What Are Those Little Black Things? (Organic Mini Banana Bran Muffin Recipe)

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From Lisa Barnes

There’s an important food science question circulating at my son’s preschool… what are those black little things in banana bread and muffins? Most just assume it’s something to do with the overripe bananas. But one of my son’s teachers (and a foodie with a cooking background) says she’s never noticed them in her breads. She even brought me a sample. But now that the mystery has gone on, she and I have made various banana breads and muffins with various results — all tasty but some with black things and some without. Recently I was at a cooking class at Restaurant TWO in San Francisco and asked Andrea the pastry chef. She probably thought I was crazy. She said “I don’t know. I’ve never not had them in my bread”. But then I’ve seen pictures in magazines and cookbooks both with and without the little black things.

I’ve consulted the “big book” too. That’s Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. OChef.com takes questions about “life’s vexing cooking questions”, however, they say due to the volume of questions you’re never sure of a timely answer. He has a mention about ingredients such as blueberries and walnuts being folded into batters and turning colors (such as blue and green) and this is because of the solids in the batter and the distribution (or over use) of baking soda. But these little black things are pretty uniform. So I’m not satisfied with that as an explanation for the bananas.

I’m hoping someone who reads this will know what I’m talking about and might even be able to solve the mystery. Anyone?

Organic Mini Banana Apple Bran Muffins
(from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

These mini muffins have all the flavor of a big muffin, but fit nicely into little hands. Of course you can also make these in a regular full size muffin pan, just remember to increase baking time to 15 to 18 minutes and check for doneness. Be sure you’ve already introduced wheat and eggs before giving these muffins to baby. This also makes a good use for baby’s extra apple puree.

1 cup organic wheat flour
½ cup organic oat bran
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter
¾ cup organic applesauce or homemade apple puree
3 medium organic bananas, 1 mashed (about ½ cup) and 2 sliced
½ cup organic light brown sugar
2 cage free, organic eggs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 24 mini muffin cups or 12 regular muffin cups.

With a fork, combine flour, bran, salt, and soda in a small mixing bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave for 25 seconds on High. In a large bowl combine butter, applesauce, mashed banana, sugar and eggs. Mix together with a rubber spatula. Add flour mixture to applesauce mixture and stir until just blended. Batter will be lumpy and very moist.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Place banana slice on top of each muffin. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Cool muffins in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning out muffins.

Makes 24 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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