My grandmother passed away last night. It wasn’t a surprise, I’d been waiting for the call, but it’s still hard. She lived to the ripe old age of 94, but had been in hospice for the past few weeks. Her little body was giving out on her and we knew it was only a matter of time. That said, today has been a rough day. One of those emotional roller coaster days that just wear me out. I didn’t have time to be tired, though. So, after downing an excessive amount of coffee, I started my day by booking a plane ticket to Michigan and then I made a to-do list that seemed, at the time, a mile long. I had to pack, get the kids’ stuff ready for the weekend, write notes to the kids’ teachers about pick up tomorrow, shoot out about a million emails, run to the grocery store, etc. etc. etc. I was done with all of it before noon. I’m a busybody when I’m stressed out and, much like Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy, when I’ve finished my “stressed out to-to list” I usually end up baking.
So, I grabbed my most recent cookbook acquisition, Sarabeth Levine’s beautiful baking guide, Sarabeth’s Bakery. This is a baking encyclopedia, more or less. It’s over 300 pages of incredible breads, cookies, pastries, cakes and beautiful photography. At some point, I’m going to be brave and try her recipe for croissants. I promise I’ll share the results…even if it’s ugly. Today, however, I needed something a little simpler. I settled on a Banana Streusel Muffin recipe, mainly because I had a bunch of this staring at me:
When I’ve made anything with a streusel topping in the past, the streusel part has always come in at the end of the recipe. In this one, it’s the first thing she mentions. I found out why. At first, when you mix the ingredients together, it’s a little gummy. I was worried that I’d mis-measured something, but I kept crumbling it with my fingers and, all of a sudden, it came together! The flour and melted butter just needed a minute to hang out and get to know each other. Before long, I had a brown sugary, cinnamon streusel just waiting to meet its muffin. After I made the muffin batter, it was even better.
The other thing that intrigued me about this recipe was that instead of calling for mashed bananas, like every other banana bread or muffin recipe I’ve ever made, it calls for sliced bananas folded into the batter. I chopped them up a bit because it just seemed like they’d be easier to mix in chunked than in slices.
As I was getting all of this ready, I remembered that when I was a little girl we’d often be with my Grandma on or near my birthday. My two Grandmothers were very good friends, so if I was with one, I was usually with the other. They lived right down the street from each other and were two peas in a pod. We lived out-of-town, so when we visited my Grandmas for my birthday, they’d buy me a cake. I remembered today that it didn’t matter whose house we were in, the cake was always a banana cake. It was usually decorated with clowns. I have no idea why it was always banana, honestly. My Grandmas just really seemed to enjoy ordering banana cakes…with clowns! I hadn’t thought about that in years! Maybe that’s why I was drawn to these muffins today. Sadly, I didn’t have any clowns to decorate them with. I did, however, have monkeys. 🙂
I folded the bananas into the batter, scooped it into the pan and topped it with that yummy looking streusel. About 25 minutes later, I was looking at some pretty delicious muffins and my kitchen smelled like a little bit of heaven. And I felt a little bit better.
I love you, Grandma.
BANANA STREUSEL MUFFINS
Adapted from Sarabeth Levine
- 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2½ Tbsp. butter, melted
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 stick butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup sugar
- zest of ½ a lemon
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 small, not overly ripe bananas, chopped into ½ inch chunks
- With your fingers, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Keep working until the mixture becomes crumbly. Set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 400* and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Spray with nonstick spray. Make sure you spray the top of the pan, too, as these muffins grow!
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and keep beating. Stop every once in a while to scrape down the sides. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the eggs, beating in gradually, and then beat in the milk. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour, alternating with the sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during this process. Do not overbeat. Fold in the banana chunks.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle the streusel on top of each muffin.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375* and bake for about 15 minutes more, or until muffin tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Serves 12.