When I bought three raspberry plants (two red, one golden) from my local nursery last year I had no idea what to expect. We’d had mixed luck with berries - the blackberry bush we’d planted the year before was showing a lot of promise for its second summer but the blueberry bush we’d put in 3 years prior hadn’t grown a bit and typically yielded a harvest of only one dozen berries each season. I was taking a chance, but the raspberry plants were inexpensive and I was determined to have long branches loaded with berries twining through the fence surrounding our garden.
We got lucky. Their first year the raspberries didn't do much. We were rewarded with a couple of small handfuls of fruit - really only enough to snack on as you wandered through the garden checking on other plants, certainly not enough to actually do something with. But this year - the berries' second year - has been quite the surprise. Maybe its because I wasn't expecting much from them, or maybe its that their location in the garden is a bit out of the way, but just a few weeks ago I was shocked (shocked!) to discover that the raspberry branches had reached clear out of their intended boundaries and were loaded (loaded!) with plump berries. I wish I could show you photos of their progress, but the general unruliness of the garden has left me embarrassed to share the evidence.
Its hard to not get excited about being in the kitchen, concocting new recipes when your fridge has a constantly rotating bowl full of red raspberries, golden raspberries and blackberries. Unless, like me last week, you come down with a bug right in the middle of berry season. It was nothing too serious, but provided enough sour feelings to keep me completely out of the kitchen and away from the blog. I had no interest in cooking food, writing about food or editing images of food for five full days. It was all I could do to get the tomato soup post up Tuesday night, and the next day I couldn’t even bring myself to read comments because the mere thought of tomatoes gave me a queazy feeling. Finally, on Saturday, as I was laying on a towel in the middle of our living room floor after a particularly hard 4-mile run, thoughts of homemade muffins popped into my head.
I jumped up, so excited to have the urge to bake without a queazy feeling following along behind that urge. It was getting worrisome, this lack of desire to stand at my kitchen counter, because I had promised some dear friends that I would make cupcakes for their daughter’s third birthday party the next day. And, we had raspberries. Several bowls of raspberries freshly picked from our garden just waiting to be folded into muffin batters and buttercream frostings and made into jam (peach + raspberry = yum!). The opportunities were endless, yet until Saturday I’d done nothing to seize them.
These little raspberry almond muffins pulled me out of my funk, with some help from Ellie Krieger, whose book I had picked up at the library a few weeks prior. They are hearty, made with a mix of all-purpose and whole-grain flours, and pack nice little raspberry punches into each bite. Made moist by applesauce instead of butter, and topped with a crunchy cinnamon and almond topping, they provide an adequate amount of sweetness countered by the slightly tart raspberries - a sure pick-me-up for any slow morning or afternoon. I've frozen a bunch of them to use as my own little weapon against future kitchen blues...
Raspberry-Almond Muffinsmakes 16 muffinsadapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, Apple-Pecan Muffins, pg 22
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, chopped finely
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup fat free buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 400*. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, along with 4 wells in a second muffin pan.
In a small bowl, mix together 2 tbsp of the brown sugar, the almonds and the cinnamon. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar and the oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, just until combined. Gently stir in the raspberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about 2/3's full, and sprinkle evenly with almond mixture. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.
Zucchini has been gracing the booths of the farmer’s market for several weeks now. I’ve picked some up each Saturday, usually to use in simple pasta dinners or grilled alongside chicken or fish. This week I decided it was time for some zucchini bread, and knew just the recipe I wanted to modify to accommodate the green squash - Molly Wizenburg’s banana bread from A Homemade Life, which I made several weeks ago.
Now, admittedly, I didn’t substitute zucchini in this recipe for its flavor. Its so mild on your palette that the stronger flavors of dark chocolate, ginger, cinnamon and cloves overpower its delicate scent. What I wanted from the zucchini was the moisture that the banana typically provides without adding an additional competitor to the mix. You see, while Molly’s recipe was quite good, for me the combination of banana, chocolate and ginger was a bit overwhelming. Maybe its because I am a banana bread purist, and want the banana to be the center of attention even when complimented with another ingredient like apples or dates.
I did, however, love the idea and taste of chocolate and dried ginger combined together in a loaf, and decided to seek out another way to utilize it. Enter the zucchini, and a few other substitutions that I like to make to any bread recipe I re-create. White whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose, turbinado sugar in place of refined, fat free greek yogurt in place of regular whole milk yogurt. Throw in a couple of additional spices (cinnamon and clove) and a 12-cup tin instead of a loaf pan and the result is a muffin that is perfectly moist, not too sweet, hearty enough for breakfast yet satisfying as a dessert with a tall glass of milk or hot cup of tea.
