Lots of my friends tell me that they can't bake. Not just that they don't, but that they actually can't. I try not to let my eyebrows twitch upwards. "Of course you can," I think.
You know, I think The Great British Bake Off has a lot to answer for. I fondly remember the first series, when the contestants were asked to bake a Victoria sandwich and a batch of scones. They pushed the boundaries with their flavour combos, and their ability to do the simpe things well meant success. I got that. I made those things. It was accessible. Now, these folk have to whip up bread sculptures, 20-odd layer German tree cakes and biscuit replicas of national monuments! I'm all for aspiration, but none of that does much for the confidence of those who feel they are skill-deficient in the baking arena.
If you think about it, most of the awkward tecniques in traditional baking are all to do with the eggs (whisking to soft peaks, folding in dry ingredients, beating into a warm mixture without scrambling) and the gluten (kneading and proving bread dough, not overmixing muffins, etc.) So in my quest for wacky, wonderful bakes, lots of these issues are avoided. Hoorah! And, whilst I do enjoy the ocassional kitchen faff, I much prefer a bish-bash-bosh approach to baking. Ideally, one that takes less than 20 minutes from cupboards to oven, including the washing up.
So, for those of you who reckon you can't bake, I challenge you to try just one recipe this week - and why not make it a healthier one? My courgette and banana muffins were the happy solution to a two-fold problem: lots of squishy bananas and a couple of bendy courgettes (that's zucchini if you're across 'the pond'). I also had some applesauce (I've decided to go with the one-word version, as if it's a technical term and therefore negates proper usage) that hadn't made it to the freezer yet.
I generally try to avoid baking with bananas unless I'm making something that's out-and-out banana-ey. I find that they take over and are all you can taste. In these muffins though, you can't really taste the banana or the courgette. What's the point then, you may ask! Well, they're quite neutral in flavour, so they can pass for sweet or savoury (although I've put in options to make them sweeter), and they are packed full of goodness. There's no butter or oil and they can easily be adapted to suit gluten-free or vegan diets. They're also quite filling, portable, versatile, umm, and they have not yet been proven incapable of solving World Peace. Ahem.
So I bished, I bashed and I boshed. You should totally do the same...
Courgette & Banana Muffins (GF & vegan options)
makes 18 regular or 12 biiig muffins
what you'll need
3 large bananas, mashed
1 cup finely grated courgette (I used 2 small, bendy ones)
1 egg (for a vegan option, replace with a chia or flax 'egg')
¾ cup applesauce
optional: 1 TBSP vanilla extract and/or 3 TBSP maple syrup if you want sweeter muffins
½ cup wholewheat spelt flour*½ cup rye flour*
½ cup coconut flour*
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp baking soda
1 cup oatmeal (aka oat flour, aka ground oats)
½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
optional: you can also add a couple of handfuls of raisins or other dried fruits, some desiccated coconut, some chopped nuts or a mixture of all three. In fact, just throw anything you fancy in there and see how they turn out!
a muffin tray (or two), lined with paper cases, an oven preheated to 180°C and a cooling rack
*If you've just got plain wheat flour, use that (although I recommend that you trade up to wholewheat as your cupboard staple). If you've just got plain wholewheat flour, use that (although I recommend that you trade up to wholewheat spelt as your cupboard staple - see what happened there?). You can use 1½ cups wholewheat spelt flour.
If you need a gluten-free version, use your favourite GF flour blend, although remember that you will lose a lot of the wholesome character (and nutrients) if you use a white rice and corn-based pre-mix. I may update this with my own blend suggestions when I get a damn chance.
what you'll do
- combine the wet ingredients (bananas, courgettes, applesauce, egg & vanilla/syrup) in a large mixing bowl (no need for an electric mixer here)
- in a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Tip in any bran and oatmeal goodness left in the sieve.
- stir together (adding any optional extras at this point) until combined and spoon into the muffin cases
- bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer/toothpick comes out clean
- cool on a wire rack then store in the fridge
These wholesome, hearty muffins would be great with some yoghurt for breakfast or on their own as a filling snack on the go. As I say, they're subtle in flavour and, if you go for the standard version, they aren't particularly sweet - think replacement for bread or bagel as opposed to coffee shop cake. I've had two for breakfast spread with peanut butter and another two with a fried egg (no, on a separate day, you cheeky beggar). How will you eat yours? Leave a comment or let me know on facebook. Enjoy!