Of the Jessie recipe file, this week’s banana muffin recipe was fascinating – well, to me – for three reasons:
1. The “recipe” just listed the ingredients, baking time, and oven temperature, so I had to create the steps, from my knowledge of baking techniques – especially muffins and quick breads.
2. I do not remember my grandmother Jessie ever having made these, so I could not compare my version to my memory – unlike last week’s brownies.
3. The recipe was hand-written on the reverse of a sympathy-note form card.
The last item makes me wonder if Jessie wrote this recipe down some time after the late 1960s, when my grandfather died (in his late sixties himself). He was a very well-known sports writer – he never would have called himself a “sports journalist” in the style today – and publicity man. Grandpa Lou (or “Gooey”, as we called him, as a childish contraction of “Grandpa Louie”, I think) was a quirky self-educated newspaperman and sports promoter In fact, a character in the play (made into a movie four times!) by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page was based on him, I learned just a few years ago from my mother.
My grandfather worked closely with Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey (I have a pocket watch from Mr. Dempsey engraved with an inscription to my grandfather on Xmas Day 1929, the day of the gift), and other high-profile boxers as well as horse-racers and many other sports figures and teams.
For instance, Joe Louis, who was one of the greatest boxers in history, received considerable yet discrete financial help from my grandfather, after Mr. Louis’s agent misappropriated or mismanaged his money.
More on the Sympathy Note – and the Banana Muffin Recipe
A few years after my grandfather’s death, my grandmother and I attended a tennis exhibition with Bobby Riggs (he of “male chauvinist pig” fame, who lost to Billie Jean King in a much-hyped “The Battle of the Sexes” in 1973). Mr. Riggs was thrilled to see my grandmother when she went over to introduce herself, gave her a big smile and kiss, and insisted he remembered both her and my grandfather. When she introduced me to the former Wimbledon champion — I was playing tennis in junior tournaments at that time and was my major passion – I was overwhelmed (though I rooted for Billie Jean in their match!).
My point in this diversion is that these note-cards, which read “The Family of the late [BLANK SPACE TO BE COMPLETED] gratefully acknowledges your kind expression of sympathy, “ would have been leftover from the countless notecards my grandmother would have had to send out in response to my grandfather’s death. So I suspect my dating of this recipe to the very end of the 1960s or early 1970s makes sense, along with the banana bread and carrot cakes which were in vogue, way back in those days.
The recipe makes a very light, tender-crumbed small muffin. It has a delicate banana flavour, is not too sweet, and makes the ideal teatime, brunch, or breakfast treat. There is a very rich buttermilk-banana bread recipe I always use (TBBIF – “to be blogged in future”) which is my standard, but this one makes for a good alternative, especially for brunches with lots of rich food – perhaps a good snack for a day at the races, while watching a boxing match, or some other sporting event.
Banana Muffin, adapted from Jessie’s recipe envelope
Makes one-half dozen (double or quadruple for one or two dozen)
2/3 cup AP (all-purpose, for those of you not hip to the food lingo)
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 ripe banana, mashed
½ cup chopped walnuts + six whole walnut-halves for garnish (either/both optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in lower-middle position.
- Place (preferably reusable silicon) muffin liners in tin, or else grease with extra butter or use cooking spray.
- Mix mashed banana with baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.
- In separate bowl, pour butter over sugar, beating until well-blended, with crystals dissolved. Add egg, and beat until thoroughly mixed in (no white or yolk traces visible).
- Add butter-sugar-egg to banana, mix until completely incorporated.
- Stir flour into mixture and fold in, just until there are almost no traces of the flour.
- Add walnuts gently, if using.
- Scoop into muffin tins with ice cream scoop or use spoon to place batter into liners.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and tester comes out clean, with just a few moist crumbs.