Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday Woes Meet Baking Bliss

Wednesdays have never been a good day for me, despite meaning I'm halfway to the weekend. My first semester of college included eight hours of class every Wednesday. Now? I work to jobs, back to back. And for some reason, York County has fallen in love with eating out on Wednesday evenings - at the Blue Heron, of course. So, today was jammed pack full of "How to be a Ballerina" video tapes and almost forty hungry patrons in four short hours. But, I also believe in taking your Wednesdays by the horns and showing them who's boss... by baking muffins. (Banana bread muffins, to be exact.)

Maybe you love Wednesdays. I guarantee though that sooner or later, you're going to run across that day that you simply can't stand. And when you do? Well. Here's a little advice.

Step 1. 
Find some helpers. Helpers are best found in cute little kids under the age of five. Often times, boyfriends, friends or just some great music will do.

Step 2.
Have the following "tools" handy...
  • A small bowl for melting better
  • 3 medium/large sized bowls
  • 2 small/medium sized bowls (1 for topping and 1 for the glaze)
  • A spatula or large wooden spoon for each helper
  • Measuring spoons
  • Muffin Pan
  • PAM Spray (or any kind of cooking spray, really) 
  • OR Muffin Papers

Step 3.
You will need the following ingredients - all of which are readily available in the typical kitchen.. except for maybe the overly ripe bananas but hey, luck always seem to have it that the bananas are too ripe when I'm having a bad day:

For the Batter [Italicized ingredients are optional!]
  • 2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour (Preferably whole wheat, let's be healthy folks. And while we're being healthy, I strongly suggest replacing 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of whole wheat bran.)
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt (We use sea salt.)
  • 1/2 Cup Butter or Margarine (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter works perfectly.)
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar (For the sugar conscious, Splenda's Brown Sugar Blend is a miracle.)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Overly Ripe Bananas
  • 1/2 Teaspoon (ish) of Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon (ish) of Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon (ish) of Nutmeg
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
For the Crumble Topping: optional but reocommended - yumm!
  • 2 Tablespoons of Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon of Melted Butter
  • 1/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
  • Cinnamon - to taste
For the Glaze:
  • 1 Tablespoon of Butter or Margarine, Softened
  • 1 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon of Milk (We used 1%)
  • Cinnamon to taste 
    Once you have made sure that you have all the appropriate ingredients, I suggest just pulling them all out of their respective fridge spots/cabinets and lining them up on the table.. Especially since most ingredients are used more than once. Once you've got that all settled, pull up stools for your helpers and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

    Yes, we know it's April. Yes, we still have Christmas themed place mats.
    For the Batter:

    Take the largest bowl you have and combine the following ingredients: 
            Flour, Bran (optional), Baking Soda and Salt. 

    At this point, take a small bowl and soften your butter. When it comes out of the microwave (after about 45 seconds), combine the brown sugar and cream it until well mixed. Chances are, your helpers will want to stick their little fingers in for a taste - let the butter cool for a moment first!

    In the meantime, you will need to mash your bananas in the third bowl. For squeemish fingers, you can use a potato masher. Otherwise? Your hands work just fine. Unfortunately, our bananas had been in the fridge so this was an awfully cold endeavor.

    After mixing the butter and brown sugar - add in the banana mixture, and two eggs. Stir until well blended.

    At this point, you may add optional ingredients. We added vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste. The measurements given above were just approximate. Taste the batter and add the flavors that you like best. You can always add mini chocolate chips or nuts, too! 

    Then, slowly add the flour mixture into your banana mixture. Be very careful when mixing. Over mixing the batter will lead to dry muffins. Need I say more?

    You will then want to take a moment to either spray your muffin pan with cooking spray or to line it with muffin papers - we chose the cooking spray method. This recipe will yield a dozen regular sized muffins. If you want to make jumbo muffins, regular bread or mini-muffins, simply change your pan and your cooking time. 

    Fill each muffin tin approximately 3/4 of the way full.

    If you want a crispy crumble topping...

    Mix together the brown sugar, flour and cinammon - using the amounts shown above.

    You will want to melt your tablespoon of butter by placing it in a small bowl and microwaving for about 20 - 30 seconds. After it comes out of the microwave, pour the melted butter into the flour mixture.

    Mix everything together until it is coarse. Take the coarse mixture and sprinkle it over the tops of your muffins.

    Now the muffins are ready for the oven! We found that standard size muffins needed to bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes but, pop in a toothpick once they're brown on top - just to make sure!

    While the muffins are in the oven, you can get the powdered sugar glaze ready by simply combining all of the ingredients listed above!

    When the muffins come out of the oven, let them sit in the pan for a few minutes; then, flip them out and onto a wire rack if you have one (if not, the countertop will work too)! I highly recommend covering either surface in wax paper or plastic wrap as adding the glaze can get kind of messy.

    Once the muffins have cooled, drizzle the glaze over the tops with a spoon. Wait to eat the muffins until the glaze has set and hardened or your bound to have a big mess.

    And, finally, after all of that - take time to pour a big glass of milk, sit down, and eat a muffin.
    The dishes can wait.

    And if that isn't enough to brighten your day? Well, a little bird told me that it's starting to feel like spring out there. 

    ps. Take a minute and read Kelle Hampton's new blog post because I was just talking about how the photos above my bed, on my headboard and stuck behind my desk magnets are reminders to me to stop and say a little prayer and send a good thought to each person whose photo resides there.

    "The paper has yellowed and faded from the sun but every time I see it, it makes me smile. Because it is funny that it's still hanging there and because, for just a moment, I think of Lainey's friend.

    It's why I keep invitations taped to my fridge long after parties are over and why I can't throw away a Christmas card. I like reminders to think about people and things and moments. I like pictures on my nightstand and name tags in my trees. I like memories stashed some place where they can be easily and frequently retrieved. And I like to think that's exactly what prayer is. Not so much an obligation to say "Dear God" so many times a day, but rather a way of life. Continually living present and grateful and open. I like this idea of prayer because it is accessible to anyone, regardless of beliefs. It is mysterious and purposeful and doesn't leave me wondering why some prayers are answered, and some are not. And because it provides valid justification for name tags in my trees. 

    And so I pray. In my head, in my writing, in my pictures, and hopefully, in my way of life. "

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