Aside from banana muffins, or simple toasted English muffins next to eggs for breakfast, muffins were often, decades ago, ho hum for me, kind of bland, mostly an aside to any meal. I never ate them as a child, even though my Dad owned bakeries. (We usually ate rye bread, bagels and yeast rolls, nice and crunchy, topped with caraway seeds.) However, just after I wrote this, I checked my first cookbook, and noticed that I had included four muffin recipes, mostly sweet with ingredients such as Nutella, bananas and zucchini. So, after a number of years, and after baking many cakes with oodles of chocolate, and many rich cookies, I’m happy that muffins have returned to my radar screen, and I can switch up the ingredients to lean sweet or savory.
If you favor savory muffins add a little cayenne pepper, smoked paprika or hot sauce, even cheddar and a tang of yogurt or sour cream. For less sweet muffins, onion or garlic powder (or real minced garlic) offer a unique taste when added judiciously. And herbs too, like oregano, basil and thyme can be added as a flavorful alternative to a sweet muffin. The diversity with muffins is huge: for sure there are cookbooks devoted to just muffins. Savory selections are ideal when mopping up gravies and sauces.
For me, muffins offer something refreshing and an option to traditional snacks or dessert; maybe sweet, but savory too. And, unlike a big cake, or loaf, puffy muffins can be eaten quickly, maybe a half at a time, the other half saved for later.
These muffins are indeed diverse; they are not very sweet, which is a big change for me, but too, can be sweetened up, if you choose, with chocolate chips on top before they bake. The muffins sweetness is mostly with natural ingredients; the sweet flavor is inherent in the fruit, vegetable or nut. Using vegetable oil for a change instead of butter creates a moist and tender crumb. And too, there is not much of a hard, biting crunch to these muffins, which makes them eatable to people who have dental issues and who need and prefer soft foods.
And too these muffins can be eaten anytime of day, even as a dessert. They provide an assortment of ingredients which you can change. Check out my tips and tweaks below for alternative choices.
INGREDIENTS Yield 18-22
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 – 2 cups carrots, grated
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, Juici, Jazz, Honeycrisp or Braeburn, or Sugar Bee, my new favorite – grated with skin or without
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained, but do not squeeze all the natural juices out
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse or fine
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tsp
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cooking oil on two muffin pans, line them with paper muffin cups.
2 In a large bowl mix together eggs, oil and vanilla. To that bowl add the carrots, apple, pineapple, pecans or walnuts, coconut and raisins and mix thoroughly. In another medium bowl mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir just to incorporate, do not overmix. Use a 2 1/4 inch ice cream scoop and fill each muffin hole about three quarters full, fuller if you want the muffins a little larger. But, be a little cautious otherwise the filling will spill over.
3 At this point, if you want more sweetness and a bit of chocolate, gently press 5 or 6 semisweet chocolate chips atop each muffin. Bake about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a non-chocolate spot, comes out clean. Cool pans on top of the stove for ten minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan with the paper attached. Cool until slightly warm or at room temperature, and enjoy! For a festive look, sprinkle a little powdered sugar on each muffin before serving. The muffins will be colored a nice darkish shade of brown because of the pineapple and apples within.
TIPS AND TWEAKS
- to sweeten unsweetened coconut, heat 1/4 cup of water in a small pan, add one cup of unsweetened coconut and stir until the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat, cool for a few minutes and use or store for later use.
- Replace the raisins with another currant, such as cranberries, or cut up moist but mostly dried pieces of apricots. Dried prunes would be excellent in these muffins.
- Replace walnuts or pecans with pine nuts.
- Like I did with my muffins, sprinkle colored candies, along with a bit of sparkly sugar, on each muffin, once you remove them from the oven.