A meal's worth of nutrition in a muffin? It's possible with this healthy almond muffin recipe.
"Mmmmmm . . . that's good," exclaimed my husband Ray, as the courteous smile he'd put on before his first tentative bite of one of my new muffins broadened into a grin of sincere culinary appreciation. And after my spouse finished devouring several of the piping hot morsels, I knew I had a success on my hands.
I dubbed my creations "fluffins", in reference to their unbelievably light texture. However, this attribute, while important, isn't the main virtue of the baked goods . . . nutrition is. Fluffins, you see, are rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins . . . supply a respectable amount of unrefined carbohydrate . . . use no fat at all, yet are as light and delicate as a breeze . . . and have a nutty goodness that's all their own.
On other occasions when I've tried to go all out for extra nutrition in a muffin, the result has usually been tough, heavy, flat-tasting, and/or fattening. So I was—as you'd imagine—very pleased when I hit upon the fluffin formula, which turns out a quick bread that's light, delicious, nutritious, and relatively low in calories, to boot!
The secret lies, of course, in the ingredients: Buckwheat is nonglutenous, as are rice bran, rice polish, and almond meal. There's only half a cup of unbleached wheat flour in the recipe, and the moist, fluffy batter is made without any shortening. Almonds are the nuts highest in protein and lowest in fat. The rice bran and eggs are also loaded with protein . . . and the buckwheat and wheat flour add still more. Furthermore, many of the ingredients are rich in a variety of minerals. And if you prefer to use milk instead of water as your liquid, you'll supply more minerals and protein.
Better still, this nutritious treat isn't at all difficult to make. Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and then grease and flour a 12-cup muffin tin (or a 9 inch by 12 inch cakepan). Next, place the following dry ingredients in a mixing bowl:
1/2 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of almond meal
1/2 cup of rice bran (or rice polish)
1/2 cup of unbleached wheat flour
1/2 cup of raw or turbinado sugar
3 teaspoons of double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of raisins (optional)
Most of these ingredients should be available at your favorite natural foods store. But since almond meal is expensive, I make it myself—in the amount that I need—by dropping unblanched almonds into the blender, a handful at a time. (EDITOR'S NOTE: A local health food store owner, whom MOTHER consulted, suggested that readers would do best to follow the author's example. It seems that many such shops don't stock freshly ground almond—or other nut-meal because of its tendency to turn rancid quickly.) If you don't have any almonds on hand, you can substitute a half-cup of wheat bran, and your fluffins will still be delicious (though almond fanciers certainly won't like them as well). As for the choice between rice bran and rice polish, just bear in mind that the polish is lighter, but the bran is more nutritious.
Once you've measured out the dry ingredients, mix them thoroughly with a hand beater, and set the bowl aside. Next, measure 1/4 cup of unsulfured molasses into another dish, add 3/4 cup of water (or milk, if you prefer), and blend them well. With that done, beat two eggs in a third container.
Now, simply combine the liquid and dry ingredients, and mix them until they're well moistened (do not beat . . . stir only until the mixture is relatively smooth). Pour the batter into the greased and floured tin and bake the muffins for 20 to 30 minutes. Use a cake tester, a toothpick, or a clean broom straw to check for doneness.
I like to serve fluffins steaming hot from the oven . . . split and anointed with butter, an all-natural margarine, or some other favorite topping. Leftovers can be frozen (we always try to keep a few extras on hand in the freezer) . . . and, when time is precious, one or two reheated fluffins—served with a glass of fruit juice or milk—will make your body think you've had a full meal!
You'll also find that this recipe is exceptionally versatile. If you prefer a more dessert-like bread, for instance, use a little more sugar or molasses—or add some honey—and bake the batter in a cakepan. To make a chocolaty treat, stir in 3/4 cup of carob powder and a little more water. Top the sweet creations with your favorite carob frosting.
I serve the muffins often (because of their nutritional value), so I've found it necessary to develop a few variations to keep them from becoming monotonous. Sometimes I add 1/2 cup of soy flour and 1/4 cup of water to the basic recipe to achieve higher-than-usual protein content. And stirring in some cinnamon and ginger—plus a few chopped dates—will produce a spicy ginger-bread fluffin. But to tell the truth, I've yet to find a variation that I think improves on the original.
Well, enough of my praise for almond fluffins . . . give the recipe a try and see what you think. I'm confident that the results (and your family of taste-testers) will speak for themselves.
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