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making this muffin recipe healthier

perrin, Oct-8-05 19:52:14:
I went apple picking last weekend, and have been baking things with the apples I brought back.  One thing I tried was these muffins:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/108784

Now these are pretty good, but they're a little too heavy and sugary to have them for breakfast on a regular basis.  They also don't taste enough like apples for me.

I tried to lighten them up by cutting the butter and sugar in half and adding more applesauce, but of course this was a miserable failure.  They didn't solidify in the middle at all.  Despite avid reading of many Cook's Illustrated magazines, I don't really know enough of the baking science involved here to fix them.  Is the sugar needed to absorb moisture?  Maybe more flour (or some whole wheat flour) would help offset it.  Is the fat from the butter necessary to make the muffins set up?

Alternatively, if someone has an apple muffin recipe to share that is more like a muffin and less like a cupcake, that would be swell too.
steveandsarah, Oct-21-05 02:15:48:
I just unpacked the cookbooks today after being without them for two months, so was finally able to dig up the recipe I thought might be of help....probably too late for your apples. Muffins are not something I consider myself an expert on (being English, fairy-cakes are more my thing), but I recall having good success with the following recipe (the pages are stained with batter, usually a good sign...) from a book that Leah (who IS an expert muffin-baker) gave us called _Bread for Breakfast_, by Beth Hensperger. Although the recipe makes slightly fewer muffins than your epicurious recipe, I think it is still definitely lighter on the sugar and the fat, and it contains a large proportion of fruit. Buttermilk, I think, may be the key to a muffin that is lighter but still moist and tasty. This particular recipe calls for a mixture of white and wholewheat flours. I can't remember if I've tried this with this particular recipe, but in general, I have also had success substituting wholewheat pastry flour for regular flour in baking.

Every Morning Fruit Muffins

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat or graham flour
1/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil, light olive oil, or nut oil
3/4 cup cultured buttermilk
2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh fruit

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease 9 cups of a standard 2 3/4 inch muffin tin.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In another medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil, buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt, and vanilla with a large spoon or dough whisk. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Add the fruit to the batter, and fold in using a large rubber spatula just until the fruit is evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes, taking care not to break up the fruit.
4. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling each prepared cup full to the rim. Fill the empty muffin cups halfway with water to prevent the pan from buckling. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 20 or 25 minutes, or until golden and the tops are dry and springy to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and serve the muffins warm with butter. The muffins can be stored in the freezer in plastic freezer bags for up to 3 months.
perrin, Oct-22-05 15:12:46:
Thanks!  I tried this recipe this morning.  It's definitely healthier than my previous one, but I ran into the same problem as I had with my first try at lightening them up: they don't bake all the way through.  I assume this means I have too much moisture in the batter, and I think it's because I used pureed apples in the specified amount rather than just chopped ones.  I'll try cutting the amount back, or switching to chopped.  I also used spelt flour instead of whole wheat, since I had some in the cupboard, and I think whole wheat would absorb more liquid, so I'll change that too.  When I get the basic texture down, I'll start playing with spices to give them more flavor.
steveandsarah, Oct-24-05 22:26:43:
I think if you try using ALL wholewheat flour, you might want to use wholewheat pastry flour; I think they might be really dense made entirely with regular wholewheat flour. But I might be wrong. Re: spices, I didn't list the various spice-and-fruit combos Hensperger suggests (pear and cardamom is one that sounded nice) but yes, I'm sure some combo. of the usual apple-friendly spices would help bring out the flavour...
willandleah, Jan-31-06 16:47:48:
Perrin, have you seen King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat flour?  It's an excellent way to up the fibre content of baked goods without the inconsistencies you describe with spelt or even wholewheat pastry flour.  I usually substitute it half-and-half for plain flour in my baking, and it's great -- completely indistinguishable from plain flour but definitely better for all of us.  (The only exception is in biscuits -- there I just go with all plain.  They just need to be lily-white.)  I am in general a big fan of King Arthur and am completely addicted to their catalogue, from which I want each and every gadget.  You can find it at bakerscatalogue.com, I think.  Ordering flour by mail can get foolishly expensive, though, so if you need some and can't find it in the metropolis, let me know and I'll bring some the next time we visit.  We bring my mother, the most devoted baker I know, 50 lbs of plain King Arthur flour every time we visit, so I'm used to acting as a pusher, I mean, courier.

Sarah, thanks for the kind words about my muffins!  I should post that simple recipe for apple muffins, even though it's so out of season ... when I unearth it.
perrin, Mar-6-06 23:07:06:
I see that they sell this King Arthur white whole wheat flour at Whole Paycheck, so I'll try it out.  Thanks for the suggestion.


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