One of the positive things about the Covid 19 lockdown is that more people are getting in the kitchen and cooking. It may be due to an increase in free time or a lack of access to shopping options. But I would like to think – and hope that – it’s down to a sudden awareness that food is really important to health and to wealth and that giving it the attention it deserves is a key way forward in staying well. Mind you, I’ve always been an optimist….! Continue reading “Chocolate and banana muffins”
Muffins were in the news earlier this year following a report that outed many shop-bought versions as being the less-than healthy option they might appear to be (click here for the link). Some blueberry ones tested didn’t have anything close to a real blueberry in them, just some synthetic sugar replacement. Plus lots of refined sugar and oils. That’s definitely not a healthy muffin!
These muffins on the other hand are on the complete other end of the scale. Being a whole-food plant-based version, they contain no refined oils, eggs or sugar but do have wholegrain and oats plus lots of healthy fibre and phytonutrients. Perfect for a breakfast on-the-go, mid-morning snack, lunch box treat or to fuel some exercise. Or you could just eat them because they taste delicious!
The key difference with these muffins to those made with lots of oil and sugar is the texture. Apple puree replaces the oil and it’s heavy. This makes it more difficult for the baking agents to elicit a light fluffy rise, resulting in a dense and somewhat heavy muffin. Pick it up and you know that muffin is going to be good for you!
Apple also replaces much of the normal added sugar; eating apples do not need to be sweetened and cook down into a good puree. The ones I made for the photos used some puree I had in the freezer from my own prolific apple tree, so maybe they tasted even better for being home grown! The combination of apple and cinnamon not only tastes amazing but does magic tricks in your body. Cooked apple is a wonderful pre-biotic, feeding the friendly bacteria that live in the gut – they love it! And cinnamon helps the body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, promoting healthy blood sugar metabolism.
A word of warning – because these muffins contain no oil, they have a habit of sticking to the muffin paper, although oddly only on the day they are baked (which is also the day they taste the best, fresh out of the oven). This is frustrating, especially if you want to dive in and end up consuming more fibre than you anticipated by nibbling on wrapper! One way around this is to skip using the cases and bake directly into a well-greased non-stick muffin tin. If you’re not too worried about have extra oil, you could add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the mix. I just know the one I eat the day I make them will require some paper nibbling and just enjoy them as they are!
So if you are looking for a tasty muffin that’s filling, full of healthy nutrients and ticks all the ‘good’ boxes, then try a batch of these. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on.
Oat and apple muffins (makes 12)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 tablespoons water
200mls non-dairy milk (preferably soya)
Squeeze of lemon or ½ teaspoon cider vinegar
220g unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
80ml maple syrup
200g oats (gluten free if needed)
200g wholemeal or gluten free self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 medium/large eating apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon coconut sugar to top (optional)
Mix the flaxseed and water together in a small bowl and leave to one side to thicken – this makes a flax-egg. Whisk the dairy-free milk and lemon or vinegar together in a bowl and leave to stand for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line muffin tins with 12 muffin wrappers or grease non-stick muffin tins with a little oil.
Mix the applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla and flaxseed egg with the milk and whisk together well. Place the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and spices to a large bowl and mix to combine. Pour in the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together quickly. Do not over mix. Quickly fold in the chopped apple.
Spoon out mix into muffin cases, filling each one just under the rim. Tap the tin than place in the oven and bake for 17-19 minutes.
Once firm and lightly browned on top, remove from the oven and transfer to a cooking rack. Sprinkle a little extra ground cinnamon on the top if so desired and leave to cool completely.
Summer may have arrived, but it’s tipping down with rain outside. Thank goodness half term has finished and the children have gone back to school. Not that it affects our house, as both my kids are young adults now, but I remember well the nightmare that is a rainy day in school holidays – how to keep small people entertained without breaking the bank!
On rainy mornings like today, baking always came to the rescue. Out came the plastic mixing bowls, doddery old weighing scales and the go-to children’s recipe book, the pages sticky and crusty from previous cake escapades, along with whatever ingredients we could find in the cupboard. Despite the often heated debates about what to make, it usually came down to muffins or cupcakes – quick, easy and fun to decorate later on (more diversionary tactics!).
I would often try and sneak in some fresh fruit or vegetable (like carrot) into their muffins; if children are involved in making the food, they’re often more keen to try it. Not only do you get more vitamins and phytonutrients into them, but less refined sugar is needed due to the natural sweetness from the fresh produce. Bananas are great in muffins as they also act as a binding agent, replacing the role of eggs in vegan baking. They do need to be really ripe though so you can mash them easily. This used to be a problem in our house as all the bananas would disappear from the fruit bowl. We discovered who was the main culprit when my daughter went to university – suddenly there were always over-ripe bananas perfect for baking.
