There are two groups of people in this world: those who don’t mind foreign objects in their food, and those who are vehemently opposed to them. It’s possible for one to switch sides any number of times, even on a circumstantial, food-by-food basis, I suppose, but the fact remains: you’re either down with raisins in your cookies or you’re not.
Growing up, I didn’t want nuts (or raisins) in my cookies, breads, brownies, or cakes. My sister was (and is, to a certain extent) the same way.
My mom didn’t put pickled relish in her deviled eggs when I was growing up, so the idea of it seemed foreign and repulsive. However, I have switched teams on this – chopped up pickles are okay by me. See what I mean? Tolerance of foreign objects is fluid.
I went to a BBQ joint near Colonial Williamsburg with my friend Mary once and ordered brisket and potato salad. To my horror, as I ate the potato salad, I realized there was cut-up hard boiled egg in it. I was gobsmacked. I thought, surely, it’s an error. But no. There was egg throughout the salad. Mary laughed and said it was a regional thing. Regional or no, it was foreign, and it did not belong.
That’s a phrase I picked up from my mom: foreign objects in my food. Raisins in my cookies, relish in my eggs, eggs in my potato salad. Foreign objects.
As I get ready to move, I’m working on cleaning out my freezer, and since I’ve never really truly cooked for my sister, I thought it might be nice to send her a loaf of banana bread. I use Alyssa Shelasky’s recipe from her fantastic memoir, Apron Anxiety (which, shameless self-promotion, I’ve reviewed in this month’s issue of Alimentum); the recipe includes both chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.
The nuts are no dice. Where a lot of people LOVE nuts in their banana bread, my sister can’t get down with it. Chocolate chips? Yes. Nuts? No.
The thing about Alyssa Shelasky’s recipe, though, is that it’s dense, heavy batter. No gloopy, runny banana soup here; this is buttery, substantial, and requires some foreign matter – the chocolate chips would work, but I felt like I needed to fill the void left by the nuts, and fill it with something not-melty.
The Internet is a beautiful thing. One great substitute for nuts in baking is to use toasted oats, which provide chew – not quite crunch, but a more substantial bite.
I tried out this recipe yesterday and made it into muffins (because it was an experiment and a loaf is a commitment). It’s fantastic, if I do say so. I scaled down the chocolate chips (because I ran out) but the ratio worked just fine since they were muffins. And bonus, now they’re sister-friendly and can be given to absolutely anyone in your life who has always abstained from banana bread (or banana nut muffins) because of the nuts.
Plus, oats. Fiber. Healthy. Right?
Chocolate Banana Oat Muffins
Adapted from Alyssa Shelasky’s recipe in Apron Anxiety
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 medium or 3 small)
3 tablespoons fat-free or low-fat yogurt (I used Greek)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted oats
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
*Prep Step: Toasting oats: Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Measure out oats and shake into a thin, flat layer on the baking sheet and bake, watching closely, and stirring every 2-3 minutes to avoid scorching. Oats are done when they are golden brown and have a strong nutty aroma. Try a few and make sure they don’t taste burnt to you. Set aside.*
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 12-count muffin tin with cooking spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl (or in the bow of a stand mixer fitted with the flat paddle attachment), cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about a minute or so. Add bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix well, scraping the bowl to ensure even mixing.
Blend flour mixture into banana mixture until just combined.
Stir in oats and chocolate chips, folding together to evenly distribute.
Using an ice cream scoop, spoon batter into the muffin cups. If any muffin cups go unused, fill them with about a half-inch of water to avoid scorching in the oven (result: stinky, smoky oven and muffins – no fun).
Bake 15-18 minutes, starting to check for doneness around 15 minutes. Muffins are done when the tops are firm and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.