever flour combination you like)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup toasted walnut pieces
Toast the walnut pieces in a 350 degree oven until lightly brown and fragrant, about 15 to 20 minutes (watch carefully). Set aside.
Cream the butter and natural sugar in a mixing bowl at medium speed for about 5 minutes. While the butter is beating, melt the coconut oil in a small bowl. After five minutes of beating, reduce the mixer to low and add the coconut oil, olive oil, and extracts. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beater as necessary. Add the bananas, pulled apart into pieces, one by one. Add the agave and yogurt. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Sift all the dry ingredients including spices onto a piece of wax paper. Lift up the paper, forming a chute, and add to the wet ingredients, beating on slow, and mixing until only just blended. Do not over mix. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chopped walnuts. Scoop into jumbo muffin cups, regular muffin pans, or loaf pans; you can fill pretty close to the top as they don't spread. Remember to use muffin papers or to grease your pans. Top with the remaining nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes for the jumbo muffins, about 20 minutes for the smaller muffins. Bake only until a wooden skewer just comes out dry. Cool in the pan on a rack for just five minutes, then remove from the pans (for muffins). Cool for 10 to 15 minutes for the loaf pans. Remove to a rack to finish cooling (or eat warm).