I’ve long held the belief that muffins are more or less just cake disguised as breakfast food. Most muffins I’ve come across in bakeries and cafés have an ultra-sweet crumb, studded with the usual flecks of fruit and nut, but more often than not, chocolate too (in different variations of the same theme – chocolate/banana, double chocolate and chocolate chip are the first ones to come to mind). The most confusing kinds have things like “cheesecake” centres, or grainy strusel toppings that are ninety-nine percent sugar. In a lot of ways, muffins have become the antithesis of sensible eating. Because if something like this can be called a muffin, clearly we’ve derailed somewhere along the way.
When I think of the ideal breakfast muffin – the Platonic ideal – it has to have a bit of brawn, something nutritious that will sustain me for the better part of the morning when paired with whatever fruit is in the fruit bowl. The Platonic Muffin incorporates a type of flour that has some substance, some oumf (whole wheat, for instance) and a few octogenarian-approved ingredients like oat bran and dried fruit. The crumb shouldn’t be too sweet, and while nuts are welcome, chocolate and candy are not invited to the party. In other words, I want the kind of muffin that will lift me in the morning, when my eyes are half-mast in front of the computer, and the synapses in my brain aren’t yet at full throttle; I want it to give me a boost and make me feel productive; I want a muffin I can rely on.
Flipping through my cookbooks a few weekends ago, I came across Sara Forte’s Multigrain Muffin – a simple, but sturdy-looking thing that combines carrot, dates and buttermilk into the batter (ding ding ding!), along with different types of flour (ding ding ding!). Her cookbook, The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods, is what I would call a book of healthy recipes – for the better part vegetarian, some raw, and (as laid out explicity in the title) all containing whole, unprocessed ingredients. Now, while I can get behind all of that, I sometimes have concerns about baked goods being labelled “healthy”, because it often means they taste like cardboard and have a mouthfeel akin to dry soil. But thankfully, this isn’t the case with these muffins- the use of different flours results in a balanced texture, the carrots and dates add sweetness without it tasting saccharine, and the buttermilk makes the whole thing moist and melt-in-your-mouth. It’s the kind of breakfast food that pushes all the right buttons.
This post isn’t sponsored by Sara or her cookbook; it’s just that since these muffins have been on heavy rotation at our house over the last little while, I felt it was my duty – as keeper of this blog – to share them with you instead of keeping them all to myself.
You can see this as a muffin PSA, from your local food nerd.
I hope you’ll give them a whirl.
Multigrain Buttermilk Muffins with Carrot and Dates
Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods
Makes 12 muffins
- 1 cup buttermilk*
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted Medjool (or fresh) dates
- 1 1/2 cups loosely packed grated carrots**
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup oat bran
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup muscovado sugar (I used raw sugar)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
* to make 1 cup of buttermilk, simply pour whole milk almost to one cup, topping up with about 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar. Let sit for a minute (it will curdle a bit), then it’s ready to be used in your baking.
**use the smaller holes of your box grater for this; the carrot will blend better into the batter.
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl whisk together the first four ingredients. Add the dates and carrots and stir until combined. In another mixing bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the carrot-date mixture into the dry and stir until combined. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes to poof up a bit.
Line muffin pan with baking papers. Fill the papers 3/4 way up with batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove the pan from the oven and transfer muffins to a cooling rack. Can be stored for 3-4 days in an airtight container.