Monday, April 4, 2016

Three Ways to Bake with Bananas

Ripe bananas are regular residents on my kitchen counter – and in my freezer – and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to put the fruit to work in our daily diets.

We love banana bread, but I wanted to jazz up our snack and breakfast routine, and find ways to add more fiber and vitamins to my boys' between-meal munchies.

So I've been recipe testing. I've hit on three yummy ways to turn those sweet bananas into something special – in the form of cookies, blondies and muffins.

My boys and their friends tried these treats and gave them a thumbs up. They're also approved by several moms and a few dads, too!

Mangia! Mangia!

Oatmeal, Banana, Date & Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Inspired by this recipe from the Food Network.

Note: I made a few batches of these cookies. The kids didn't really like the original recipe (above). Adding banana and putting chocolate chunks on top made them a hit with the kiddos.

2 cups of rolled oats
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
2 medium to large bananas
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1 cup chocolate chunks or chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread oats on a baking sheet and bake in oven until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn or mix once during cooking time. Transfer toasted oats to a bowl to cool. Wait until you taste the nutty flavor the toasted oats add to the cookies!

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Beat sugar and butter on medium high speed until the mixture is slightly fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed. Add egg and vanilla and beat until very fluffy, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Add one banana and bet until fully combined. Set aside.

Add the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt to the mixing bowl with the oats. Whisk or stir to combine. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until just combined. Mash the second banana and stir it into the cookie dough with a wooden spoon. Add dates and 1/2 cup chocolate chunks or chips and mix by hand.

Drop level tablespoons of cookie dough on the baking sheet. Leave about 1 inch between cookies. (You should get 28 to 30 cookies out of this recipe.)

Top each cookie with 2 or 3 chocolate chunks.

Bake for about 12 minutes or just until cookies are a light golden color. Let cookies cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Chocolate-Bottom Banana Blondies
Inspired by this recipe from the New York Times.

Note: There seemed to be too many cookie crumbs and not enough butter the first time I made these blondies, so I tweaked the recipe a bit. I also left out the nuts because my boys won't eat them.

3 sticks unsalted butter, plus more to grease pan
2 1/2 to 3 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (you can make your own in a food processor.)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup white whole wheat flour
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-13 inch pan with parchment paper and grease with butter.

Melt 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of butter in the microwave or in a saucepan.

In a food processor, combine 2 1/2 cups cookie crumbs, melted butter, light brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Process until the mixture is like damp sand. If the mixture is too wet, add the rest of the cookie crumbs.

Dump cookie crumb mixture into prepared baking pan and spread out evenly. Press crumbs down into an even layer. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until the surface is firm. Remove from oven and set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of butter and let cook until foamy. Stir and continue to cook until the foam goes away and the melted butter turns a nutty brown color. (Hint: Use a metal or light colored pan so that you can see the color change when it happens.) Remove browned butter from heat and let it cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, brown sugar and vanilla. Add browned butter and whisk until incorporated. Add flour and salt and stir to combine. Pour mixture over the prepared crust and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt if using.

Place pan in pre-heated oven and bake until tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean, or whiter just a few crumbs attached, about 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.

Lift blondies out of pan using the edges of the parchment paper. Cut into squares (about 24) and indulge.

Healthy Banana Oat Muffins
From this Food Network recipe.

Note: These muffins were delicious the first time, but they seemed to dry out as they cooled, so I added more banana to keep them moist.

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rolled (old fashioned) oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 medium bananas and 1 smaller banana, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat and cook until it gets foamy. Continue cooking while stirring until the foam goes away and brown specks start to appear. Pour into mixing bowl and let cool.

In a large bowl combine flour, 1/2 cup of oats, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

To the browned butter, add sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add bananas and mix. A few lumps are OK.

Divide batter evenly among the muffins cups. Sprinkle remaining oats on top.

Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean – about 20 to 24 minutes. Cool in pan. Enjoy as a snack or for breakfast.

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