Archive for: Muffins
When life (or your garden) gives you carrots, you have a couple of options. You could roast them or prepare them in some savory way, you could make carrot cake or you could make a batch of Carrot Muffins with Raisins. I enjoy carrot cake, but I was looking to do something a little different with the carrots in my kitchen this time around and decided to bake up a batch of muffins instead. Carrots are one vegetable that can be a great addition to baked goods. They’re easy to work with, have a slightly sweet flavor on their own, and add a nice pop of color.
The muffins are fluffy and slightly sweet, with a hint of butteriness from the buttermilk in the batter and a nice mixture of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to compliment the carrots. They’re not nearly as sweet or as heavy as a carrot cake can be, but they do deliver a similar flavor and fans of carrot cake will definitely like these. I added golden raisins for a little extra sweetness, and they work very well with the spices in the muffins. The muffins are best when they are freshly baked and can be served as-is, with nothing on them, though they are also good with a little bit of butter or cream cheese.
You can use all purpose flour or white whole wheat flour in these muffins and get great results. I find that regular whole wheat flour makes them a little too heavy feeling, and I like them as a lighter muffin. I topped them off with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar because I like have a little bit of sweetness on top of a muffin, but you can easily leave them plain or omit the cinnamon and stick with coarse sugar. For an extra crunch, you can stir in a half cup of chopped pecans, walnuts or another favorite nut, too.
Cranberries may be a staple of fall baking, especially around Thanksgiving, but these sweet-tart berries can be a welcome addition to recipes any time of the year. These Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Muffins are a perfect example. In them, whole cranberries add bright bursts of color to the muffins and contrast very well with the chunks of rich chocolate that also stud these brunch time treats. They’re topped off with a little bit of sweet streusel. The muffins are buttery, light and have a nice vanilla flavor that allows both the cranberries and chocolate to stand out.
You can use both fresh or frozen cranberries in this recipe, whichever you have on hand. Since the berries are fairly large, big chocolate chunks work quite well in these muffins. You can chop up your favorite dark chocolate bar (choose a good quality chocolate!) to get a really chunky feel to your chocolate, or you can simply use chocolate chips. Semisweet and dark chocolate go a little bit better with the cranberries than milk chocolate does in this recipe.
The recipe makes slightly more than a dozen muffins, and one of the reasons for that is that there are so many mix-ins in the muffin batter. I wanted the muffins to be packed with chocolate and cranberries, then leave a little room for streusel on top, and that left me with enough batter for a few more muffins. Fortunately, in this case, it is a pleasure to have a few extra muffins available.
I suspect that blueberry muffins might be the most popular type of muffin out there, since they are so ubiquitous at coffee shops and bakeries. They’re popular for a reason: blueberries are delicious, attractive to look at and add a lot of moisture to muffins. A good blueberry muffin recipe also makes a great base for other flavors, like these Blueberry Coconut Muffins, where I added shredded coconut in along with my blueberries to give the muffins a chance to stand out from the crowd of other blueberry muffins.
The batter is simple and sweet, with a hint of vanilla extract to give it some flavor. It is easy to mix up in just a few minutes, and it is thick enough to prevent the blueberries from sinking into the bottom of the pan after you divide the batter into your muffin tin. The coconut sprinkled on top of the muffins toasts during baking, adding a subtle crunch and enhancing the coconut’s overall flavor. The muffins are moist and tender, with a fluffy interior that gets a slight chewiness from all the coconut in the batter. They are best when they’re fresh, but they will keep well for a few days if you can’t eat them all at once.
I used frozen blueberries in these muffins. Frozen berries have a few advantages over fresh blueberries, such as the fact that they are available year round and they are very easy to fold into a muffin batter without having to worry about the berries breaking up. Even when blueberries are in season, I will still often use frozen berries in my baking. Both fresh and frozen berries will work equally well in this recipe. Similarly, both sweetened and unsweetened coconut will work equally well. Sweetened coconut is more common and will add a bit of extra sweetness to the finished muffins, but unsweetened will still lend a great coconut flavor.
Pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks are seasonal items at many coffee shops, including big chains like Starbucks. Pumpkin and coffee might not sound like an obvious combination, but the fact that people pack these coffee shops on the first day of fall when they can get a pumpkin spice latte should be proof enough that the combination works, and works well. Pumpkin works very well with a wide variety of spices and coffee can really act as just another spice to give a pumpkin baked good character and richness.
These Espresso Spice Pumpkin Muffins treat instant coffee as just another spice added to the mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg that are added to the batter. I used instant espresso (Starbucks Via also works well and has a stronger flavor than other instant coffee products) to get the fullest flavor. The spices meld together and deliver a pumpkin muffin that definitely has a hint of coffee to it, but one that doesn’t overwhelm the pumpkin or the other spices. It simply has a darker and more gingerbread-like flavor than the muffins that don’t include coffee. It’s a nice change of pace for pumpkin baked goods and a definite winner if you’re a fan of gingerbread (in fact, adding ginger would enhance the gingerbread aspect). I dusted the tops of the muffins with a mixture of cinnamon, sugar and more instant coffee.
When you’re dealing with a muffin that is made with a lot of fruit or vegetable puree in it, like these pumpkin muffins or banana bread, the finished product can either be light and fluffy or more dense, more moist and with more flavor from the fruit puree. These fall on the denser, more banana bread-like end of the spectrum. That means that they’re moist and satisfying, as well as sturdy enough to being split in half and spread with butter or softened cream cheese. They keep well when stored in an airtight container for a couple of days, and also can be frozen when they are well wrapped.
I was inspired by a recent trip to an olive oil farm to do a little baking with olive oil. Vegetable oil, canola oil and other flavorless oils are the standard when it comes to baking. Olive oil isn’t often used because it has a distinct, and sometimes strong, flavor that just isn’t going to enhance all recipes. That said, olive oil can be a great addition to a recipe when that fruity, olive flavor is allowed to stand out and these Orange Olive Oil Muffins are a great example of that.
The muffins use olive oil as their primary fat, where other similar recipes might use butter, and get most of their flavor from the oil itself and from the orange juice in the batter. Since there aren’t too many competing flavors here, the flavors of the olives do stand out. They don’t make the muffin savory (there is plenty of sugar to keep them sweet), but they do make the muffin richer and more complex than a plain oil would. Fresh orange juice gives these muffins a bright citrus flavor without overwhelming the olive oil. Sprinkling the tops of the muffins with sugar before baking makes the tops crispy and adds a nice contrast to the fluffy interior of the muffins.
The key to baking with olive oil is to choose an extra virgin olive oil that you really like the flavor of. You’re not going to like the flavor any more once it’s in a muffin or cake, so choose something good to start out with. These muffins are great with plain oils, but I also tried them with the incredibly good Mandarin Olive Oil from Ojai Olive Oil that really brightened up the orange flavor even more. That particular oil has an amazing mandarin orange flavor and is as good for dressing salads as it is for baking up muffins like these.