Sunday, May 27, 2018

Recipe: Cinnamon Cheesecake Stuffed Banana Muffins

     I love to bake.  I love cooking too, but there is something special about baking that relaxes me.  It's soothing to mix all of the very different ingredients together and watch them transform into something yummy in the oven.  And the smells, oh my goodness, the smells in a kitchen while baking are the smells of dreams.  Baking can be challenging, and I'm gluten-free which comes with even more challenges.  If you're gluten free then you know that baking gluten free is hard.  Stuff comes out dry and crumbly, nothing rises right, and even if your finished product looks good it probably has some texture issues when you try to eat it.  That's because in baking gluten is what stretches and holds everything together.  When that's missing, things can get weird.
     I was extremely discouraged when I first tried baking after being diagnosed with celiac disease.  Everything I tried to make was gross, or looked horrible, or both.  But I didn't give up.  I've been practicing, forcing family and coworkers to try my gluten free baked goods.  And all that practice has paid off.  I think I'm pretty good at gluten free baking now.  I've learned how to adjust recipes and which products to use.  So, I'm going to start sharing my recipes here.
     We are starting with muffins.  Muffin batter is really the same as quick bread batter, we are just pouring it into muffin tins instead of a loaf pan.  At first glance this recipe seems hard, we are mixing up a topping, a filling and a batter.  But if you prepare your ingredients for each step before starting and just go step by step it's actually pretty simple!  Quick bread batter is very easy to make gluten free.  It's a very moist batter, and it stays fairly dense even after it rises in the oven.  The trick is to make sure you don't overmix the batter.  You can use a mixer (stand mixer or hand mixer) for the filling and to start the batter, but when you add the dry ingredients just stir it in by hand, and only stir until the dry ingredients have been mixed in.
     For this recipe I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 baking flour.  This is my go-to baking flour.  It's a mixture of several different flours and the xanthan gum already mixed in.

Cinnamon Cheesecake Stuffed Banana Muffins
Makes 10 large muffins; prep time: 25 minutes, bakes for 22 minutes = total time 47 minutes

Streusel Topping:
6 Tablespoons flour
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons salted butter, cold and cubed

Cheesecake Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Muffin Batter:
3 over-ripe bananas
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
½ cup vanilla greek yoghurt (can also use sour cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Streusel topping:
In a small bowl mix together flour, brown sugar and ground cinnamon until well blended.  Add butter and rub into dry mixture with fingertips until all dry ingredients have been mixed in and the whole thing is the texture of wet sand.  Put in refrigerator to chill until right before baking.

Cheescake Filling:
In a medium bowl blend together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, using a hand mixer and beating until smooth.  (If your cream cheese is lumpy it means it is still too cold.)  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Add the flour and ground cinnamon and beat until well blended.  Set aside.

Muffin Batter:
In a large bowl beat the bananas with a hand mixer until fairly smooth.  (You can use the same beaters you used for the filling.  The mixture of flavors really won’t make that big a difference.)   Add the melted butter and both sugars.  Mix until well blended and sugars have dissolved.  Add the eggs, vanilla extract and yoghurt.  Beat until they are all blended. 
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a spoon (I prefer a wooden spoon, the point is not to use the mixer at this stage.) just until the dry ingredients are all mixed in.  Be careful not to overstir. 

Making the muffins:
Grease 2 large muffin tins well (Mine make 6 muffins each and this recipe makes 10 large muffins).  Pour ¼ cup of muffin batter into the bottom of each of 10 muffin cups.  Add approximately 3 Tablespoons of cheesecake filling to each muffin cup.  Gently spread the filling over the batter in each muffin cup so you can’t see any batter.  Now pour in enough muffin batter to fill each muffin cup so that they are all ¾ of the way full.  Remember they are going to rise, don’t fill them too full or they will run over and make a mess in your oven.  Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the streusel topping we kept in the refrigerator until just this moment.  Distribute the streusel topping evenly.  Be generous, it’s fabulous.

Bake the muffins for 22 minutes.  To test for doneness place a toothpick into the center of 1 muffin, if it comes out with batter still on it bake for a few more minutes.  If there are moist crumbs only on the toothpick your muffins are done. 
Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.  Then transfer to a wire cooling rack to continue cooling. 

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