Back when we lived in Los Angles, I worked as a corporate recruiter. One afternoon Kristina – my early morning Target girlfriend – brought homemade banana pudding in to the office. She sent out an email inviting office mates to partake in the afternoon treat. We worked with this one woman who was, um, often without tact. She showed up to get some pudding and was found it was already gone. We indicated it had been so popular that it went quickly. She loudly declared “well then maybe knowing it would have been in demand, Kristina could have made more”. Yeah.
Kristina would make and share banana pudding from time to time when she had bananas about to go bad. Growing up, we never made banana bread (zuchinni, yes), so I never really knew that bananas past their prime made the perfect ingredient for baked goods and desserts. When faced with extra-squishy ‘nanas, we transfer them to the freezer to use in smoothies. With a freezer full of bananas, I needed a new outlet for our increasingly steady supply of bananas that were circling the drain. I decided that for quick breakfasts and snacks, banana muffins may just be the definition of perfect. And that they should be whole wheat. So I made muffins. And muffins. And more muffins. Half of the batches were too dense. Some of them lacked flavor, and some just looked like a hot freaking mess. I believe I went through a whopping 11 variations of this recipe before finding exactly what I was looking for; a whole wheat banana muffin with a full-bodied flavor, was light and fluffy, and didn’t sink in the middle like a deflated hockey puck.
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Whole wheat makes these muffins hearty and filling. The banana makes use of fruit that is past its prime. And the chocolate chips just make them feel decadent.
- 2 very ripe peeled bananas
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
- 1/4 cup sugar, organic if you can find it
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- pinch kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the bananas until mostly smooth. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla, and butter milk, and mix to combine.
In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the dry ingredients, excluding chocolate chips.
With the mixer on low/stir, add the dry ingredients, and mix until barely combined. There may be a bit of flour mixture left unincorporated; that's ok. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula, gently making sure all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Set the bowl aside and don't mess with it. This allows the baking powder and vital wheat gluten to do their thing and create bubbles in the batter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan, or grease the muffin pan if going without paper lines. Once the oven is preheated, fill each section of the muffin pan about three-quarters full with the batter. Bake for 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then remove and place on a cooling rack.
A few of my favorite tips, tricks, and tools used in this recipe:
- These muffin liners. My aunt introduced this brand to me, and I love their liners and parchment. They’re fully compostable, and nothing sticks to them. Seriously, they rule and are super reasonably priced.
- A muffin scoop, which honestly sounds like the most inadvertently dirty thing ever. I use mine for muffins (duh), but also pancakes.
- Allow whole wheat mixes to rest a bit after making them. Do you remember being a kid and taking the biggest bubble bath ever? When you’d use your hand to scoop the bubbles, the suds would make a very distinct crackling sound, right? That is what your batter should sound like when you scoop in to it. By allowing the mix to rest for 10 minutes after creating it, you let the glutens do their sciencey thing and produce air bubbles. Those bubbles are the difference between a fluffy muffin (gross) and a dense piece of hardtack.
- My grain mill. Converting wheat berries in to fresh whole wheat flour is one of my favorite things. I just push a button and it does its work, but I always feel like a genius when I open the lid and there is flour in there. My Wondermill is one of my hardest working kitchen tools. If you’re sans grain mill, simply look for whole wheat pastry flour in the baking section of any grocery store.
- Vital wheat gluten is the whole wheat baker’s best friend. It produces soft and bouncy whole wheat baked goods. You use 1 tbsp per 1 cup of whole wheat flour. It’s made from unicorn tears, so expect big things.
- The natural sweetness of the bananas, means very little sugar is needed to make these delicious. You could do without, but after so many variations of this recipe, I found a scant 1/4 cup of organic sugar was the perfect balance.
- If you don’t have buttermilk, simply mix a splash of white vinegar in to regular milk, stir and let sit for a few minutes. I use a ratio of 1 tsp vinegar to 1 cup of milk. This recipe would call for 1/4 tsp of vinegar to 1/4 cup of regular milk.
- You can easily leave the chocolate chips out if you’d like. I put them in there to make them a bit more attractive to Jack and my nephew, but for Bennett I pick around the chocolate and just give him the banana part. And since I don’t like food waste, I go ahead and take care of those chocolate chips in my chocolate composting unit. That’s what I call my mouth.
To store the muffins, allow to fully cool and transfer to an air-tight container. Whole wheat goodies tend to dry out a bit faster than their white flour cousins. They’ll be just fine for about two/three days on the counter. Any longer than that, and I would freeze them. I always have a bag of these in the freezer for quick breakfasts. A 20 second zap in the microwave, or an hour sitting on the counter will thaw them out, and allow them to be enjoyed morning after morning.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to trademark the name “muffin scoop” as a band name.