Pasadena hosted its first ever marathon in November. Well, almost. After years of planning, not to mention hours and hours of training by the athletes, the marathon was cancelled just hours before the start due to poor air quality. Here in Southern California we can rarely complain about the weather, but an unfortunate coincidence of events had sparked a rash of wildfires, leaving the air thick with ash and smoke. The runners were annoyed and disappointed, to say the least.
Before I say another word, I should dispel any notions that I was among those hopeful runners. Although I am a recreational runner, Dylan is the marathoner in the family- I have no such aspirations and feel quite strongly that my body just was not made to endure that sort of challenge. But I am a valiant supporter and when Dylan’s running group spread the word that the marathon had been cancelled that morning, deciding instead to hold an impromptu potluck brunch, I figured that warm, homemade muffins could go a long way towards remedying their disappointment.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one with muffins in mind- there were at least two other varieties, but I happen to think this recipe, from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, is a particularly nice one. Unlike a lot of muffins, this one is only mildly sweet, not so saccharine as to be mistaken for dessert. In fact, the brunch’s host, Marie-Helene, usually forswears dessert, declaring herself more of a savory person, but she asked me to leave a few of the muffins for her to snack on later in the day. With everything ready to go from the pantry aside from a frozen banana, these muffins were quick, simple, and perfect for the occasion.
Banana pecan muffins (makes 8 large or 12 medium muffins)
3 tbsp melted butter or canola or other neutral oil, plus some for greasing muffin tin
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 sugar, or to taste (or replace with honey or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup very ripe mashed banana
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans (or other nuts)
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a standard 12-compartment muffin tin.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (including the nuts). Beat together the egg, milk, banana, and butter or oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ones into it. Combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating, and stopping as soon as the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy and thick, but quite moist. Add more milk if necessary.
3. Spoon the batter into muffin tins, filling them about 2/3 full and handling the batter as little as possible. Bake 20-30 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Remove from over and let rest for 5 minutes before taking them out of the tin. Serve warm.