1. Cooking

These Banana Chocolate Espresso Muffins take standard banana bread up a notch

Banana Chocolate Espresso muffins. Photo by Lorraine Fina Stevenski, Times correspondent.
Banana Chocolate Espresso muffins. Photo by Lorraine Fina Stevenski, Times correspondent.
Published Mar. 18, 2019

When did America become so crazy about banana bread? It's often one of the most-searched bread recipes on various recipe sites.

Bananas, which are not native to America, started to become available in the 1800s. But it was difficult to get them everywhere, because transportation was solely by boat and bananas had a short shelf life. Refrigeration in the 20th century helped bring more bananas to American markets and made them more accessible nationally.

More bananas are sold in the United States than any other fruit, and most people pick up a bunch with their weekly shopping expeditions. The banana quickly became a breakfast favorite with cereal and on pancakes. Some of my early 1950s cookbooks use bananas every which way in cakes, cookies, pies and pudding.

Early in the 20th century, bananas inspired many new cookbooks to create banana bread recipes. My first attempt at making banana bread was with a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, published in 1977. This bread was quite dense but a flavorful start to learning how to bake. My baking skills since then have elevated my banana bread recipes to include tasty toppings and fancy fillings.

What is so great about bananas? They contain high levels of tryptophan. Tryptophan converts to serotonin, which transmits that happy mood and helps you sleep. Bananas are high in vitamin B, potassium and fiber. Bananas are easy to digest, so they work as a natural antacid by reducing the acid in your stomach.

Bananas have a creamy texture that provides the ability to bind ingredients in baking. Mashed bananas can replace sugar, butter and fats in recipes with great success. You can lighten up a recipe and replace some of the fat and sugar simply with the addition of a banana or two.

Here is a recipe that will excite banana bread fans with a combination of banana and chocolate and hints of espresso and cinnamon. My secret ingredient, molasses, heightens the chocolate flavor. White vinegar gives extra lift power and tones down the sweetness, so the chocolate can shine through.

This moist muffin is so easy to make by hand or with a hand mixer. My choice of topping is a crunch of pecan pralines and mini chocolate chips. I use Cafe Bustelo instant espresso powder for this recipe, as it is easy to find in the grocery store; a small jar is all you need to keep on hand for your chocolate espresso recipes.

These muffins also freeze perfectly. Wrap them in plastic and store them in a plastic zip-top bag in the freezer.

Contact Lorraine Fina Stevenski at

Banana Chocolate Espresso Muffins With a Praline Chocolate Chip Topping

For the muffins:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 medium bananas, very ripe

2 large eggs

¾ cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon molasses

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the topping:

⅓ cup chopped pecan pralines

½ cup mini chocolate chips

2 teaspoons vanilla sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 8 jumbo muffin cups with paper liners. Fill the remaining cups halfway with water. This helps the muffins bake evenly.

In a microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate chips, espresso powder and butter pieces. Microwave for 1 minute and then stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds and then stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another large mixing bowl, roughly smash the bananas. Stir in the eggs, buttermilk, molasses, vanilla and white vinegar. Mix by hand or with an electric hand mixer on medium speed, just until smooth but a few pieces of banana remain.

Add the banana mixture into the flour mixture and mix just until smooth. Stir the chocolate mixture into the batter and mix just until smooth. Fill each muffin cup almost to the top. Combine all the topping ingredients and then sprinkle evenly on each muffin top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Serve warm (the topping will be wonderfully gooey and melted) or at room temperature.

Makes 8 jumbo muffins.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski