Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Lately, at my office, we are awash in overripe bananas. The company provides fresh fruit for us throughout the week, but I think someone has been buying too many bananas, because every Friday, there are dozens of speckled brown ones left over, and everyone starts trying to persuade everyone else to take some home, make banana bread over the weekend, and bring it in on Monday morning (there aren’t too many cooks in my department, but a lot of enthusiastic eaters). I’ve never been a huge fan of bananas or banana bread, but I also can’t resist the siren song of free, perfectly good fruit in danger of going to waste. If my freezer wasn’t already insanely full, I’d take every last one of those poor orphaned bananas and save them for a rainy day. As it is, when last Friday rolled around and no one seemed to be stepping up to the banana-bread-making plate, I figured I’d better take a shot at it.

I got it into my head that what I really wanted was coconut banana bread, and I found this recipe at Baking Bites that seemed to fit the bill. Actually, I wanted coconut banana muffins, because I like muffins so much better than loaves of bread—they’re cute, they’re perfectly portioned and portable, and they stay fresh longer. Usually I try to follow a recipe exactly on the first try, particularly when I’m planning to feed it to other people, but I knew that quick-bread recipes usually translate pretty well to making muffins, as long as you decrease the baking time. I took an even bigger risk by deciding I didn’t want to fool with buying a can of coconut milk and then only using a little bit of it. The original blog post mentioned you could use plain milk, but the flavor would be less coconutty. Then I had a brainwave—I have coconut extract in the cupboard, so why not add a little of that to amp the flavor back up?

I’m relieved to say that my experimentation worked perfectly and the muffins were awesome. I made some plain ones, too, from the Baking Bites basic banana bread recipe, because I know there are weirdos who don’t like coconut, and they were certainly good, but the coconut ones were the clear favorite—the container I’d brought was cleaned out by the end of the day. (Luckily, I’d hoarded a few at home in the freezer for A and me.) The flavors were perfect together, and the coconut ensured an extra- tender texture. I will admit the muffins were on the verge of being too sweet for me—if I were to make these regularly (and I’ll hazard a guess that they will indeed replace the tasty-enough-but-slightly-fussy banana-nut muffins as my go-to banana-bread recipe), I would experiment with either reducing the sugar slightly or using unsweetened coconut (although the unsweetened coconut I’ve seen is always dry—would that detract from the moistness of the muffins?). Still, that’s a mild complaint; in all other respects, these are a slam dunk.

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana (2 medium-large bananas)
½ cup coconut milk (or ½ cup milk and ¼ teaspoon coconut extract)
¼ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease two muffin tins or line them with cupcake wrappers.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until well combined, then whisk in the mashed banana, coconut milk (or plain milk and coconut extract), butter, and vanilla.

4. Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until just combined, making sure no streaks of flour remain. Stir in shredded coconut.

5. Pour batter into muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or with only a few moist crumbs attached). Remove muffins from tins and cool on wire racks.

Yield: About 16
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: High. Stored in the freezer, these will keep for weeks.

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