Chocolate chip banana nut muffins

We’ve had a lot of snow over the past week here in Boston so like many others I’ve been doing a lot of cooking (and eating! too much eating!).

One of the best things I’ve made during the past week is these muffins (or cupcakes). I modified a cake recipe from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam to create these muffin/cupcakes.

I say they’re muffin/cupcakes because they feel more like a treat than muffins, but I choose not to make any frosting, so that makes their status as “cupcakes” questionable. For me, the chocolate chips make frosting unnecessary.

Like most things I bake these straddle the line between “treat” and “sustenance.” They’re made of high-protein almond flour, so they’re filling in a way your standard muffin isn’t.

I have been experimenting with using coconut oil in place of other oils and have discovered something interesting. Unrefined coconut oil is not supposed to be heated above 280 degrees (or something like that), so it shouldn’t be good for baking muffins cooked at 350 degrees. Except that it is! I’ve made this recipe with both unrefined and refined coconut oil (expeller pressed only please) and I find the unrefined coconut oil makes a richer more luscious muffin. The refined coconut oil is really good too, but it has a slightly less luscious result.

I recommend using the best quality dark chocolate chips you can find. Using good chocolate here really elevates this simple treat into something special. I try to get chips that are at least 70% dark chocolate when I can. You can also chop up a couple of nice chocolate bars to mix in with whatever chips you use–even a small amount of high-quality chocolate makes a difference here.

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Muffins

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cp coconut oil, melted (or any other light oil or melted butter)
1/4 cp maple syrup (or any liquid sweetener)
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cp mashed ripe bananas (2-3)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chopped up chocolate bars)
1/2 cp chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan with paper baking cups.

In large bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.

In a separate bowl combine the oil, liquid sweetener, eggs and vanilla. Stir into the almond flour mixture. Add mashed bananas, chocolate chips and pecans and stir to thoroughly combine.

Scoop into prepared muffin pan, bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out dry.

Almond flour banana blueberry muffins

I recently found Comfy Belly, a blog of healthy recipies for people with different food intolerances. I tried Erica’s Banana Blueberry muffin recipe as was really excited with the results. I did modify her recipe a bit to suit my preferences, but you can see her original post here. This beautiful picture is hers as well.

banana-blueberry-muffins

Here’s my variation:

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1/4 cup of Agave Nectar or Honey
3 tablespoons of coconut oil, olive oil, Earth Balance or butter, melted
2 eggs
2 very ripe bananas
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of almond flour
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3 tbsp. chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of blueberries (or more)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare muffin pan either with paper cups or by thoroughly greasing each muffin cup (make sure to get the corners). My batch made 12 muffins.

Mix all the wet ingredients (except for the blueberries) together in a bowl until well blended.

Combine baking soda, salt, almond flour, cinnamon and allspice (a whisk gets the job done quickly and thoroughly).

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well again. Add candied ginger and chopped nuts.

Gently fold blueberries in.

Spoon batter into each cup, filling them to just below the tops of the muffin cups.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from a muffin.

Cool and enjoy!

It’s best to store these in the freezer and defrost as you go as they do not hold up well at room temperature. Of course, if your house is like mine, they won’t last long!

Best brownies ever

I’ve been playing with this gluten-free brownie recipe that I found at Gluten Free Goddess, and it really is one of the best brownie recipes I’ve ever made. It uses almond flour and some rice flour, and it’s completely delicious. I’ve made it using a combo of almond flour and a gluten-free flour mixture (which includes brown rice flour, quinoa flour, coconut flour and potato and tapioca starch). Even though they are gluten-free, I would confidently serve them to gluten eaters, and not feel like I was giving them a second-class pastry.

The Goddess includes directions to make your own almond meal, but it’s available in my local Whole Foods. I use Bob’s Red Mill brand. They also make a hazelnut flour which would probably be equally lovely in this recipe.

I’ve been playing with the chocolate, and have gotten good results by using 1 tablespoon of Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder plus 3 tablespoons of coconut oil to replace 1 ounce of chocolate. Any oil will do–I like coconut oil because it’s a healthy fat, and adds only the slightest hint of coconut flavor (which I really like). I also like to use this chocolate substitute because I can make it dairy-free. You could also use melted butter or margarine, olive oil, safflower oil, or really any oil with a mild flavor.

In the last batch I made, I used 2 ounces of Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons of Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder plus 9 tablespoons of coconut oil. The flavor of these brownies is screaming for some sort of alcohol flavoring, so I’m working on a way to include brandy or maybe some Kahula to give them an extra depth of flavor.

Good quality chocolate or cocoa powder makes a difference here, so don’t skimp!

Here is the recipe, as it appears on Gluten Free Goddess. You can read the Goddess’s original post here.

Dark Chocolate Brownies.

5 ounces Belgian dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup butter or vegan margarine such as Smart Balance (or Spectrum Organic Shortening)
2 organic free-range eggs
1 cup packed organic light brown sugar
1/2 rounded cup almonds, processed into a fine meal
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 2 teaspoons peppermint extract)

Optional:

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired
1/2 cup extra semi-sweet chocolate chips for the top, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with foil and lightly oil the bottom.

Using the microwave, melt the dark chocolate and butter in a large (microwave safe) measuring cup. Stir together to combine. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium high till frothy. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add the melted chocolate mixture into the egg-sugar mixture a little at a time – incorporate it slowly- and beat well for a good minute. The chocolate will look smooth and glossy.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: almond meal, rice flour, fine sea salt and baking soda; whisk together. Add the dry flour mix into the chocolate mixture and beat well for a minute. Add the vanilla, beat another half a minute or so.

You now have your brownie batter.

If you are adding nuts, stir in the nuts by hand and spread the batter into the prepared baking pan [this brownie batter is much thinner than any brownie mix batter I’ve tried- don’t worry, it’s going to be wonderful]. Shake the pan a little bit to even out the batter.

Layer the semi-sweet chips all over the top of the batter and press them in slightly, if adding.

Bake in the center of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 33 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies are set. Don’t overcook. (Err on the side of gooey, if you must- that’s what I do; I find gluten-free brownies taste better slightly undercooked and soft in the middle than over-cooked and crumbly.)

Cool on a wire rack; and remove the brownies from the pan by gripping the foil edges. Chill before cutting. We saved out two squares, and wrapped the rest for freezing.

These brownies were outstanding slightly chilled. Intense, chocolaty and tender. This is a fabulous recipe. And I have to Clare to thank for it.

Makes 9-12 servings. We got nine squares out of it.