Banana and Nutella Swirl Muffins

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Oh, the dreary January weather has hit Brussels. And how. It’s true couch-weather, surely one shouldn’t be allowed to go to work on dreary, cold January days, which scream out for blankets and cocoa and movies and naps. I’ve decided to leave my Christmas decorations up until at least my birthday, which is later this month. I feel as though January-weather makes cosy, twinkly lights even more imperative than December-weather does, and I’m not completely ready to let go of Christmas just yet.

According to an old Danish and Swedish Christmas song from around 1700, Nu er det jul igen (‘it’s Christmas again’), Christmas lasts all the way till Easter, except it’s broken by the Lent. Danes traditionally dance around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, holding hands and singing Christmas carols, and this song is one of the more up-tempo ones, where we keep changing direction as we’re singing, and everyone gets winded and confused! It may sound a bit nuts, but it’s super fun, and apparently this type of dancing, where you hold hands and almost run, is called a kehraus, dates back all the way to the 1750s, and is rooted in an even older kind of folk dancing from the middle ages (says this article, unfortunately in Danish, from the National Union for Danish Folk Dancers’ magazine! I find the fact that such a union exists extremely comforting, for some reason!). People used to do this not strictly at Christmas, but whenever there was a celebration such as a wedding, first in their home, and then around the entire village, holding hands. And Nu er det jul igen has become the most popular ‘jule-kehraus’ (Christmas kehraus) 🙂

Anyways, my ‘when should Christmas be over’ musings brought the song lyrics to my mind, and the line about fasting/Lent piqued my curiosity. So I took to Google, and according to wikipedia, Lent is only really observed in Catholicism, not in Protestantism, which is the main form of Christianity in Denmark. Not that I’m very, if at all, religious, mind you – but in Denmark you become a member of the Danish Church when you’re baptised, which I was, and Christmas was, traditionally, a religious holiday… even if now it’s become more cultural than religious, to most people I know. But should you observe Lent, the interwebs tell me that it begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on the 10th of February this year. So as far as I’m concerned, keeping Christmas lights up for the better part of January is completely reasonable, Lent or no Lent.

I’ve nearly reached the bottom of my Christmas cookie tins, so it’s time to fill my tummy and pantry with other comforting baked goods, in the name of Winter. I saw a recipe for Nutella financiers on Instagram, which looked delicious and made my mind go one step further, to some kind of beautiful banana and Nutella mess. So again I Googled, and came upon this recipe which I had to try. Nutella swirls? Yes please. The original recipe said it makes for 12, but I made 1 ½ portions to bring some to work with me as well. But I ended up with 30 little muffins! So I guess one portion makes for 20 🙂 I also put in slightly less Nutella because I figured my muffins must be smaller, since there were more of them… but next time I’m going to put a full tsp in each, as the Nutella is really what makes this muffin… I’m also going to put in more bananas, as I found that I wouldn’t mind an even moister and more banana-y muffin. Once I’ve experimented further, I will update this post posthaste 🙂

Banana and Nutella Swirl Muffins
Adapted from myrecipes.com – yield: 20 little muffins

  • 250 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour or a mixture of all-purpose and whole-wheat (I used all all-purpose)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 115 g (8 tablespoons/1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (as mentioned above, I’m going to use 4, next time)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 75 g (2/3 cup) chopped walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts (I used hazelnuts)
  • 20 tsp Nutella

Anyways, my ‘when should Christmas be over’ musings brought the song lyrics to my mind, and the line about fasting/Lent piqued my curiosity. So I took to Google, and according to wikipedia, Lent is only really observed in Catholicism, not in Protestantism, which is the main form of Christianity in Denmark. Not that I’m very, if at all, religious, mind you – but in Denmark you become a member of the Danish Church when you’re baptised, which I was, and Christmas was, traditionally, a religious holiday… even if now it’s become more cultural than religious, to most people I know. But should you observe Lent, the interwebs tell me that it begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on the 10th of February this year. So as far as I’m concerned, keeping Christmas lights up for the better part of January is completely reasonable, Lent or no Lent.

I’ve nearly reached the bottom of my Christmas cookie tins, so it’s time to fill my tummy and pantry with other comforting baked goods, in the name of Winter. I saw a recipe for Nutella financiers on Instagram, which looked delicious and made my mind go one step further, to some kind of beautiful banana and Nutella mess. So again I Googled, and came upon this recipe which I had to try. Nutella swirls? Yes please. The original recipe said it makes for 12, but I made 1 ½ portions to bring some to work with me as well. But I ended up with 30 little muffins! So I guess one portion makes for 20 🙂 I also put in slightly less Nutella because I figured my muffins must be smaller, since there were more of them… but next time I’m going to put a full tsp in each, as the Nutella is really what makes this muffin… I’m also going to put in more bananas, as I found that I wouldn’t mind an even moister and more banana-y muffin. Once I’ve experimented further, I will update this post posthaste 🙂

Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F, and line your muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for a few minutes, then beat in the eggs, bananas and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour a bit at a time, then fold in your nuts, making sure to mix just until combined, no more, so the muffins don’t become heavy.

