Mad Cats, Englishmen and Muffins in the Mid-day Sun

Ahhh, the (brief) return of summer!  For one glorious day, there was wall to wall blue sky, unrelenting sunshine, and even a passing nod at the magical 30 degree threshold!   The first thing that crossed my mind as I listened to the forecast that day was that it was going to be too hot to cook anything.  Unbeknownst to our heroine, however, there was a horrifying secret yet to be uncovered in the kitchen; there was not a single muffin in the h0use.  Muffins, you see, are a staple in our household.  They are portable breakfasts, they fill cavernous holes between meals, and they have on occasion been asked to serve as light puddings.  Clearly, I had to do something and do it quickly.

In our home, we’re fairly laid back.  You can walk indoors with your shoes on and no one will challenge you; you can let your dog curl up on the sofa and no one will bat an eyelash.  Since there are so few rules and regulations to observe, there must be awfully good reason for the ones that do exist.  The cardinal rules, such as they are, are as follows:

1) Always capitulate to the Lioness.  While this may sound rather cryptic, it’s simply a paraphrase of C3P0’s sage advice to his robot sidekick as he faced down his Kashyyykian opponent.  If one wants to survive in our household, one must always let the wookiee win.  While the wookiee in our domestic situation, the most ill-tempered, foul-natured cat in all of creation, lacks the physical presence of her onscreen counterparts, she makes up for it in ferocity.  We suspect she possesses the power to kill us with the merest twitch of a whisker and that she only suffers us to exist as her vassals while she plots the next phase of global domination, so we tread very carefully around her.

2) On pain of death, you do NOT use the oven in the high summer heat.  Neither myself nor Him Indoors are mathematicians, but we quickly discovered the equation, Oven + Summer  = Stifling Heat that Doesn’t Dissipate until October.  Even a sudden movement or purposeful glance in the oven’s direction could get you bound, gagged and exiled.

So, you can see my dilemma that morning.  I hmmed and hawed, I internally debated pros and cons, and I even attempted to convince myself that we could do without our daily fix, but there was nothing for it in the end.  Sustenance effortlessly overwhelmed thermoregulation, and the First Muffin Amendment was drafted.  “Thou shalt not use the oven in high summer heat EXCEPT in the event of a muffin deficiency!”

As soon as I start mashing bananas, the Lioness will materialise to oversee proceedings with a critical eye.  She views these muffins as a form of tithe, and she will wrestle you to the ground for a morsel.  I can’t even leave a tray of muffins out to cool on cat-accessible surfaces.  The one time I failed to relocate a rack of cooling muffins, I lost the entire squadron.  All that was left were the stumps and indigestible paper liners.   I keep telling her that muffin is not considered a prey item in feline circles and that they’d revoke her membership at the Carnivore Club if they only knew, but she just fixes me with her steely gaze, silently challenging me to grass her up.  Not unlike the tradition of the Cornish miners who would save the last corner of their pasty in order to offer it to the knockers or pixies for favours or safe passage out of the mine, we always leave a large crumb of muffin for Her Who Must be Obeyed.

I can’t even remember whence this recipe for Best Banana Muffins came.  I’ve been carrying it around with me for so long,  it could be one of my grandmother’s but it could also be one of Miss Kovacs’ home economics lessons.  Although it has been committed to my memory, possibly even on the genetic level, I still smooth out the dog-eared, stained sheet of paper covered with arcane instructions in a youthful version of my cursive script every time I whip up a  batch.

You can dress these lovely, moist muffins up with a layer of frosting once baked and cooled (cream cheese works well, as does chocolate) or add a handful of chocolate chips to the batter, but you’ll probably find that they don’t need any gilding at all.  In an airtight container, these will keep well for three days at room temperature, but they have a tendency to disappear long before the three days are up!

A pyramid of banana muffins.

Best Banana Muffins

Dry Bowl:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Bowl:

3 – 5 very well ripened bananas, peeled and mashed (approximately 1 1/2 cups of banana goo)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 C/190 F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside for the moment, and turn your attention to the wet ingredients.

2.  In a second bowl, combine the banana mash, sugar, butter, and the egg.  (Always make sure that your melted butter isn’t *freshly* melted and steaming hot, else your egg might curdle.  No, this has NEVER happened to me…more than once.)

3.  Add the contents of the wet bowl to the dry ingredients, and stir until just moistened.  Fill the greased or paper-lined cups of your muffin tray with the batter, and then bake in your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  (This makes me eight, healthy sized muffins, but it might make more or less dependent upon the size of your muffin cups.)

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