My baking drought's ended. Very definitely.
From reading my posts, you can probably see that I've steered clear of my oven for several long weeks now. A couple of months ago, when I was baking daily, that would have been considered impossible. How did I manage? A mixture of laziness and change of direction.
The difference is uni. These days, I'm either going to be too tired to cook (eat out instead - hence the increase in 'Dining Out' posts) or I'll be making something practical for dinner.
Baking is different to cooking meals. You need to be in the right mood. It's therapeutic and you're doing it for the fun of the process almost more so than the end product. The results from baking are things like cakes, bars and muffins, which are best shared and consumed in times of happiness. After a full day of clinic, I might be in the mood for pigging out mindlessly on chocolate but nothing more sophisticated than that.
Today, I'm looking forward to the last week of term (next week) and a happy Easter week spent in Sydney. I had a spare afternoon to rest and relax and I rediscovered the baking bug. It started with the coffee and almond cake but I moved onto banana muffins.
In truth, I've been meaning to bake banana and bran muffins this whole week. I've got a ridiculous number of bananas that are turning more and more brown by the day. Not meaning to ramble on but I've got another short story to share...
A couple of weeks ago, I got it into my head that it'd be so easy to make a 'healthy' banana bread that I wouldn't even need a recipe. I mixed together an unidentified amount of wholemeal flour, rolled oats, mashed banana, soy milk and yogurt with a bit of baking powder. I popped the batter (in a tin) into the oven and incorrectly predicted a baking miracle wherein I'd end up with a delicious yet healthy loaf that had no need for oil/butter or sugar.
What resulted was basically a solid, rubbery brick of banana-ish matter. I took a bite and threw the rest out before it even cooled. Very unfortunate waste of ingredients but yes, I've learnt my lesson.
I began my bran muffins by first finding a reliable recipe. This one on Exclusively Food sounded perfect. I altered the base recipe simply because I had more banana than their recipe specified. Overall, I just increased all the quantities. In terms of procedure, I didn't add the dates in at the beginning. I made a plain bran and banana batter and divided it into several portions. Each portion was then 'altered' so that when I'm having these for breakfast next week, I'm not going to be bored.
Assorted Banana Bran Muffins
Makes 6 muffins and a mini loaf (yes, that's a lot of batter)
- 1 and 1/4 cup of All Bran cereal
- 1 cup mashed banana (chose dark, speckled ripe ones)
- 1 cup skim milk (I used fat-free soy milk)
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 3 tbsp neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup self raising flour
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
1. In a large bowl, mix together the All Bran, banana, milk, sugar, golden syrup, vanilla extract, oil and egg. Stir to break up the egg yolk completely. Sit this bowl aside for 10min or so to let the All Bran soften up.2. Add the flours and baking soda. Mix gently - be careful not to over-mix though because that makes muffins tough. It doesn't matter if the mixture is lumpy (actually, expect it to be lumpy because after all, there is All Bran and banana bits in there)
3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line the muffin pans. Grease the mini-loaf tin.
4. Divide the batter mixture in a way so that you can incorporate add-ins. I went for:
- Chopped dates
- Trail mix (fruit and nut combo)
- Almond and coconut (I used a mixture of whole almonds, flaked almonds and shredded coconut)
- Walnuts (classic - I used the walnut batter for the mini loaf)
5. Cool in the tin for 5min before turning the muffins (or loaf) out onto a rack
to cool completely.
Note: these muffins can be refrigerated or wrapped tightly in cling-wrap and frozen.
I associate 'bran muffins' with 'dry and miserable' but these ones aren't dry or bitter. Of course, they don't rise as high as store-bought ones and they aren't very sweet but that's alright because the add-ins make them interesting. They aren't the most exciting sweet snacks you'll ever taste but as long as you don't compare with full fat and sugar muffins, you shouldn't be too disappointed.
I'll be having one for breakfast every day next week so I'll follow up on this post then.