Scoop the batter into your muffins tin, and spoon 1 tsp of Nutella onto each muffins, swirling it into the batter with a toothpick (I found this rather tricky, although I keep my Nutella at room temperature – I think this may be because the cookie liners kept moving around as I was attempting to ‘swirl’! I ended up using two toothpicks to swirl simultaneously, but I may have over-swirled slightly. Next time I think I’ll deposit the Nutella as three little blobs instead of one big, and swirl those around slightly 🙂 ).

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Bake for about 22 minutes until the muffins are golden, and a toothpick inserted in a less Nutella-y bit of muffin comes out clean. After they’ve cooled a bit in the pan, place on a cooling rack to cool completely. The muffins keep for several days in a cookie tin or plastic container.

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I’m going to Milan this weekend, and these are coming with me! ❤

(FYI – stuffing them in a plastic bag and stuffing said plastic bag it into your suitcase, running out the door with your bags because you’re going to the airport straight from work, then realising you left your passport at home and turning back, wasting almost an hour and slightly manhandling your bag in the process, like I did, will result in pretty smushed muffins).

 

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Vegan Banana Cake :)

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I have a very problematic relationship with vegan baking. My lovely, vegan friend Klaudia is always missing out on dessert whenever we have a dinner party or some such, which made my sweet-toothed heart cry for her. Determined that she should want no more, I got googling and baking. But these adventures in vegan baking have been very tough on my baking self esteem. However, having wasted crazy amounts of perfectly good chocolate, and many, many bananas, I am happy to report that here is a vegan cake that doesn’t taste… well, vegan.

I know a lot of people say  it’s easy to bake tasty vegan cakes, but I think they must have forgotten what butter, milk and eggs taste like. I’m not a fan of margarine or soy milk, and I always try for recipes that don’t need anything ‘out of the ordinary’ to work. But in the end, I always find that, at the most, they taste ok, but lack something. Either in flavour or consistency. Maybe I’m mistaken, and I’ll happily be proven wrong, it’s just that I’ve tried (and failed) at so many vegan cakes now, that I’ve become very apprehensive at the idea of wasting any more chocolate. Some of these cakes have tasted fine enough.. But not in the way that you’d want to make them again.

And don’t even get me started on vegan chocolate cakes… I just cannot express how many times I’ve been disappointed, when the cake that smelled so good coming out of the oven, was just… meh. So much chocolate wasted. So. Much. I’ve also tried making ganache with coconut oil, but I just find the subtle taste of coconut distracting. Anyways, do please send me your (non-fussy) vegan chocolate cake recipes, if you have any, maybe I’ve just been unlucky!

Whilst more or less an omnivore, I tend to gravitate towards vegetarian food, simply because it makes me feel better after I eat it, and I feel as though I digest it better. And the way we produce and farm animal protein really disturbs and upsets me. I try to be conscious of where I buy my eggs and butter from, but even so… long story short, I’m always happy to find recipes that are vegetarian or even vegan!

I already have a favourite (non-vegan) recipe for banana cake, but this one is, dare I say it – just about as good. And vegan to boot. It’s from a Danish blogger, Månebarnet, which means the moon child 🙂 and it’s everything a banana cake should be, in my opinion – it’s really, really, crazily moist, studded with dark chocolate and walnuts, and strikes a perfect balance between salty and sweet. I’m really curious to try out some more of her recipes! This one turned out so yummy, and she has a lot more interesting and yummy-looking recipes.. albeit in Danish 🙂 I’m especially tempted to try out this courgette/zucchini cake. I shall report back!

Moist Vegan Banana Cake 🙂 (makes one round cake, or 20 little muffins*)
From Månebarnet

  • 200 g (1 3/5 cups) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 130 g (1 1/3 cups) sugar (preferably cane sugar)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar/powder/extract
  • 100 ml (just over 6 1/2 tbsp) vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 3 ripe, mashed bananas (about 250 g)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
  • 50-60 g (1/3 cup or 2.1 ounces) chopped dark chocolate (obviously one containing no dairy!)
  • 100 g (1 cup or 4.3 ounces) chopped walnuts

Whisk together all your dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar, as well as vanilla if using vanilla sugar/powder). Mush up your bananas, then chop your walnuts and chocolate.

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Add the lemon juice or vinegar, the oil and the mushed bananas (and the vanilla, at this stage, if using vanilla extract) into the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined (don’t over-mix, as the cake will become heavy). Add the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, and transfer to a greased springform tin (about 20 cm/9 inches in diameter).

Bake for 45-55 minutes at 160°C/320°F, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cool before attempting to cut (although it’ll taste phenomenal, it won’t cut very neatly otherwise!).

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Keeps for several days, wrapped in tinfoil or covered with a cake dome. 🙂

P.s.: I may try drizzling a bit of dark chocolate over this next time I make it! Where other vegan banana cakes I’ve tried weren’t quite sweet enough, and were easily tipped over the edge towards too bitter with the addition of dark chocolate, this is quite a sweet cake, so I think it could handle a bit of a decorative dark chocolate drizzle. Not that it needs it, but it wouldn’t hurt at all! I also think this would make for wonderful little banana-nut muffins* – with or without chocolate 🙂

*Update: I’ve now tried making these as muffins, too, and they were wonderful! And somehow even more appealing, because they’re slightly easier to eat/transport etc, in this format 🙂 The recipe makes for about 20 little muffins. I added about 100 g finely chopped walnuts on top of the muffins, to add a nice crunch and make them a bit more appealing, visually. Bake them in muffin liners, at 160°C/320°F for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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