If you promise not to tell, no-one needs to know that these whole wheat banana chocolate muffins are just a little healthier for you than regular ol’ muffins. They are tender, moist and full of flavor and make a satisfying snack or dessert any day of the week. These muffins are based on this decadent and delicious banana bread recipe, but I’ve made a few wise substitutions to reduce the calorie count just a little. In that recipe, I talk about the importance of over-ripe bananas and how to ripen them quickly if you’re having an emergency craving. (FYI, to avoid having to quick-ripen the bananas, I always like to throw my bananas into the freezer as they start to over-ripen. Then, when I have three in the freezer I’m ready to make banana bread or muffins.)
How to Make Healthier Muffins
I’m not saying these muffins are diet food (trust me!), but it’s nice to know that you can substitute some of the ingredients for smarter choices and save yourself a few calories without sacrificing flavor. The first smart substitution is using a little unsweetened applesauce instead of sugar in the wet ingredients. Your muffins won’t taste like apples at all, but the natural sweetness from the applesauce is just enough to keep the muffins sweet and moist.
Whole Wheat Muffins
Taking out some of the all-purpose flour and replacing it with whole wheat flour also helps with calorie count. By just substituting the applesauce and the whole wheat flour, you’ll save 80 calories per muffin (220 instead of 300). That’s worth it to me. Plus, the whole wheat flour gives you added nutrition and a density to the muffin that I like – it makes it more of a muffin and less of a cupcake.
Combining Wet and Dry
Mixing muffin batter is very straightforward. You combine all your wet ingredients in a bowl, combine all your dry ingredients in another bowl and then combine the two together, stirring only as much as you need to get the ingredients mixed so that no traces of dry ingredients can be seen. This is to ensure that you don’t over-mix the batter, which could result in tougher muffins.
The Right Muffin Pan
You can use whatever muffin pan you have, or even just muffin cups on a cookie sheet. I’ve used a square muffin pan here because I just happen to love this pan. I think square muffins are a nice change from the usual round muffin. Whatever you choose to use, make sure you butter the muffin cups – yes, even if they are non-stick. No-one likes to eat a muffin out of the pan. If you’re feeling decadent, you can even sugar the pan after you butter it. Add about a tablespoon of sugar to the cup and then shake it around and dump out any excess. This will give you a chewy exterior on the muffins.
Temperature is Key
The goal when baking muffins is to have a nice crown on top. The way to achieve a crowning muffin is to pop the batter into a hot oven and then drop the temperature after about 10 minutes, without opening the door. Not opening the door is key because you don’t want to let all the hot air out, just lower the temperature. The hot air at the start of baking gives the muffins a boost, but leaving it at such a high temperature for the duration of the cooking time would result in over-browned muffins. So, stick around when you put the muffins in the oven, do the dishes and then turn the oven down for the next 20 minutes.
How to Check for Doneness
The check for doneness on a muffin is the same as for a cake or quick-bread. Just pop a wooden skewer or toothpick into the center of one of the muffins in the center of the pan. It should come out clean with no batter.
How to Store Muffins
Although you’d think muffins would get more dry as they age, they actually become more moist first. The moisture, as it evaporates from the baked good, moves to the surface and the muffin can feel soggy. You can avoid this by storing muffins with some paper towel to absorb that migrating moisture. So, once the muffins have cooled completely, you should store them in an air-tight bag or container with some paper towel on the bottom. They can keep at room temperature for about 3 to 4 days. If you want to freeze muffins, wrap each cooled muffin in plastic wrap first and then place them in a zipper sealable plastic bag (or airtight container). They can keep in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.