Adding blueberries is another nutrient bonus. These tasty little berries are packed full of vitamins and phytonutrients and rightly carry the title of ‘superfood’. Unfortunately, the UK blueberry season is very short; some supermarket-sold blueberries have travelled a long way, so always check before you buy if you don’t want to pile on food miles. Freezing berries in season is always a good solution so you have some on hand. If you want to know more about why blueberries are so super, check out this information-packed article https://www.cookingdetective.com/blueberry-benefits-20-science-backed-health-benefits-of-blueberries/
These muffins are quick and easy to make, perfect for small people to make on a rainy day, or for anyone on any day! They can be made gluten free, soya free and nut free if needed, and being dairy and egg free, are perfect for vegans or anyone after a more plant based way of eating. And, most importantly, they are super tasty. They will bring a little sunshine to any day, no matter how wet it is outside.
Banana and blueberry muffins (makes 12)
300g wholemeal or gluten free self-raising flour
50g oats (gluten free if needed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
90g coconut sugar
300ml dairy free milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 medium over-ripe bananas mashed
75ml olive oil
100g fresh blueberries
For the topping:
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon oats
pinch of cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc/350ºF/Gas mark 4. Grab muffin trays and line with papers if you use them. Measure out the dairy free milk into a jug and add the vinegar or lemon juice (if you can’t tolerate vinegar) and leave to curdle slightly.
Measure out the flour, oats, baking powder, coconut sugar, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix well. Mash the banana in another bowl trying to get rid of as many lumps as possible. Stir in the oil and dairy free milk and whisk together until well combined.
Pour the wet mix into the dry and combine quickly – do not over mix, a few lumps are ok. Stir in the blueberries then pour spoonfuls into the prepared muffin tins, dividing the mix out equally into 12. Sprinkle a little of the topping over each muffin. Tap the tins on the worktop before popping in the oven. Bake for 16 minutes then check to see how they’re doing. The muffins should be risen, but still soft and bouncy to the touch. Use a cocktail stick to check they are baked on the inside – if the stick is coated with some mix, pop back in the oven for a couple more minutes, but don’t over cook.
Leave the muffins to cool in the tray for 5 minutes or so, then transfer onto a rack to cool fully. Store in an air-tight container. Keep for 3 days (if they don’t get eaten up). Can be frozen. Enjoy!
I have a sweet tooth and just love cakes. Of course, every time I ate one it made me ill, so one of my first tasks when I discovered my milk intolerance was to find out how to make cake without dairy. It was actually quite easy as non-dairy spreads are easily available in the supermarkets – I used to buy Pure sunflower spread as it was light and didn’t have a strong flavour, and is great for baking. And if milk was required, soya milk has a slight richness to it so works just as well. The spread doesn’t work quite so well as butter cream though, so a Victoria Sponge cake had to stay simple with just jam and a sugar dusting.
Coming out to India things became more complicated, and not just because I have the worst oven in the world that seems to emit more heat on the outside than inside. Mind you, at least it’s gas, so when there’s a power cut (a daily occurrence) the oven stays on! Butter is available in the shops, some forms of margarines but nothing dairy free. As there’s only so many pots of Pure you can hide in your suitcase, I had to start investigating making cakes with oil. The structure of the cake is slightly heavier and tends towards greasy, but its a reasonable replacement.
One of my favourites is banana muffins. Bananas grow everywhere in Southern India – I even had a bunch hanging down in my garden the other day from the house behind. Unfortunately, they came and claimed them. Some are really small and sweet, others larger but equally tasty. It’s easy to end up with a bunch ripe at the same time, so this is the perfect way to use them. I have two recipes – one with eggs, the other without so suitable for vegans or those with egg allergies.
Banana muffins version 1 (with egg)
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 cup of sugar (although if the bananas are really ripe, reduced sugar content as other wise just too sweet and of course it’s healthier with less sugar!)
1/2 cup of oil (I use organic coconut oil but whatever you have – not olive oil though)
2 cups of flour (wholemeal is best – or atta in India)
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt (or less if you’re not a salty person)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional but gives the added bonus of omega 3 oil)
All you need to do is mix together the sugar, oil and eggs until they are well combined then beat in the bananas. Stir in the remaining ingredients and add the walnuts if you’re using. Spoon in to individual muffin papers or a greased muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes or until they feel cooked at 180oC. Pop the muffins out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack, then consume; perfect with an afternoon cup of tea!
Banana muffins version 2 (no egg)
Exactly the same ingredients as above but omit the eggs. This time, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Then add in the mashed banana and oil. The mix will be rather thick and dry, so stir in some soya milk, enough to give you a thick batter that doesn’t stick to the spoon. Add in walnuts if you are using them. I also add a sprinkling of cinnamon and about 10g of flaxseed, blitzed in the blender to a powder. This makes them even healthier – flaxseeds are currently my number one superfood – will explain why on another post soon. If you are going for the flaxseed option, add in a bit more soya milk as flaxseed does make the muffins a bit more stodgy. Once everything is beautifully mixed together, fill your muffin cases and bake as above. These ones will be more dense than the eggy version but no less yummy. Try them out and let me know what you think.