Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Very berry health muffins

I’ve been fiddling around trying to get a good “healthy” muffin recipe going. Usually I don’t really worry about making things that aren’t inherently healthy, healthy. I just indulge and enjoy in moderation. But it’s appealing to have a way to kick off the day with something that’s relatively guilt-free and sets you on the right track. Healthy muffins are often dry and dense – I wanted something light and moist but I wanted to cut out the butter, oil and sugar and use a whole wheat flour. A few batches later I think I have one I’m happy with: very berry health muffins. It starts with mashed banana, an idea I borrowed from a recipe I posted last year, but pushes the health factor further with agave nectar instead of sugar, whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour, and apple sauce and sour cream for moisture. Add to that a heap of mixed berries and you have a moist and flavorful muffin. You can get away with the pastry flour and use regular whole wheat if you can’t find it (I’d subtract a couple of tablespoons from the quantity below) but it won’t be as light and delicate as the pastry flour version. It’s important here to not over-bake so they stay moist: cook until a cake tester barely comes out clean. I like to bake them in pastry rings lined with parchment paper and tie them with a string afterwards (adds to the rustic appeal) but baking them in a regular muffin tin with cupcake liners will do too.

Very berry health muffins (makes 6 extra large or 12 standard-sized muffins)

In a medium-sized bowl combine:

2 over-ripe bananas, well mashed
½ cup applesauce
½ cup sour cream
½ cup plus 1 tbs agave nectar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, sift:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Also needed: 1 heaping cup berries
Sanding sugar for dusting the top, if desired

Combine wet and dry until just mixed. Gently stir in 1 heaping cup fresh berries (blueberry and raspberry make a nice combination). Spoon into baking cups until 2/3-3/4 full. If desired, brush the tops lightly with water and dust on sanding sugar. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (watch carefully at the end so as to not over bake - this timing is for fewer larger muffins, standard-sized muffins might cook more quickly). Cool on wire rack (take muffins out of tin or rings as soon as possible so that they do not continue to cook, see below).

If you would like to use pastry rings, I like ateco’s 3 inch diameter by nearly 2 inch high ones. I cut parchment strips that when folded in half length-wise, are 2 1/2 - 2 ¾ inches tall by ~10 inches long. Those will poke up from the rings a little bit and overlap slightly when fit into the rings. I lightly brush the bottom of the inside of the rings with oil, place them on a heavy-bottomed baking sheet lined with a silpat liner (or parchment paper), position the parchment liner on the inside, folded edge up, and carefully fill them. When cooked, I remove them from the baking sheet and let cool for a minute or two on a wire rack until I can un-mold them from the rings and allow them to cool completely. Once cool, tie them with a string for a decorative flourish.


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

Interesting that you used pastry flour in this as opposed to regular flour...must give it a try. I've heard about agave but never experimented...finally a healthy muffin recipe without the "icky" taste.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

In moderation everything is fine. But with a recipe like this we'll have to watch out we do not over indulge. Looks and sounds delish! I am looking for a few things to bake as Soeren is down with chicken pox and is quarantined for a week. I think we'll be giving this a try!

thisisnaive said...

Thanks for the pastry ring tip! I always wondered how people did it. They not only sound healthy but looks so good as well.

Deb Schiff said...

Lovely presentation. So glad to read that you used agave nectar. Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Crazy cute presentation. I also love a modified recipe that allows me to indulge with less guilt. Very nice creation!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely recipe, I don't like particularly sweet things so I'm going to give these a try. I prefer wholemeal flours, bread, pasta etc. THe presentation is beautiful too.

Anonymous said...

Really lovely presentation. I'm sure they taste as good as they look.

Marianna said...

Oh very cool, here is the recipe! Back in the days when I was a teen and all obsessive about weight and appearance I used to experiment so much around fat, sugar, all that you could-free muffins but nothing tasted AS good as the original use butter&sugar ones. But your recipe sounds really smart and must burst with taste!

Anonymous said...

they look absolutely amazing. so healthy and yummy i bet. :)

Anonymous said...

Good job - ZULU would like these muffins with her eggs after playtime in Central Park. Beautiful photo!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

Sabra, that photo is stunning! Love it!

Amanda Mae said...

I made these last night... lets just say: they are AMAZING!! Wow, thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I was throughly impressed.

I couldn't follow it EXACTlY because I didn't have everything on hand. The only thing I change was I used Plain Greek Yogurt instead of sourcream and I used coconut oil (because I love it!) instead of apple sauce.

I am eating right now while I work, thanks again for sharing. yum.

Sabra said...

Thanks everyone!
Helen: these definitely aren't overly sweet, and you can omit the extra tablespoon agave if you would like - that's what I typically do.
Amanda mae: I'm so excited you made these - thanks for reporting back : ). Yogurt is a perfect substitution - coconut oil I think just turned these into very berry not so healthy muffins but I'm so glad you loved them and love that you adapted them to what you like / had.
Little nutbrown hare: try the rings some time - it's a little extra effort but it makes for a great presentation
Meeta: That's a drag! I'll hope for a speedy recovery
Peter: Agave is a great substitute. You might need to reduce the other liquids in your recipe or fiddle with the baking time if you swap it in but I find it works pretty seamlessly
Marianna: ok, so they're not AS good as the buttery ones for sure, but they are really pretty good : )
Thanks again everyone.

Anonymous said...

Full fat or lite sour cream? -Lisa S.

Gigi said...

the muffins have definitely peaked my interest. i keep seeing agave nectar at the stores and have been tempted to buy it. and now i have the perfect recipe to try it out with.

Sabra said...

That's good Gigi : )
Lisa: Your choice: you can use full fat sour cream, lite, or even plain yogurt will work great. I've been using the regular sour cream but for no real reason other than force of habit.

Erin said...

I love muffins for breakfast during the week, because I always seem to be grabbing breakfast as I run out the door. This sounds like a delicious recipe. There is a Mexican grocery store near my condo... I'm going to have to check if they have agave nectar. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

oh my, look what has become of the muffin recipe!
looks intriguing. can't wait for berry season.

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

You can get away with the pastry flour and use regular whole wheat if you can’t find it (I’d subtract a couple of tablespoons from the quantity below) but it won’t be as light and delicate as the pastry flour version. It’s important here to not over-bake so they stay moist: Chandra

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