spiced banana muffins with chopped walnuts and turbinado sugar

"When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins"
-Oscar Wilde

   If you think about things that might be especially difficult to do in pandemicy times like these, what comes to mind? Moving, perhaps? Definitely, right? And yet here we are, still in the grasp of a pandemic, and here I am, moving. And let me tell you, this has not been easy to arrange from self-isolation. It is just plain difficult to coordinate all of the aspects of a move when the whole world is still upended. Regardless of the complication, however, moving to a new place in a new area feels like an exciting step forward in a time where everything can sometimes feel halting, hesitant and sluggish. 

   As with any move, I've been forced to look at all of the things that I have and reassess what will work and what won't, what is necessary and what's needed, and it's hard. Specifically, the difficulty lies in regards to kitchen stuff. I can Marie Kondo my heart out when it comes to every other category and make a respectable dent, but I will hold onto anything cooking-related with the tenacity of a freaking boa constrictor. I've probably used my jalapeño corer twice in the last five years, but you better believe it's coming with me.

   This whole moving house thing has got me thinking about the things that I absolutely couldn't live without in my kitchen. High up on my list is my bench scraper, which is a dull rectangular tool with a grip on the top which is used for portioning and lifting dough, gathering and transporting chopped ingredients with ease and, you guessed it, scraping down your work bench/cutting board. The thing that I love most about the one I have is that it has little sides on it that makes scooping up ingredients from your cutting board and transferring them to a bowl or pan without dropping stuff everywhere completely effortless. It rings in at around $10 and makes prep exponentially easier,- if you don't have one, get one. Another must-have for me are silicone muffin and cake pans. With a silicone pan, it's substantially less likely that the fruit of your hard labours will get stuck to the pan during baking and subsequently get ruined beyond recognition during removal. We've all been there and, frankly, it sucks. Plus they're dishwasher-safe, stackable (and thus space-saving), economical and great for everything from cakes to breads, and meatloafs to personal crustless quiches.

   The kitchen item which holds the ultimate place in my heart, however, is my set of dishers. Also known as portion scoops or cookie scoops, dishers have made tasks like portioning muffin batter, cupcake batter and cookie dough a freaking breeze. Everything is easy, neat, and it's all evenly portioned, which means two things: 1. everything cooks evenly and at the same pace and 2. you end up with the number of pieces that you're supposed to get out of a recipe. Dishers aren't just for baked goods, either,- they come in a seemingly-endless variety of sizes and, as such, they're amazing for portioning out things like mashed potatoes for croquettes, rice for arancini, salad fillings for wraps or sandwiches, fillings for ravioli, fruit preserves for yoghurt parfaits, and etc. They're dishwasher safe, economical and just plain amazing. If you don't own any, I'd highly suggest picking up a few in various sizes. 100% worth it.

   And so we come, in a roundabout way, to today's recipe for spiced banana muffins with chopped walnuts and turbinado sugar. The easiest way to scoop the batter into the muffin cups is with a 4oz disher, but a 1/2 c measuring cup will work as a decent substitute if you don't have one on hand. These banana muffins are something special even without the addition of any of the suggested optional add-ins, which include walnuts, whiskey, chocolate chips and/or maple extract. A hint of cinnamon and ground cardamom gives this recipe a level of complexity and depth that sets these muffins apart from your average, workaday banana muffin while the turbinado sugar and walnut topping adds an intriguing, crunchy texture that compliments the incredibly moist interior. They require minimal prep, are easy to make, preservative free, endlessly adaptable and, best of all, they freeze great. All-in-all the recipe is a winner, so go bananas *nudge, nudge*.

spiced banana muffins with chopped walnuts and turbinado sugar 

Makes: 7 large muffins     Prep time: 20 mins     Total time: 1 hour

  • 2 cups all purpose flour or gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 bananas, mashed thoroughly
Optional add-ins, choose up to two:
  1. ½ cup chopped walnuts
  2. 1/3c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  3. 1 tbsp whiskey
  4. 1/4tsp maple extract
Optional toppings:
  • 1/3C chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/4C turbinado sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. In a medium-small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
  3. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar and vegetable oil until well combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. The mixture will be a bit thick and dry at this point, so don't be alarmed.
  5. Add the milk, vanilla extract and well-mashed bananas and mix until just incorporated. Add in your chosen optional add-ins and stir until they're distributed evenly throughout the batter.
  6. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with 7 tulip muffin liners. Alternate between leaving empty cups in the tray and lining the cups with muffin liners in order to enable space for the heat of the oven to circulate more evenly in-between the baked goods. 
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the 7 tulip muffin liners, placing 4oz or 1/2c of batter in each. If you have a fisher/scoop of this size, take advantage,- it'll be exponentially quicker and neater.
  8. Top each muffin with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and/or turbinado sugar.
  9. Place one to two muffin trays on the centre rack of your oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan in the oven halfway through. Don't place additional trays on other racks as it'll affect cooking times and result in unevenly-cooked muffins. Check your muffins at the 30 minute mark and periodically afterwards, and remove them when the muffins are cooked through/ when a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.
  10. Allow the muffins to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before diving in,- they're going to be hot. Enjoy!

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