If you like to eat just the tops of your muffins, you will love these hearty, dense, and chewy banana muffin tops. They have the perfect balance of crispness from the crust and chewiness inside – like a cross between a cookie and a muffin. I usually make these muffin tops for breakfast (since they are only sweetened with bananas and dates), but they are also great as a snack.
Intense banana flavor is what I strive for when making banana bread or banana muffin tops. It’s the flavor that will make or break your banana-sweetened desserts. So if you want to make out-of-this-world banana bread/banana muffin tops, it’s important that you use the right ripeness of bananas. The ideal time to use bananas is when the skin is yellow and heavily coated with brown streaks or spots. The more ripe the bananas, the more starch has been converted to sugar (fructose)*. Green bananas are so high in starch and low in sugar that they can make your muffin tops crumbly, with a mouth-drying astringency. Those that are completely black or bruised can make for very dense, somewhat gummy muffin tops.
*If the bananas are ready to use, but you’re not quite ready to bake, put them in the refrigerator. The gas production slows down ethylene production significantly, reducing the ripening. This will buy you an extra couple of days.
As bananas ripen, much of their characteristic flavor and aroma comes from the development of a compound called eugenol. Baking mutes its flavor, which is why banana bread and banana muffins rarely taste as intense as the batter. According to Stella Parks, a renown pastry chef, eugenol-rich spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, can mitigate that loss, resulting in more banana-y baked goods.
According to Cook’s Illustrated a great way to intensify a banana flavor is to make banana syrup that requires microwaving bananas and reducing the resulting “banana juice”.
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t use green bananas. I have seen tips for roasting green under-ripe bananas in the oven in their skin for 30 minutes in a 350°F oven. This is supposed to concentrate their flavor and make them sweet. I tried it; their skin indeed darkened, but they tasted like green bananas, only mushy. So, be patient, trust the process, and use naturally over-ripe bananas. If green bananas are all you can find, just make apple cake and call it a day!
Tips for Making Banana Muffin Tops
Bananas are sweet, contain moisture, and have binding properties. That’s why they make a great substitute for added sugar, butter, and eggs in baked goods. As I already mentioned, the riper the banana, the better.
Ripe bananas are naturally very sweet, but not sweet enough to be the only sweetener. Medjool dates not only increase sweetness, but they also add moisture.
As far as “flour” goes, you can use rolled oats, quinoa flakes, buckwheat flakes, a mix of all three, it’s up to you … I like rolled oats for their texture and neutral flavor, but use mainly quinoa flakes because of their nutritional value. If you are going to use oats, I would recommend rolled oats over instant oats. Rolled oats provide more of a bite whereas instant oats get kind of list in the muffin tops. As eaters, we tend to downplay the importance of texture, but it really does affect our enjoyment of things.
Baking powder provides an extra lift, inflating the muffin tops up and out, so don’t leave it out.
Finally, the extracts and spices. I tend to go with vanilla extract (the classic), cinnamon, and eugenol-rich spices, namely cloves and nutmeg, to intensify the banana flavor.
I rely a lot on my high-speed blender and a food processor when I cook. Ideally, you would use one of those appliances to make these muffin tops. However, the good news is that if you buy already made date paste, you don’t really need any appliance to make this recipe. Simply mash the bananas with a fork, add the date paste, mix all the other ingredients in (I would probably use instant oats instead of rolled oats in this case), and you’ve got the banana muffin tops mixture ready in no time.
If you are using a food processor, you’ll need to make these muffin tops in two stages. First, puree the bananas and dates. I let my food processor run for a few minutes to get the dates form a nice smooth paste. Once you have the banana-date paste ready, use the pulse button to just incorporate all the other ingredients. The less you process the oats, the more texture you’ll get.
It’s important to note that there are many ways to increase texture. For instance, I like to use oat flour/quinoa flour in my banana bread (as opposed to rolled oats/quinoa flakes), but add chopped pecans for a little bit of crunch. Melt-y chocolate chips are a great addition too.
Bake the banana muffin tops at 350°F/175°C until firm on top and golden brown on the bottom.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Food Processor (Breville Sous Chef) | 2. Griddle (12-Inch, Lodge, Cast Iron) | 3. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 4. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 5. Measuring Cup (1 Cup, Anchor Hocking, Glass) | | 6. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 7. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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If you like to eat just the tops of your muffins, you will love these hearty, dense, and chewy banana muffin tops. They have the perfect balance of crispness from the crust and chewiness inside - like a cross between a cookie and a muffin. I usually make these muffin tops for breakfast (since they are only sweetened with bananas and dates), but they are also great as a snack.
Toast the pecans (optional). Heat a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Spread the pecans in a single layer. Toast the pecans, stirring occasionally, until nutty and crunchy, 3-5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the pecans. Set aside.
Blend the dates and bananas. Add the bananas, dates,, coconut oil, and vanilla extract into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
Prepare the batter. Add the quinoa flakes/rolled oats, baking powder, spices, and salt, and pulse until just combined. A few pulses are all you need. (If you're using rolled oats, you might want to pulse the mixture a little bit longer, so the oats are roughly chopped). Finally, fold in the pecans (optional).
Bake the muffin tops. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Using a large ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), spoon about 3 tablespoons of the batter onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Do not press the batter down - it should resemble a muffin top. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the muffin tops), or until golden brown on the bottom. Let cool completely before serving.
Store, Leftover muffin tops keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
*Quinoa has a very bold flavor, almost grass-like and a little bitter. If you don't like quinoa, you can gently toast it, which gives it a wonderful nutty flavor. You can also substitute the quinoa flakes for rolled oats, which are more neutral in flavor and yield fluffier muffin tops.
**Nutrition information is approximate and may contain errors. Please, feel free to make your own calculations.
**Nutrition information is calculated without optional ingredients.
This recipe has been adapted from Oh She Glows.