Almond + Espresso Banana Crumble Muffins
“The muse does not come pay visits, so you go out stalking, hoping that something will catch you.” -Maurice Sendak
Over the past couple years, travel has become, for me, less of a sight-seeing vacation and more of a chance to gather and collect new ideas, images, and flavors. I make a point of trying to dance wherever I go, whether I am taking or teaching workshops, or even simply improvising in a new environment. Each place I have visited sparks a completely different kind of inspiration that I always feel compelled and motivated to bring to my work, either in movement, writing, or even in the kitchen.
However, because of this fast flush of information and motivation that comes with each journey, the process of landing back home becomes a little bit more difficult to navigate. I have the tendency to want to dive into projects and make every new idea happen instantaneously upon arrival, but decompression and rest are also just as necessary. It often becomes a bit of a battle between what the body craves and what the creative mind wants (I’ve written about this before, detailing the syndrome of the “coming-home crash”). The specific question here, is how to we not let that creative momentum drop once we’ve arrived back into our normal daily routines?
This is something I have been working through a lot already this year, coming back from our Vietnam adventure in the Spring and Montreal just a couple weeks ago (which is, in my opinion, one of the most artistically inspiring cities there is). Montreal, especially, put so much in motion for me in terms of developing new ideas and driving me to dig deeper in my choreography and performance. My determination not to let this all dissolve into nothing once I was back to Tangier was stronger than ever. So I formulated a rough plan:
Step One- Hold yourself accountable.
While I was still in Montreal, brainstorming and dreaming about future projects, I wrote as much as possible down to keep all of these seeds of ideas tangible, plus I shared some of the more fully formed ones with friends and family. Telling people around you what you plan on doing makes you all the more likely to actually follow through (this has been one of my strategies, anyway).
Step Two- Keep the body prepared and awake.
As a dancer it is especially important, but I think everyone can benefit from a bit of morning stretching, a brisk walk outside, or light yoga after any kind of travel. I find that it helps fight off the jet lag and keeps me more open and ready to work.
Step Three- Change your routine.
Travel changes us, whether in very small or very large ways; its transformative power is just a fact. Because of this, I think it is also important to switch up our routines and rituals a little bit after a trip to acknowledge and incorporate any new influences. Maybe this could include starting to write every morning for a certain amount of time, adding an extra studio day for personal training and creation, or even adjusting something as small as the kinds of food you eat for breakfast. A simple change can make the easy comfort of home feel a bit more refreshed and integrated with your traveling experience.
Step Four- Don’t stop the search for any kind of muse.
Keep seeking out new resources, research, listen to inspiring podcasts, interviews, and follow artists who inspire you daily. Since coming home, I have been more selective and purposeful about the kinds of influences with which I surround myself. This includes social media, the music I listen to, and what I read and watch regularly, trying to focus more on things that truly challenge me.
It has been only about a week and a half since I came back from Montreal and with this plan in motion, I have so far been able to avoid a total disorienting coming-home crash. That momentum has finally been preserved and I am still feeling just as inspired as ever.
I have to admit though, there is one secret weapon I failed to mention that helps keep the spirits high after a long journey.
It is almost more the ritual of making it every morning than just the caffeine itself, but whatever its magic may be, I can’t deny that coffee helps to fuel me when I am recovering from jet lag and travel exhaustion. And what better way to settle back home than to bake a batch of comforting muffins with a little hint of energizing espresso?
I always find banana muffins to be a home-y, nostalgic classic, but these are jazzed up with some espresso powder whisked into the batter and a crunchy, nutty almond crumble on top (that might also contain a bit of caffeine). These are perfectly fluffy, full of flavor and texture, and were exactly what I needed to get me through this past week. They are also incredibly easy to make, being a perfect one-bowl-mixes-all kind of muffin recipe. So really there is no excuse not to bake them, whether you need a post-travel or just a beginning-of-the-week pick-me-up.
Almond + Espresso Banana Crumble Muffins
Makes about 9 medium-large muffins
3-4 medium overripe bananas
- 1/2 cup (115g) brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla + 1/2 tsp almond extract OR 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (80g) melted butter
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/3 cup (70g) chopped roasted almonds
- 1/4 tsp instant espresso powder
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and fill a muffin tin with 9 cupcake liners or grease + flour each cup.
To make the topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers until medium-sized crumbs are formed. Set aside.
Mash up the ripe bananas in a large mixing bowl, then add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, melted (and slightly cooled) butter, and the egg. Whisk until smooth and frothy. Add the flour, baking powder, espresso, salt and fold into the mixture with a spatula until just combined.
Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, drop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling up each cup about 3/4 of the way. Sprinkle a generous amount of crumble on top of each muffin until used up.
Bake for 15-18 minutes (oven times may vary) or until slightly golden brown on top and a knife comes out clean. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the tin and digging in.