Quick and easy Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Today’s recipe comes to you from heart-achingly beautiful Yangshuo.

Yangshuo is a part of China I’ve wanted to visit for years. On my very first day at work in Hong Kong, the two other girls at my school left on a long weekend here, and ever since then I’ve been longing to visit. I was worried though, travelling around central Laos, and visiting areas like Halong Bay, we’ve been to lots of stunning karst country. Excited as I was to arrive, I had a hint of trepidation, would it feel like we’d seen this all before?

Yangshuo, however, hasn’t disappointed.

In the mornings, mist clings to the karst mountains. They become misty, mystical far away monoliths, rising silently from the earth and dominating the landscape. Come mid-day, the sky a bright, burning blue, they shimmer with the heat. Some tree covered, others with limestone exposed. Those far away become little more than shades of grey going on and on into the distance; an image of China deeply ingrained from childhood.  As the evening falls the sun dips behind the hills, and the light pours through between them in long shafts, breaking up the long shadows cast across the yellow glowing rice paddies.

Hiring a bike and getting lost in the back roads, rice paddy tracks is the perfect way to see this beautiful part of the world.

Do you want to take a look?

Yangshuo, China // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Yangshuo, China // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Yangshuo, China // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Yangshuo, China // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Yangshuo, China // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Enough about the scenery though, lets get onto the cake!

heart wooden spoon // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Its not long since we’ve had a banana and chocolate recipe, but it’s such a wonderful combination of flavours I find myself revisiting it over and over again.

These muffins are deliciously chocolatey, with cocoa powder flavouring, and dark chocolate chips.

banana and chocolate muffins // scarletscorchdroppers.com

The recipe is adapted (very slightly) from a Nigella Lawson recipe and, as with so many of her delicious baked treats,  is so quick and easy.

Mash your bananans, add the liquids and the sugar, throw in the dry ingredients and you’re done. Pop them in the oven and 2o minutes later they’re ready to enjoy. Tender, delicious muffins warm and ready. They’re generously sized, and could easily be counted as a breakfast food if you’re that way inclined.

I’ve used dark chocolate chips, to compliment the sweetness of the bananas. If you’re making these for children though, or the particularly sweet toothed, you could swap the dark chocolate for milk chocolate.

Why not give them a try this weekend?

banana and chocolate muffins // scarletscorchdroppers.com

Ps, if anyone is interested, we stayed at The Giggling Tree. Its a beautiful restored farm house set in a village in the countryside outside Yangshuo. Its a lovely, friendly place with a family feel, and I’d recommend it for anyone wanting to explore this beautiful area.

Quick and easy Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

(slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson)

Makes 12

Ingredients 

3 very ripe or over ripe bananas

125ml vegetable oil

2 large eggs

100g soft light brown sugar

225g plain flour (all purpose flour)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

200g dark chocolate chips or chunks

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 280F/ 400F.

Line a 12 hole muffin pan with papers.

In a large bowl, mash your bananas with a potato masher or a fork.

Still mashing, pour in the oil, then the eggs and sugar.

In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour, cocoa powder and bicadonate of soda.

Switch to a wooden spoon, and fold into the banana mixture until everything is just combined.

Stir through the chocolate chips or chunks.

Divide evenly between the 12 muffin papers.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes, until well risen and firm to the touch.

Cool completely, then serve.

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Soda Bread

soda bread // www.scarletscorchdroppers.com

Hello from China! We’re in Shangri-La at the moment, up in the mountains near the Tibetan border. Its incredibly beautiful, but absolutely freezing. I’m wearing 7 layers of clothes, and my fingers are still freezing as I type. I don’t know how i’m going to cope when we hit Mongolia and Russia!

There’s one thing we really miss when we’re travelling this part of the world, and that’s good bread. Back in Hong Kong we did ok. In general the bread is sweet and soft, but in the expat populated areas you find bakeries and cafes selling delicious fresh loaves of bread. Out here in China, however, this sadly isn’t the case. Travelling through a former French colonies of South East Asia we were lucky and tucked into delicious crusty baguettes, a legacy of the former empire. Here though, sliced, sweet white bread is about as good as it gets. Every morning hostel breakfasts run along a similar lines; two eggs, omletted or fried, and a slice of this bread, claiming to be toasted but really just warmed up a bit. Finding somewhere that makes their own fresh bread is like finding the Holy Grail.

I usually avoid bread choices, opting for porridge, steaming bowls of noodles or fluffy buns cooked road-side, stacked high in metal towers.However good the noodles though, I still find myself craving a decent loaf. Soda bread is my most recent bread love. Just before we left Hong Kong I made so many of these loaves in an attempt to use up all the flour I’d been hoarding. I think I must have some subconscious fear of being without flour, I had bags and bags sat on my shelves. Does anyone else do that?

soda bread // scarletscorchdroppers.com

 Soda bread uses bicarbonate of soda, rather than yeast, as its leavening agent. This means no proofing is needed, the bread goes from flour to loaf in only 30 minutes. Perfect for those emergency bread situations when only fresh bread will do. You stir together the flours, add in salt and bicarbonate, stir in the buttermilk and knead into a rough ball and put into a hot oven. I always substitute buttermilk for milk mixed with a teaspoon of vinegar about five minutes before I need it. It’s cheaper than buying buttermilk, far easier to find in the shops, and works just as well.

 The texture is a little different to a yeasted loaf, slightly thicker and heavier, yet not at all doughy. The crust is my favourite part. It’s beautifully thick and crunchy, and absolutely perfect fresh out of the oven slathered in salted butter. The smell that will fill your house as this bakes is incredible. You’ll find it so very hard to resist ripping into the loaf as soon as its out of the oven; I never can. Its dense texture makes it wonderful dunked in soup, it holds onto all the flavour without falling apart.

soda bread // scarletscorchdroppers.com

My friend Finn will tell me this isn’t proper soda bread at all, that proper soda bread should be made solely with white flour, that it should be cut into thick, hearty triangles, smothered with butter and filled with bacon the morning after a few too many glasses of wine. If you’d rather have a white loaf, simply substitue the wholemeal flour for an equal amount of white flour.

Soda Bread

(adapted from James Martin)

Ingredients 

(Makes 1 loaf, serving 4 – 6 people)

170g strong wholemeal flour

170g plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

290ml buttermilk

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180 fan / 400F.

Weigh the flours, bicarbonate and salt into a large bowl.

Make a well in the centre and stir in the buttermilk. Mix with a wooden spoon until starting together, then continue with your hands until you have a slightly sticky, but not wet, dough. If the dough won’t come together, add a little milk until it does. I used about a tablespoon.

Turn onto a floured surface and briefly knead until the dough has all come together in a  smoothish ball.

Shape into a round and place onto a baking tray.

Slash across vertically and horizontally with a knife.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the crust is golden, and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.