Bake Muffins: Recipes and Baking Tips

Try these recipes for chocolate-cupcake, banana oat, carob chip, apple-nut, oat bran, and blueberry muffins, for treats that are easy to make and portable.

| April/May 1992

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    Homemade muffins are fast, easy to prepare, and a healthy alternative to fast-food pastries.

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For many people, muffin munching means strolling down the frozen-food aisle at the supermarket or dropping into their nearest Dunkin' Donuts. Who has time to bake? Muffins are actually fast, easy to prepare, and a healthy alternative to fast-food muffins, which are high in fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Versatile for any meal, muffins can also compliment soups and stews, or liven up an unexciting leftover. They certainly qualify as a snack or dessert item by simply calling them cupcakes.

Your children will buy this deception until they're about seven years old, at which point one of them will wise up and whine, "But cupcakes have frosting!" So then you whip up some light cream cheese, vanilla, and honey and smear it on the questionable cupcake and everyone is satisfied. I've found this beats the "eat-your-darned-muffin-and-like-it-or-else!" approach.

Muffins will keep in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks. A good time-saver is to make a double batch and, while they're baking, start another batch using a different recipe. You'll then have 48 muffins prepared in approximately one hour. After they're thoroughly cooled, cover each in saran wrap and store in a zip-lock freezer bag. They can be quickly defrosted and warmed in the microwave as you need them.

When envisioning healthy, cholesterol-lowering muffins, one tends to picture little brown bricks sitting solidly on a platter. Whole-grain/high-fiber muffins can be light and tender. Here are some hints for producing tender, cake-like (but healthy), delicious muffins that I've found after years of experimentation and hundreds of little bricks.

Ingredients: I use whole-wheat pastry flour for all my baking, with the exception of items using baker's yeast. Whole-wheat pastry flour is ground from soft-wheat berries, as opposed to hard-wheat berries used for whole-wheat flour. The pastry flour makes a noticeable difference in producing a lighter baked good without sacrificing any nutrients. Fresh baking powder is a must for baking, because whole grains are heavy. I buy the little cans of baking powder so it's used up before losing its potency. For storing whole-grain flours, keep them in the freezer to help preserve valuable nutrients. Using a culture such as yogurt, buttermilk, or sour milk produces a tender and less-dry baked good. Even two tablespoons of yogurt in a loaf of carrot bread will make a difference. I've also found that when using a natural sweetener such as honey, adding as little as one tablespoon of sugar will produce a lighter product.

Equipment: Using an electric mixer beats air into the baked goods, helping them to rise higher. I use only paper muffin liners and I've discovered only one brand of muffin pans that guarantees excellent results. They are tin-plated pans (the Village Baker series) made by Chicago Metallic. I use their entire line of pans for all my baking because both aluminum and non-stick pans cause the exterior of the baked goods to brown too rapidly, while the inside isn't fully cooked. Natural sweeteners such as molasses or honey cause baked items to brown faster. Using the tin-plated pans will produce your most successful baking results.

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