Monday, October 6, 2008
Vegan MoFo # 6: Banana/Apple/Raisin/Walnut Muffins
I love muffins, so I make them pretty often; they're fast, easy, and you get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of yumminess accomplished vs. effort expended. Baking muffins is also another of those things associated with "feeling like a grown-up," because they were among the very first things I learned to make, specifically banana muffins.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter how green they are when you buy them, bananas have a diabolical habit of all turning brown at once, so when I was growing up there was usually a loaf of my mom's banana bread in the refrigerator. Her recipe, which she still uses, is really tasty, but loaded with eggs and butter (a whole stick!); as a teenager I ate more than my fair share of it for after school snacks, usually covered in peanut butter. One day, I decided that it would be even better interpreted as muffins, so I could take them along to snack on at school, dance class or wherever. Being a health-conscious vegetarian teenager, I lowered the butter, added nuts and raisins to up their earthy crunchy street cred, et voila! My banana bread muffins were born. Over the years, I've interpreted lots of things as muffins, which is an entirely different post. The following film, by the brilliant Amy Winfrey, expresses my feelings eloquently, despite being pretty much the ultimate in Suicide Food: http://www.muffinfilms.com/finale.html.
Hey, what's not to like about singing cartoon muffins, as long as they are cartoons, right?
But, to my point: after becoming vegan, one of the most interesting things was the wholesale reimagination of what it means to make things like muffins, cookies, etc. that you'd been making for years--often according to the same recipes--without the ingredients we're raised to believe we "can't" bake without. At first, I just didn't bake much, but over time I started looking at recipes and experimenting, with varying degrees of success, and nowadays it would never occur to me to put an egg in my muffin batter, or anything else. In fact, one of the major bonuses of vegan baking is the ability to eat as much raw batter as you want without fear of salmonella! Probably the most important thing I've learned through trial and error is that you can make very healthy baked goods that are low in both fat and sugar without falling victim to the dreaded "virtuous dessert syndrome" by remembering one simple fact: they're supposed to taste good.
For me this means good basic ingredients, a fairly generous approach to seasoning, and enough fat and/or sweetening to ensure that when the fruits of my labor emerge from the oven, people will actually want to eat them. That said, you can get away with surprisingly little of both, just don't try to cut them out entirely unless you believe that virtue is indeed its own reward (and you don't mind eating a dozen flourless, spirulina and wheatgrass scones all by yourself). The following recipe is not only easy and good, it's highly adaptable: you could sub any nut you like for the walnuts, other dried fruit for the raisins, pears for the apples, or whatever else your little heart desires. The applesauce and mashed banana keep the muffins nice and moist, despite the fact that there's only one measly tablespoon of canola oil in the whole dozen, and the whole wheat pastry flour is nutritious without tasting heavy or overtly (there's that word again) virtuous. I think they taste like everything nice about fall!
~ 1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ 1 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
~ 1/2 cup raisins
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 cup mashed, ripe banana
~ 6 oz. plain or vanilla soy yogurt
~ 1/2 cup applesauce
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 cup chopped apple
~ 1/2 cup raisins
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
~ Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit
~ Place all the dry ingredients (except the apples) in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Toss the raisins around in the flour mixture to coat them; this will keep them from clumping together in the batter.
~ Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl, adding the apples last.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir until just combined.
~ Transfer by big spoonfuls into your greased muffin pan; there should be enough batter to fill all 12 cups to the top.
~ Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned and a knife comes out clean.
~ Allow to cool about 15 minutes before eating with Earth Balance, jam, peanut or almond butter, or all by themselves.