banana and avocado muffins

A new way to use avocados, those versatile darlings.
A new way to use avocados, those versatile darlings.

This one requires a small leap of faith.

Not in the way of ‘here, eat these crickets, they’re really tasty and an excellent source of protein’ or anything, but enough that I ask for your trust as we explore the world of using avocados in baking.

What?! Why would you do that to a delicious avocado? Has the London smog gotten to your brain?

I know, right. And yet there is a point to the madness; avocados are a great substitute for butter. Whereas butter is over 50% saturated fat, avocados contain just 2.1g per 100g. Avocados are high in fibre, a good source of potassium and folic acid, and have no cholesterol.

Go on, get yourself an avocado. I’ll wait.

banana and avocado muffins... with hazelnuts and dark chocolate chips.
Banana and avocado muffins… with hazelnuts and dark chocolate chips.

Even knowing all this, using them in baking can be a bit of a stretch. What if my cake goes a lurid green? What if it tastes strange and salad-like? Should I dump the lot in cornbread with some jalapeños and just have an all-in-one Mexican meal?

Please don’t worry. These muffins are light and moreish; the avocado makes them moist without being greasy. I promise you can’t taste the avocado, and the wholemeal flour means that they also keep you full for a good long time. These muffins are smug, ‘I’m being good but also rather decadent’, win-win muffins.

I have it on my bestie’s authority that avocados are also fantastic in a smoothie – but that is another post for another time.

Light, moist and moreish. You'll just have to trust me on this one.
Light, moist and moreish. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Banana and avocado muffins
2 small ripe avocados
2 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar (I used about half a cup of golden caster sugar and then two tablespoons of honey)
2 eggs
1 tsp vinegar
6 tablespoons milk
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Nuts and chocolate chips (optional, but who are we kidding)

In a bowl, mash the avocados really, really well. If you leave any lumps you’ll see it in the final product, so be diligent with that fork.

Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly with the avocado.

Add the eggs, milk, baking soda and vinegar and whisk away. The vinegar is there to activate the baking soda and you won’t taste it in the final product. If you don’t have baking soda, just use two teaspoons of baking powder in the next step.

Place the flours and baking powder in a sieve and sift into the bowl, mixing very gently. You don’t want to overmix, so stir until combined.

If you want to have nuts or chocolate in your muffins, now is the time to add them.

Drop the muffin mix into a greased muffin tray (or make pretty tulip cases by pressing greaseproof paper into the tray) and bake at 180 degrees for 35 minutes.

banoffee pie

I know I was supposed to whip the cream. It was a long day, ok?
I really did mean to whip the cream, but sometimes loose & unstructured is just fine.

Even the most savoury-toothed person would have to admit that there’s something quite delightful about the idea of banoffee pie.

The name immediately conjures up all sorts of lovely images: golden, sticky caramel cascading onto a bed of crunchy biscuit crumbs; smooth slices of pale sunshiney banana; and curls of rich, bittersweet chocolate raining down in a dark flurry onto fluffy clouds of whipped cream.

You may think I’m waxing ridiculously lyrical, but you’ll understand when you eat it.

There are lots of variations of banoffee pies, but all of them involve the delicious combination of banana and toffee, and most will advise you to add whipped cream to the top. I feel, however, that there would be no great crime in adding chocolate or nuts or honeycomb pieces or even a smattering of peanut butter. These things are meant to evolve.

This banoffee pie doesn’t need to be baked, so it’s perfect for the oven-free amongst us. Who said that tiny kitchens need be deprived?

You can make this gluten-free if you like.
You can make this gluten-free if you like.

Banoffee pie
250g digestive biscuits (I used gluten-free biscuits, but feel free to go ahead and use whatever digestives you like)
2 x 100g unsalted butter
100g dark brown sugar (I used muscovado)*
400g can of condensed milk
4 bananas
300ml double thick cream

Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed springform cake tin.

Crush the digestives into powder; I used a freezer bag and a Vegemite jar to work off some aggression, but a rolling pin would probably be faster.

Melt 100g of butter and add to the digestives, mix into a soft, damp sand.

Press the biscuit mix into the cake tin, coming slightly up the sides and making sure it is packed tightly. You want to form a hollow that is about 1.5cm deep.

A biscuit base doesn't need to be baked
a biscuit base doesn’t need to be baked

Place the tin into the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 100g of butter and the sugar into a pot and melt together, stirring constantly.

When you can no longer feel the sugar granules, add the condensed milk and bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly. Boil for at least two minutes, until the mix forms a golden, caramel colour.

thick, luscious caramel
thick, luscious caramel

Allow to cool slightly, then pour the caramel into the biscuit base and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

at this point, it's just a toffee pie
at this point, it’s just a toffee pie

Before serving, top with sliced banana and whipped cream.

Note: A few of my guests thought this pie was a little too sweet, so I’d say you could safely reduce the sugar content. I haven’t tried it out to see how it goes, but next time I’d try halving the sugar. I mean, that almost makes it healthy – right?

wholemeal banana bread

It's goodness and sweetness combined.
It’s goodness and sweetness combined.

When bananas are so brown they basically blend with the benchtop, it’s time to make banana bread.

On the banana spectrum from sappy green to mushy brown, there’s only a very small window where I like to eat a raw banana, and it makes me feel ridiculous to buy just one at a time. But I could eat banana bread every day of the week and never get tired, so sometimes I buy bananas in bunches to deliberately let them go brown.

Why throw these beauties out when they can bring you so much happiness?
Why throw these beauties out when they can bring you so much happiness?

Walnuts are the traditional nut to add to banana loaves, and with good reason – I love the soft resistance of a walnut in a piece of bread. That being said, banana bread is very forgiving, so if you don’t have walnuts you can use a handful of other nuts, or leave them out altogether.

Wholemeal flour is grainier and heavier than white flour, but that’s also why it’s better for you. Higher in fibre, folate and vitamins, wholemeal flour has a lower glycaemic index and will keep you fuller for longer.

Feeling virtuous never tasted so good.

Wholemeal banana bread
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter – I used Proactiv Light
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium to large bananas, brown as can be
1/8 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts
100g chopped dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a loaf tin with butter, oil or spray.

Take a large bowl and add the butter and brown sugar.

It's a glorious, sandy mess.
Get started with this glorious, sandy mess.

Beat the butter and sugar together. In the tiny kitchen I would just use a spoon and some elbow grease, but with an electric mixer it goes this delicious caramel colour.

Such a glorious caramel colour.
Such a beautiful caramel colour.

Add the vanilla, baking soda, salt and bananas and beat until combined.

Beautiful treacley rivers.
Beautiful treacley rivers.

Add the honey and eggs and beat until combined.

Add the flour, nuts and chocolate, stirring until combined.

Let the mix rest for 10 minutes and then spoon into the loaf tin. Bake for 50 minutes. Cover with foil to prevent excess browning, then bake for another 10 minutes. Stick a toothpick through the centre and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

Is that chocolate I see on the top?
Is that chocolate I see on the top?

Remove from the oven and stand for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack.