Greetings from Tuscany! I'm writing from the long wooden table of our temporary home in San Gimignano, a tiny town of cobblestone streets and sun-soaked vineyards. Queen Anne's lace bursts from the sides of the dirt roads, and at night, you get to gaze out the window, listen to the croaking frogs, and imagine what is must have been like to lust after Romeo from a second-story balcony. (I don't think the height difference was beneficial. Things would have been hotter if they could have snagged an "accidental" arm stroke, just saying.)
Since arriving in Rome Thursday morning, I've eaten four flavors of gelato, freschi ravioli con funghi, freschi ravioli con pomodoro, apricots buffalo mozzarella from a buffalo, a million sheets of prosciutto, melanzane grigliate, a milka bar filled with butter crackers, pizza, pizza, pizza, and more. Also, in an effort to "culture" myself, I'm going to the Colesseum, reading lots and lots, and staring thoughtfully at Renaissance paintings. But I'll get to all that later.
Before I left, there were muffins! And a new baby! My friend Jessica, who is the glorious new mama, and I were playmates in the heyday of our youth. We transformed her basement into the streets of New York, pretending to be famous models who were also homeless, and hanging paisley sheets across the bars of the treadmill to build a makeshift shelter. Our families once took a shared vacation to the Outer Banks, where we stuffed our sea salt-crusted mouths with trolli sour octopi to recuperate from an afternoon of boogie boarding. Now she's got a kid of her own and will need to stuff his mouth with sour trolli insects. (When he gets teeth, I guess.)
For now, the family has muffins.
Not just any ordinary muffins! Browned butter and vanilla and (if you dare) semi-sweet chocolate! The browned butter adds an enveloping sweetness, one that curls its arm around you like a slightly flirty but mostly friendly old Italian man.
I think banana bread is quite sneaky, because it can tiptoe into the breakfast category of life even though it is clearly cake. If you painted these guys with a cream cheese frosting (which would be delicious, BTW), you would have a cupcake fit for any occasion. I would pair them with midnight fairy picnics, a sweet white wine, or strong espresso.
"New babe" browned butter and vanilla bean banana muffins
Heat the oven to 350. Fill 12-16 muffin tins with paper liners.
Add the butter to a medium pan over medium heat. Allow the butter to melt, using a rubber spatula to occasionally swirl it around the pan. Once the butter is fully melted, allow it to sit until the sizzling dies down and remove from heat. The browned bits (yumyumyum) will sink to the bottom of the pan.
In a large bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to combine.
To a food processor or blender, add the brown butter, bananas, eggs, brown and white sugars, yogurt, orange juice, and vanilla Blend until smooth.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold to incorporate. Fold in the chocolate chips, if using. Add about 1/4 cup to each muffin cup.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, checking within the last few minutes of baking. Allow the muffins to cool for 20 minutes, and then top with powdered sugar, if desired.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)
Cheers to the middle of summer, beautifuls.