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Happy National Bake Week! In the U.S., yesterday kicked off a week devoted to celebrating the art and science of baking, and I can’t imagine a better inspiration (read: excuse) for my own glut of baking blog posts. It’s also ideal timing considering my whole family’s birthdays fall in the next two weeks. If you are going to have four reminders of your ever-increasing age within ten days of each other, it’s best to have a lot of baked goods on hand. :)

We’ll ease into the baking frenzy with simple, friendly Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. This is a great recipe to have on hand: unintimidating, quick, and tasty, with a classic flavor combination that suits a wide range of ages and palates. The pairing of ripe banana and whole wheat flour make for a substantial muffin that is still moist and tender, and they do double duty as a breakfast treat or a weeknight dessert. If you’re feeling spicy, add a handful of finely chopped crystallized ginger before baking, or stir in a cup of walnuts or pecans for some crunch. These muffins also work with pumpkin puree substituted in place of the mashed bananas.

Like all good banana bread, these are even better the day after they are baked. This makes them ideal for bake sales, or as a make-ahead for a special occasion later in the week. Surprise your neighbor, bake some for your co-workers, or take a dozen to a friend celebrating a birthday. (hint, hint ;)

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 30 muffins

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 c. demerara or turbinado sugar (read these recipe notes for more info)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
4 medium bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 c.)
2/3 c. milk
2 c. white whole wheat flour (available from King Arthur, see recipe notes below)
2 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (not coarse)
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips (I used mini’s)
optional: 1/2 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger or
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

Oven 350F. In medium mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, and then beat in the eggs, spices, banana, and milk until uniformly combined. In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together both types of flour and the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently stir this dry mixture into the wet ingredients, just until combined. (If you over-mix here, your muffins will be tough and dry.) Fold in chocolate chips and any other add-ins you like.

Scoop the batter into a greased/paper-lined muffin tin so that each muffin cup is full (about 2 tablespoons of batter in each). Bake for 20-22 minutes, until tops are lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool ten minutes, then remove muffins from pan and allow to cool completely on baking rack. (If you cool on a plate or other solid surface, the bottoms will steam and get soggy.) These are lovely spread with a little cream cheese.

Recipe Notes + Tips:
I love the extra fiber and vitamins that come from using whole grain flour in baked goods, but not the unappealing, leaden texture that often follows. It is one thing to have a satisfyingly weighty loaf of whole wheat bread; it’s quite another to have a chocolate cupcake that could double as a doorstop.

One of the ways I have found around that conundrum is King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour. Made from hard white spring wheat instead of traditional red wheat, it retains the nutritional content of other whole wheat flours, but with a lighter color, texture, and flavor. While most people can detect the appearance and taste of whole wheat flour, I find the white whole wheat is much less noticeable. I have used it with success in everything from cinnamon applesauce cake to pumpkin bread, and I especially enjoy the chewy texture it lends to these Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

I have found KAF white whole wheat flour for sale at multiple grocery stores in my area, but you can also order it on-line. If you don’t have any on hand, you can use traditional whole wheat flour in the recipe above, with the end result a more dense muffin. If you prefer to keep the crumb lighter, decrease the whole wheat flour to one cup and increase the all-purpose to three cups.

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