What could be more beckoning than freshly baked muffins, hot from the oven and brimming with delicious fruits, nuts and grains? Unfortunately for many Americans, muffins come from a box and are full of bleached white flour, refined white sugar, chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors. Bleh! This holiday season why not “make merry” with a batch of healthy, nourishing muffins for yourself, your family and your guests? You’ll find they’re perfect for a quick breakfast, a hearty filling snack or bedtime treat _— even dessert! By baking with natural, whole ingredients, you’ll get more than great flavor and merry memories, you’ll give your body a natural boost towards good health. Here’s how to do it:
- Nix the bleached white flour, folks! Bake your muffins with whole wheat, whole spelt or whole wheat pastry flour for more fiber and heartier flavor.
- Use rolled oats, ground flaxseed, brown rice and other whole grain flours such as buckwheat, barley, millet and quinoa in place of some of the wheat or spelt flour.
- Cut back on refined sugar; sweeten with dried fruit, fresh fruit or fruit juice.
- Experiment with grain-free flours such as almond meal and coconut flour. Perfect for gluten-free baking!
- Don’t forget the special spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and allspice.
- Muffins bake up beautifully with natural shortening and expeller pressed oils or get natural goodness from whole fats such as chopped walnuts, almonds, pecans, unsweetened grated coconut, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients separately; make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture in, then mix to moisten and combine.
- Remember, muffins are not cake - the batter is meant to be a little lumpy! Over-mixing can lead to dense, tough muffins.
- Follow the recipe exactly, measuring all of your ingredients. Too much or too little bakingsoda or baking powder can ruin your whole batch. (Alterationsmay be needed for high altitude baking.)
- Dusting chopped nuts and fruit with a little flour beforestirring into the batter can help prevent sinking to the bottom.
- Bake in muffin paper cups or use a natural cooking spray for easy removal and clean-up.
- Don’t fill the tin too full – about ¾ full should do nicely.
- If you don’t have enough batter to fill each muffin cup, fill empty cups 1/3 full of water. This helps insure even baking and protects your pan.
- Be sure to preheat your oven; the middle rack works best for even baking. Don’t open the door once they are cooking.
- To test for doneness, touch lightly in the center. If they spring back, they’re done. Or, insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, its’ done.
- Be sure to place the tin on a rack for about 5 to 7 minutes once out of the oven. If they sit too long they may get soggy, but removing muffins too soon can cause them to fall apart.