- They have sweetness. All the best snacks are sweet.
- They have fiber. Fiber keeps you full.
- They are infinitely variable. Variety is the… you know.
- They are appropriate to eat at any time, day or night.
I was once the head cook at a camp, and we baked our muffins in sheet pans. Easier to prepare, easier to serve, easier to clean up after. (Who wants to spend their morning scrubbing out 100 holes? Not me. And not my dish crew.) Any leftover slabs of muffin got piled on a plate, and though they might languish in the morning, the kids would fight over them come 2 o’clock.
Recently I made a Morning Glory Muffin recipe, and they were… okay. Morning Glory Muffins traditionally have shredded carrots, drained canned pineapple, raisins, coconut, and nuts. I swapped out diced rhubarb for the pineapple (still dealing with the rhubarb glut here), omitted the nuts, and substituted diced dried apricots for the raisins. All these switches were fine. The problem was with the muffin batter itself. It was too sweet, and had little heft to it. It tasted like a cupcake.
This brings up another debatable question: What’s the difference between a cupcake and a muffin? I believe the answer lies in the frosting (one had it, one does not) and in the dry ingredient ratio. I like my muffins to be not TOO sweet, and with some whole grain goodness.
There are many way to incorporate whole grains into your baked goods. You can sub ground flax seed for some of the flour, or add some wheat germ. The easiest way is to use whole wheat pastry flour. I like Bob’s Red Mill, both for its texture and for the labor practices at the company. (Bob recently retired and gave his company to his employees, he’s that cool.) If you live in Seattle, you can get it at the Oroweat outlet store on 95th and 1st for the best price I’ve seen.
The recipe had good bones, and I tweaked it to make it better. As noted in point three above, muffins can adapt to whatever you have on hand. You could cut the sugar even further, to 3/4 of a cup, if you like austere pastries.
One non-muffin note: I will be having a giveaway in two days! So check back on Wednesday for your chance (very high chance, thanks to a small readership) to win some homemade goodies!
Glorious All-Day Muffins
adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, revised edition
1 c all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
3 large eggs
8 T (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 t vanilla or almond extract
2 c grated carrots (don’t bother to peel them first)
3/4 c or so diced rhubarb
1/2 c coconut
1/2 c diced dried apricots
1/2 c chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 375˚. Coat one or two muffins tins with baking spray. Be sure to coat the top of the tin, not just the insides, as it makes removal so much easier.
Whisk together the dry ingredients, except the sugar, in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Slowly whisk in the butter and vanilla until smooth. Fold the egg mix into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the carrots, rhubarb, coconut, apricots, and nuts. (This makes a pretty stiff batter. I actually just folded the final ingredients in using my hands and a light kneading motion. Don’t overwork the batter.)
Scoop into the prepared muffins tins. (I used my hands to scoop, since they were already dirty.) Bake until golden and toothpick stuck in the middle of the middle muffin comes out clean. This will take about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then flip out out a rack and let cool a little more before serving.
The carrots are sweet, the rhubarb adds a bit of tartness, and the coconut and apricots lend some chew. These muffins keep well, and are a wonderful little treat.
You can make many substitutions here. Use any other kind of nut, or no nuts*. Use any sort of dried fruit for the apricots, or none. Go the traditional route with one 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained, for the rhubarb. If you have another vegetable, such as zucchini, use it in place of carrots. Grated beets might make for a lovely pink muffin (and use some dried cranberries or cherries for ruby accents). As mentioned above, muffins take well to adaptation. What is your favorite kind of muffin?
* “no nuts” is a phrase I really like because of how it feels in my mouth . This started at the camp, where we would make granola two ways — nuts, and no nuts. The no-nuts (see? it’s fun) version got a little sticker on the bottom, so when nut-allergic kids came, we’d swap out the nuts for the no-nuts. The boys I worked with thought “no nuts” was funny. I like the alliteration.