What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden
patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded.
-Bessie Anderson Stanley

There are few things in life as miraculous as a muffin. But somehow, despite their otherworldly status, they can sometimes taste like rocks (especially when mass produced). They can be too sweet. The muffin top–the muffin’s defining feature–can be ridiculously and absurdly underwhelming. Trust me when I say that baking muffins is a delicate art.

It’s one of the things, in fact, I like to bake the most. It takes me back to my childhood–to the summer mornings when I would wake up just knowing that my grandma had baked blueberry muffins. The smell would linger in the air: the hint of sugary, buttery goodness and baked berries. Nothing could get me out of bed faster than the aroma of baked goods in the morning (times haven’t changed that much).

Muffins are so simple, but so good. There’s no need for fancy equipment; it’s just spices, butter and wet ingredients meeting dry ones…but only meeting and mixing. Over-mixing muffins is the kiss of death. Muffins deserve better than that; treat them with care!

When I was preparing for our picnic this past Sunday, I felt that the menu wouldn’t be complete without something dessert-like and easily transportable. Muffins seemed the obvious thing; not only had the Greek brought me three bananas that were overly ripe (few things turn my stomach more than an overly ripe banana; its sole purpose in life is to be turned into pancakes, banana bread, muffins), but I had also long been itching to pull out my muffin tins and put them to work again. I had had my eye on a recipe for Banana Streusel Muffins from my Muffin Bible (see the recipe below for the full title) and things just fell into place.

The only thing was that, as much as I love my Muffin Bible, I felt it was a little too white flour happy. Both bananas and my new favorite baking oil (coconut oil) give so much moisture to baked goods that I couldn’t help but feel that whole wheat pastry flour–with its heavy, nutty texture–was the obvious way to go. And not just for the muffin proper, but for the streusel too. Something in me must have also been craving something verging on a crumble because I decided to add roughly chopped almond slivers to the streusel topping. All in all, it was a successful muffin: its top was gloriously crumbly, while the rest was light and filling, sweet but not excessively so and full of a nutty banana flavor. If you truly want your banana bread or muffins (this recipe could easily be transformed into the former) to say “banana”, don’t skimp. The more bananas, the better. You’ll be hearing a lot about bananas from me in the next few weeks; this is only post one in a three-part banana bonanza!

Banana Streusel Muffins

Yields a dozen crumbly banana-y treats
Heavily adapted from Muffins: Sweet and Savory Comfort Food

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 egg
Slightly less than 1/4 cup almond slivers

Streusel topping:
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 cup almond slivers, crushed

-Preheat oven to 375 and line muffin tin with cups.
-In large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
-In another bowl, combine banana, buttermilk, oil, egg and almonds. Stir into flour mixture until just moistened.
-Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
-For streusel topping, whisk butter, flour, sugar and crushed almonds together in a small bowl.
-Mix 3 Tbsp. butter into the mixture (it’s possible to use work the butter in with your hands, but, for best results, use a pastry cutter).
-Sprinkle streusel mixture over the batter.
-Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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