Recently I’ve noticed the best-selling item I make when I’m on pre-k snack duty is muffins. This is a good thing because I love muffins. They are easy, versatile, and delicious. I make lots of muffins. Usually they are healthy, rarely but on occasion they are cupcakes disguised as muffins. Most have lots of ingredients. Often there is a sprinkling of bran involved.
Although I have many recipes already in my book, I went searching for a simpler but still healthy muffin recipe. One that puffed up and tasted good without lots of butter and shortening. A tabula rasa, if you will, that would allow me to put in whatever extra ingredients I had on hand in it. I adapted a Culinary Institute of America recipe that was posted on the Harvard School of Public Health blog. After a bit of tweaking and tasting, I’m happy to report I’ve found it! Behold, the blank slate muffin.
blank slate muffins
makes 18 regular-sized muffins, or 9 regular and 12 mini muffins
1 1/4 c. spelt, buckwheat, or white whole wheat flour
3/4 c. almond meal (aka. almond flour)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. sunflower or other neutral oil
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt (or applesauce for dairy-free)
2 Tbs. maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degF. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Separate eggs, putting yolks in a large bowl and whites in a small bowl. To the yolks, add remaining wet ingredients and mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes until combined; use a stand mixer on low speed if you prefer. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three stages, mixing well to combine.
[Whatever other ingredients you want to add, if any, should be included now. To the muffins pictured, I added 1/2 c. mixed dried fruit (golden raisins, blueberries, cranberries, and cherries from Trader Joe’s) that had steeped in hot water for 10 minutes, 1/4 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, and the zest of two clementines (about 1 tsp.). The sky is the limit, but I could also see blueberries and chunks of cream cheese; bananas, walnuts, and browned butter* (see below); or dried strawberries and oatmeal. A sprinkle of sugar or streusel on top would be excellent on special days too.]
Whisk egg whites until medium peaks form. Add a smidgen of the whites to the batter, stirring gently, and then fold in the remaining whites, trying not to deflate the batter as you mix. Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Fill each to 3/4 full, about 1 Tbs. for the mini tins or 1 ice cream scoop for regular tins. Bake mini muffins about 10 minutes and regular muffins 20 to 22 minutes. Allow muffins to cool for a few minutes in the tin on top of the oven, then remove muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.
*A note for the banana, brown butter, walnut option: Making brown butter (beurre noisette) is very easy. Melt 1/3 c. butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Whisk as the butter foams, the foam subsides, and the milk solids begin to turn a toasty brown. Be careful that you don’t burn them. Then for the recipe above, substitute the brown butter for half of the oil, substitute 2-3 mashed bananas for the 1/2 c. yogurt, and add 1/2 c. toasted walnuts. Sprinkle the tops with 1/4 c. toasted shredded coconut if you’re feeling frisky.