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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chocolate Banana Muffins with Cayenne

Having just done a chocolate banana muffin in the January challenge, there was no need to do it again so soon, but ripe bananas beckoned, and this recipe sounded interesting.  It calls for browning the butter, and while I love the idea, and it is probably delicious in plain banana bread, that rich, nutty flavor wasn't detectable over the chocolate and chili.  (Update:  a plain browned-butter banana bread was good, but not unique.  You can read that post here.)  For future reference I have omitted that step from the recipe here.  Other changes I made:  cut the original in half and made muffins from it, reduced the sugar by half, added whole wheat flour, used regular cocoa powder (not sure what "dark chocolate" powder is...  Dutch? higher cocoa content? whatever), added a bit of espresso powder, and reduced the total quantity of chocolate chips.  I also changed the preparation technique to reduce cleanup.  Changes from an exact 1/2 recipe are shown in strikeout and italics.

Here's what I used:

1/4 cup salted butter, browned and cooled to room temperature softened
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 1/4 cup sugar
1½  over-ripe bananas cut into pieces, plus ½ banana sliced for garnish
7/8 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
7/8 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and lightly flour muffin tins, or use silicone liners.  (No need to prepare the liners.)  In a medium bowl using an electric mixer at high speed, combine the butter, eggs, salt, sugar, and banana pieces until well blended and there are no large lumps.  (The banana will get mashed in the mixing process, so no need to mash before hand.)  Onto a plate or waxed paper, sift together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, espresso powder, and cayenne.   Sift a second time directly into the mixing bowl.   Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there are still streaks of dry mix, then add the chocolate chips and fold in until everything is evenly blended.  Do not over mix.  Spoon into 7 muffin tins or liners, filling them nearly to the top. Top each with a slice of banana, if desired.  (Why not?  You have that extra half just sitting there.)  Bake on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

In general, I liked the changes I made.  I thought these had far too many chocolate chips even with the reduced quantity, and in fact would leave them out altogether.  If you want this as a dessert, I suppose you could leave them in, but for me it was too much.  The quantity of chili heat was good, but I'm not entirely sure it added to the recipe.  Try as I might, I'm still not entirely on board the chili-in-my-sweets bandwagon.  I very much like the chili-mango candies I've had, and I liked the outcome of my pineapple-chipotle scones.  And I finally found a chili-chocolate bar that I really like.  But generally I think too many people are trying to shoehorn chili into places it doesn't belong, or when they don't have the skill to incorporate it well.  Chili should mingle flawlessly into the other flavors and marry with them, but too often it stands separate, not clashing, but not joining either.  This would be one of those times.

Too many chips.

The fresh banana slice on top prevents these from keeping well, so if you're not going to eat them the same day (or within one day, at the latest), omit it.  Or at the very least, store these in the refrigerator, but the tops will get quite soft from the moisture.

Conclusion:  Very good, but I think they could be better.  Perhaps slightly more intense flavor than the ones made for the January challenge, but hard to compare because of the chili and all the chocolate.

Original recipe:  Dark Chocolate Banana Bread with Cayenne at Baker Bettie

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