Because these muffins are very moist, I suggest eating them within 3 days if you’re going to keep them on your countertop in an airtight container. Refrigeration would probably save them from mold for a few days longer, but I didn’t try that so I can’t tell you what happens to their texture. I did freeze 1/2 the batch though, and am hoping that Molly’s claim that her bread freezes extraordinarily well will extend to my muffins.
If you’re interested in the original banana bread recipe, you can find it reviewed here.
If you fill the cups to the tip-top, you will be left with 12 delicious yet oddly-shaped muffins. Fill them 3/4’s of the way full, and you’ll probably have enough batter left for two additional muffins if its worth it to you to dirty another pan. I didn’t mind their appearance, since they were just for Brian and I to share.
Zucchini Muffins with Dark Chocolate and Gingeradapted from the banana bread recipe in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg, pg 26
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped dried ginger (not crystalized, although I'm sure it would work fine too)
2 large eggs
3 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
5oz container of fat free vanilla-flavored greek yogurt (I used Oikos)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350*. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or butter.
In a small bowl, microwave the butter until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ground cloves. Add the chocolate chips and ground ginger and stir well to combine.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and mix well. Add the zucchini and stir to coat.
Pour the zucchini mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Make sure to incorporate all flour but do not overmix.
Spoon the batter into wells of muffin tin, using spoon to pack it down. If you don't want your muffins to overflow like mine did, just fill the wells to 3/4 of the way to the top. This will leave some batter leftover, but only enough for maybe 2 muffins. If you don't mind oddly shaped tops, just fill the wells evenly until you've used all of the batter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes), until a tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from pan to cool completely on rack.
So this morning I finally had a chance to try out the BSI recipe I've been working on for the last couple of days!!! This is my first BSI submission, and the one goal I set for myself was to try something that I had never tried before, not necessarily something that nobody else has ever tried before. A big thank you to Melissa for picking Sweet Potatoes as this week's BSI! It was fun to challenge myself to come up with my own recipe and really think about what sweet potatoes mean to me.
I've been in a mega-baking mood lately, so I decided to run with that and come up with a yummy sweet potato baked good. At first I was thinking cookies, then I got really into breads so I decided to do muffins instead. I love that baked goods become so seasonal - I make strawberry rhubarb pie in the spring, fresh berry and peach cobblers in the summer, pumpkin bread and apple crisp in the fall. I really wanted the muffins to scream "this is fall!!!" and become something that I crave when the weather gets cooler.
I started with my banana apple bread recipe and substituted sweet potato for the banana, thinking that they would have similar consistencies and the apples and spices in the bread would compliment the sweet potato well. I wanted to make some sort of crumb topping, and cranberries immediately jumped to mind, but I only had dried cherries in the pantry so I made do with those. Here's the recipe, I hope you enjoy it! There are a few modifications at the bottom that I think will make the muffins even better next time.
Sweet Potato Apple Muffins with Cherry Crumb ToppingYields 12 muffins146 calories, 3.7g fat, .8g sat fat, 26.3g carbs, 13.1g sugar, 3.2g protein per muffinMuffin Ingredients:
1 medium baked sweet potato, mashed (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp apple sauce
1 tbsp orange zest
1 cup peeled, chopped tart apple (pink lady, granny smith, etc.)
1-1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Crumb Topping Ingredients:
2/3 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup WWWF
1-1/2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350*. In a small bowl, mash the potato and add the brown sugar, applesauce, orange zest and egg. Mix well.
Add the chopped apple to the wet mixture.
In a larger bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold together.
Place walnuts, cherries, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a blender and briefly blend to chop coarsely.
Put topping mixture into small bowl and add butter pieces. Blend with fingers until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.
Pour batter into greased standard-size muffin pan, sprinkle with topping and bake for 25-30 minutes.
Let cool for 5 minutes in the muffin pan then release and cool on rack for 10 more minutes before serving.
wet ingredients dry added to wet topping mixture pre-baking
I'm pretty happy with the result! The muffins are perfectly moist, and the sweet potato and apple flavors work beautifully together. I love the tartness that the dried cherries add, and will probably increase the orange zest next time because it didn't really come through. I am a bit disappointed in the topping, it could be a tad more sweet and a lot more crunchy. In hindsight I realize that I should have toasted the walnut halves prior to coarse chopping them in the blender. And I think that pecans may have been a better nut choice, but I didn't have any in the pantry.
All-in-all I am really pleased with this recipe and will definitely be making it again, with those few minor adjustments to the topping. :)