Marvelous Muffins!!

My earliest muffin memory might also be my earliest cooking memory (trying to make garlic dip at age 6 doesn’t count). I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. I was determined to make “breakfast in bed” for my parents. I could read the directions on the Jiffy Muffin Mix box, but wasn’t clear on the cooking terms. I made my little sister mix the muffins because I didn’t like the idea of “mixing by hand” – those icky, squishy eggs bothered me even then, and I certainly didn’t want them between my fingers!

You won’t have to employ your younger siblings to mix these muffins. They’re all super-easy and there are no squishy eggs to mix. The hardest part of making most of them is simply gathering up the supplies – grating the carrots, grinding the flax seeds, etc. Oh, yeah – waiting for them to cool is a bit of a challenge as well!

The main things to remember when making muffins is that, like biscuits and cornbread and other breads that aren’t really breads (biscuits, cornbread, scones, muffins, and other quick “breads” have more in common with pastries than yeast breads)- – they require low gluten flour, light handling, and high temperatures. Use whole wheat pastry flour. Be sure not to use bread flour or you will have very tough muffins. Mix the wet and dry ingredients only as long as necessary to wet the dry ingredients thoroughly. Over-mixing also makes muffins tough. Bake them quickly (375 or 400 F) and you’ll be rewarded with a crispy exterior and tender, moist crumb. If you have a convection oven, you can use it to good advantage here. The muffins will bake up more quickly and have a higher crown than they would baked in a standard oven. (Lower the temperature by about 25 degrees and keep an eye on your first batch or two until you work out the timing.)

When the muffins are ready, let them cool for just a few minutes in the pan before turning them out. If you leave them in the pan to cool, the crusts will steam and get soggy. If you want to keep your muffins warm for just a few extra minutes during breakfast, you can turn them halfway out of their cups, leaving them on their sides in the pan. That way, the steam can evaporate but the residual heat from the tin will keep them from getting cold too quickly. (see blog post from 01/21/08 to see a photo of this.)

After they cool thoroughly, you can store any leftover muffins in a zippered plastic bag in the freezer and just pull out a muffin or two when you need them. They’ll defrost before lunch if you tuck them into a lunchbox, or you can reheat them (carefully) in the microwave for a quick breakfast.

Some of these recipes call for ground flax seed as an egg replacer. You can buy pre-ground flax meal or grind your own whole flax seeds in a spice grinder (a coffee grinder that you never grind coffee in), or in a *dry* blender. If your blender jar is even the least bit damp, the flax seeds will stick to the jar as soon as they start to spin and will never grind. Believe me, they are no fun to get out of there, either! Flax meal and whole flax seeds go rancid quickly, so keep them frozen in an air-tight container.

One last thing: Many of these muffins are high in fiber, which is a very good thing. If, however, you are not used to a high fiber diet, take it easy and build up your body’s tolerance, especially with insoluble fiber like wheat bran. Your digestive system will thank you. Also – don’t forget that fiber can only work to clean out your system if you are also taking in enough water. Remember to drink at least one extra glass of water for each of the “Your New Best Friend” muffins, or they might be “Your New Worst Enemy.”

Note: I am including basic nutrition facts this month for the first time. These are based on the information stored in my “MasterCook” computer program. They are to be used as guides only. While I have done my best to enter the information correctly, I can’t guarantee their accuracy.

Morning Glory Muffins
Moist and fruity!
Recipe By: adapted from vegweb.com
Serving Size: 24
Preparation Time: 1:00

1 1/4 cups unbleached sugar
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups grated carrot
1 apple, grated
8 ounces crushed pineapple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3/4 cup soft tofu
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F, and prepare two 12-cup muffins tins with papers or non-stick spray.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Combine the coconut, raisins, grated carrot, apple, pineapple and walnuts together and then add to the dry mixture, stirring to combine well. In a blender, blend together tofu, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Add this to the large bowl, stir to combine. Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Notes: these muffins are high in fat (most muffin recipes call for less than half this amount of oil). They will be equally delicious and even healthier if you substitute either mashed bananas or applesauce for up to 3/4 cup of the oil. I’d use at least 1/4 cup canola oil to retain a moist texture and to avoid making the muffins too rubbery.

Per muffin: 204 Calories; 11g Fat (46% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 2.2g Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 156mg Sodium

Your New Best Friend Muffins
Vary the spices in these to suit your own tastes.
Recipe By: Kate on Vegweb.com
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 1:00

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 cup unbleached sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon Ener-G egg replacer
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or paper liners.

Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then combine, mixing just enough to blend. Fill muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted comes out clean..

Note: Don’t forget to drink at least one extra full glass of water with each of these that you eat.

Per muffin: 136 Calories; 6g Fat (36% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 3.1g Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 202mg Sodium

Sweet-Tart Cranberry Muffins
A sprinkle of granola or some chopped nuts on top of these give them a little extra oomph.
Recipe By: adapted from The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 0:40

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pitted and chopped prunes
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup soy milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare 12-cup muffin tin with spray or paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the soymilk, oil, maple syrup, and cranberries. In a third bowl, beat the Ener-G egg replacer and water until frothy. Set aside.

Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the egg replacer until just incorporated. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling them 3/4 full. Bake until the muffins are light and springy to the touch – about 12 to 15 minutes.

Per serving: 141 Calories; 4g Fat (26% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 2g Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 175mg Sodium

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
This recipe makes rather small muffins, but with a nice light texture and peanutty flavor. For extra texture, sprinkle the tops of the muffins with chopped peanuts before baking.
Recipe By: Janet D. on Vegweb.com
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 0:40

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and oats.

In a separate bowl, combine soymilk, ground flax seeds, water, peanut butter, and maple syrup. Add to the dry ingredients, stir until just moistened.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until muffins spring back when touched lightly and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Per serving: 136 Calories; 5g Fat (31% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 2.8g Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 84mg Sodium
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Anyberry Muffins
These muffins are more like berry cupcakes without the frosting than traditional muffins.
Recipe By: adapted from Vegweb.com
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 0:45

4 ounces Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine
1 1/4 cups unbleached sugar
1 ripe banana
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
15 fresh strawberries, dry, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups) or 2 cups of your favorite berry (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry) or chopped peaches

Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray or paper liners.

Cream together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the banana, and cream until well blended. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Combine soy milk, arrowroot and vanilla. Alternate adding wet and dry mixtures to creamed mixture. Fold in strawberries. Fill muffin tins nearly full, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Be sure to let these cool thoroughly (if you can wait) – the fruit in them makes them very delicate and easy to break or tear.

Per serving (with strawberries): 226 Calories; 1g Fat (4% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 53g Carbohydrate; 5.1g Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 75mg Sodium

(Note: after much experimentation, I have decided that these are even better and lighter if you use all whole wheat pastry flour.)