Friday, October 25, 2013

Applesauce Multigrain or Oatmeal Muffins

Plate of Muffins
Fragrant, Crunchy Breakfast Treat

Recipe adapted from Trader Joe’s

Muffins are simple to make, because you just throw the ingredients together, scoop them into the pans, and bake, right? Yes and no. Making good muffins is easy if you practice three things: mix the wet ingredients thoroughly, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, but then mix together wet and dry ingredients only until barely moistened. Follow this method, and your muffins will be light, evenly textured, and moist on the inside and crispy on the top. Overmix wet and dry ingredients, and your muffins can be tough, gluey, and/or dense. They will resist rising and look sad compared with what they might have been. Take heed and learn from my mistakes!

Muffin cut in half to reveal interior
Crisp Outside, Moist & Light Inside
This is a classic lowfat muffin recipe, originally appearing on Trader Joe’s Organic Multigrain Hot Cereal label.  The label was rebranded this year sans-recipe, and the recipe is well worth preserving and sharing. It uses unsweetened applesauce for moistness and sweetening, effectively cutting the amount of oil and sugar needed in half. The muffins are rather sweet, so you could cut down the sugar to 1/3 cup if you’re so inclined. Type of flour isn’t specified in the recipe. I used a combination of wholewheat pastry and unbleached white flour with good results.  I also added some extra spice to TJ’s original mix.

Hand sprinkling topping onto muffins from spoon
Use Measuring Spoon to Apply Topping
Rolled oats or other grain can be substituted for TJ’s multigrain cereal, and depending on the grain the topping texture might be slightly more or less crunchy.   Oats, for example, are a rather soft grain, so will be less crunchy. TJ’s suggests lowfat or no-fat cow’s milk, but soymilk works just as well. I suspect that similar results can be had with almond or other nut milks.

Topped Muffins in Baking Pan
Ready to Bake
Finally, TJ’s says to either oil the bottom (and not the sides) of the muffin cups or to use paper baking cups. I tried both, because lowfat recipes are notorious for sticking to pans. I am happy to report that muffins in the oiled cups came out just as well as those in paper. In fact, the paperless muffins had a crisper exterior that contrasted nicely with the moist interior. Since the papers trap moisture, the papered muffins were a bit soggy. So save a tree and skip the paper.

Three Muffins on a Plate
Good and Good for You
Applesauce Multigrain (or Oatmeal) Muffins
makes 1 dozen

Streusel Topping:
1/3 cup multigrain cereal or oats
2 tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of allspice
dash of salt
1 tbsp. melted butter

1 cup multigrain cereal
1½ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 egg
¼ cup walnut or sunflower oil
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup lowfat milk or soymilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil only the bottoms of the muffin pan.

Prepare topping by mixing together multigrain cereal or oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Add melted butter and mix together well.

Prepare dry ingredients for muffins by whisking together multigrain cereal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Set aside.

Prepare wet ingredients for muffins as follows: beat egg till well mixed and light. Beat in oil. Beat in brown sugar. Stir in applesauce. Stir in milk until ingredients are well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir together briefly until dry ingredients are just barely moistened. It’s okay if small bits of dry flour are visible.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to add equal amounts to each muffin cup. Sprinkle with streusel topping, using a ½ tbsp. measuring spoon. When streusel is evenly distributed, press down gently into batter.

Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 18 – 20 minutes. Serve warm or eat within a day or so for maximum crunch.

Ingredients for Muffins, including Trader Joe's Multigrain Hot Cereal
Super Cereal makes Superb Muffins

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