Of all the foods we’ve done a disservice to, muffins are probably low on the apology list, but! I just don’t think muffins should be six dollars, or the size of a sandcastle, or bogged down with too much ostentation. These are a simple, small cake, best homemade, cosy rather than mind-blowing, an accompaniment rather than dessert. Whenever a muffin is too rich or gilded or secretly a brownie or cupcake in a fake moustache and trenchcoat the effect is somewhat unsettling, like being drunk at 9am or regarding a map of Pangea with its sloshed-together outlines of all the countries. Muffins should be calm and small!
So, while these Banana, Pear, and Dark Chocolate Muffins aren’t going to make you rip a portal into time and space to see colours not found in nature, they are indeed calm and small. And not dull, mind you — the tender, banana-based crumb, the softly gritty and autumnally fragrant cubes of pear, and the intense full stop of dark chocolate is wonderful. In fact, it’s a combination that belongs to one of my earliest self-penned recipes in the early-early days of my blog (we’re talking Helen Clark administration early here) in the form of a sorbet, and it’s a pairing I’m always happy to revisit. Something in the classiness of dark chocolate, the workhorsiness of canned pears, and the boorishness of the bananas appeals to me, with the yielding sweetness of the bananas and pears tempered by the chocolate’s bitterness. And vice-versa.
If muffins are a simple cake to behold, they at least are gratifyingly simple to make as well — just one bowl and a fork will do the trick here, and the less stirring you can do once the flour is added the better. If overworked or blended too hard the muffins will come out dry and tough and heavy, so just nudge them into existence and you’ll end up with soft, dream-light cakes. Although muffins are at their best eaten promptly, the bananas lend a helping hand to make these keep well — I’m still working through them four days after baking and they have retained a sprightly freshness — though with each passing day, you may want to zap them in the microwave for twenty seconds to bring them closer to their starting point. A dab of butter wouldn’t be out of the question either. And if you have more bananas to get through — they do tend to ripen all at once out of nowhere — you could also try my Breakfast Banana Bread or my regular old Banana Bread.
Banana, Pear, and Dark Chocolate Muffins
One-bowl, delicious, and they keep well, as far as muffins go. The dark chocolate matches the fragrance of the pears beautifully but you could replace this with milk or white if you prefer, each has its charms. Recipe by myself.
- 3 medium-sized bananas (around 250g, peeled weight)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup plain oil, eg sunflower or rice bran
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 x 400g tin pear halves
- 100g dark chocolate
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a muffin tray with paper cases. Mash the three bananas in a large mixing bowl — I find a fork the most effective here — then stir in the half cup of sugar, the quarter cup each of oil and milk, and the teaspoon of vanilla extract.
2: Drain the pears and chop, roughly — you can tip them onto a chopping board, but I just stuck a sharp knife inside the can and jostled it around for a bit which seemed to do the trick. Roughly chop the 100g dark chocolate next, and it’s fine if there are some larger chunks of chocolate and if some of it is more dusty rubble. Stir both the chopped pears and chocolate into the banana mixture.
3: Sieve the two cups of flour, the teaspoon of baking soda, the quarter teaspoon of baking powder and the half teaspoon of salt into the mixing bowl and carefully but decisively fold in the dry ingredients. The important thing with muffins is to not overmix them, so you want to just coax the ingredients together rather than briskly beating them. Divide the mixture between the paper cases in the tin, and bake the muffins for about 25 minutes, until golden and firmly bouncy on top. Repeat this process if you have any mixture left.
The muffins are best eaten soon after baking, but they keep quite well in an airtight container — after a day or so you may want to microwave them back to life before heating, I recommend 20 seconds (any longer and the pears will be destructively hot).
Makes twelve regular-sized muffins, or about eighteen slightly smaller muffins (see notes)
- If you have regular pears kicking around and want to use them instead, core and chop up two of them.
- My muffin cases/tins are about 2/3 the size of regular muffin tins — they’re not mini muffins, just a lil smaller — and as such the muffins only needed twenty minutes to cook, if you’re working with a similar-sized tin then the same will likely apply to you.
Shot By Both Sides by Magazine, real feels-like-the-first-time-every-time, leaves-you-speechless stuff here.
Planet Z by Idina Menzel, I am above all else a fan of hers and nothing hits quite like 90s Menzel when her voice still had scuff marks on it and she was writing like no one was listening and the production team were, shall we say, invigorated. Anyway, this song rules.
Some Kind of Wonderful by Soul Brothers Six. The joyfulness pinging from this! The Grand Funk cover is pretty well-established but the original outsells, my only qualm is I wish it were longer.
No Good (Start the Dance) by The Prodigy. A masterpiece! Once those vocals kick in around 1:48 it has me feeling stressed out like I’ve just broken a vase while housesitting yet wildly fortified like I could climb the Washington Monument bare-knuckled.
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