Friday, April 1, 2011

Healthier Choices - Banana Bread Muffins with Chocolate Avocado Filling


Yes, Chocolate Avocado Filling.  I'll get to that in a moment.

While I don’t like to focus on the negative, there are a few ‘flavors’ that I’m not a particularly huge fan of:  broccoli, melon (any kind), fennel and most fish.   Bananas are very close to making that list.  Now, I do like tolerate bananas in their raw form, but start adding banana to something else, such as a smoothie or oatmeal, and I’m immediately turned off.  The one exception to this rule is banana bread.  Don’t ask me why, it’s just something about how banana bread comes together that just doesn’t give it the off-putting flavor I find offensive. 

I had recently come across a recipe on The Weekly Bite for Chocolate Avocado Pudding.  Estela had used the pudding to make a ‘Flower Pot Dessert’ for her daughter.  I loved the idea, but wanted, for now, to try just the Chocolate Avocado Pudding.   On my next trip to the store, I grabbed a couple of ripe avocados and whipped up a batch.  It was actually very good.  Creamy and not the least bit avocadoey in flavor (yes, I know that’s not a real word).  But, I got the distinct impression that this would serve well not only as pudding, but could be used for a filling or even an icing. 

Trying to keep the healthier idea behind the pudding in mind, I tried to think what I could pair this with that would provide some additional nutritional boost without being simply empty calories.  First, zucchini bread came to mind, but I didn’t have any zucchini on hand, so I decided to work with my ripe bananas instead.

I did a little recipe searching, debating whether or not I should use a standard banana bread recipe and make it in muffin form, or use an actual banana muffin recipe.  In the end, I had to just pick one recipe from among the many out there – pretty much dartboard style.  I’m glad to say it worked very well.  I baked up the muffins, filled some with the avocado pudding and topped some others rather than filling them.  In the end, I was left with a delicious, moist and slightly dense choocolatey banana goody that had some healthy benefits to pass along to the unsuspecting eaters.

I did make a few minor changes to the original recipes based on suggestions from reviewers of those recipes.  The recipes below reflect how I made them.

I would love to try this in other forms, such as with zucchini bread, so I’ll keep that in mind for my future trials.  For now, this recipe is a definite keeper.  I hope you’ll give it a try yourself.

By the way, the pudding is a great treat on its own, or in that neat little Flower Pot Dessert.

Banana Bread Muffins with Chocolate Avocado Filling

Muffins:

½ cup white sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup whole wheat flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).  Place muffin cups in a muffin tin or use butter or non-stick baking spray to coat.

Mix sugars, oil and egg until creamy and lightly yellow in color.  Add mashed bananas, followed by flours, baking soda and salt.    Stir together until well mixed.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full.  If desired, just before baking, sprinkle tops with some uncooked oats for added texture.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Do not overbake.  Allow to cool completely before filling.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding:

1 large ripe avocado
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt

Peel the avocado and chop into chunks.  Place avocado chunks in a food processor.  Add cocoa powder, vanilla and salt.  Blend until creamy, scraping down the sides of the food processor to be certain everything is well mixed.  Add the powdered sugar (see note for other sweetener options) and process until smooth.  If the pudding is too thick, add a small amount of water or milk until the desired consistency is achieved.

Serve right away or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  You may notice the pudding becomes darker upon standing; this is a result of the oxidation of the avocado and will not affect the flavor of the pudding.

To fill the muffins: it’s best to use a filling tip (available at kitchen stores and craft stores).  Simply fill a piping bag (or plastic zip-top bag) and affix the piping tip.  Push the tip into the muffin top or bottom and squeeze in some filling, moving the tip around a bit to create a cavity for the filling.  If you don’t have a tip or don’t want to fill them, simply frost the tops of the muffins with the pudding mix.

Notes:

I changed the muffin recipe to add ½ regular sugar and ½ brown sugar, you can use all regular sugar per the original recipe if you prefer.  I happen to like the flavor of the added brown sugar.

I substituted ½ the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour to add a little more nutritional kick.  If you don’t have whole wheat flour, you can simply use 2 cups of all purpose.

The original muffin recipe called for chopped walnuts to be added to the batter.  Since I was filling these muffins, I left them out.  Feel free to add them back in if you like.  The original recipe called for ¼ cup chopped walnuts.  I would probably go with ½ to ¾ cup chopped pecans myself, but that’s just my preference.

The original recipe for the Avocado Pudding called for Agave Syrup as a sweetener.  I didn’t have any on hand, so I went with Powdered Sugar.  You could also use honey if you prefer, though it may alter the taste a bit.  I wouldn't recommend using any kind of granulated sugar as it will likely give a grainy consistency to the pudding.

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