Multigrain Apple Butter Muffins

Muffins make me feel good. Let me count the ways:

  1. They scent the house with cinnamon-y goodness.
  2. 100% whole grain. Bonus points for the bran. (Some children around here need more fiber.)
  3. Portable. (You can pack your snack when you move Operation Homework to the park district for an hour while Little Brother is at his karate class.)
  4. Thirty minutes, start to finish.
  5. The apple butter is on the INSIDE!
  6. Freezable.
  7. The recipe is flexible: use whatever combination of flour you have (or 2 cups of Multigrain Flour Mix). And if you’re running out of milk, making up the difference with juice or water is perfectly acceptable. It’s like Stone Soup, but in muffin form.

Multigrain Apple Butter Filled Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup barley flour

1/4 cup millet flour

1/4 wheat bran

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup milk

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs

small jar of apple butter

Heat oven to 500 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, wheat bran, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. In a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together milk, oil and eggs. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry, blending for no more than 20 seconds.

Fill each muffin cup half full of batter. Add a heaping teaspoon of apple butter to each cup, and then just enough batter to cover the apple butter, distributing any extra batter evenly among the cups.

Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Cool muffins on a rack. Best served slightly warm.

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Multigrain pumpkin banana bread (or muffins)

Fall is creeping in, and I’m thrilled. I found one stray can of pumpkin puree in the pantry, and decided it was finally close enough to fall to use it. My family doesn’t seem to tire of muffins or quick breads, even when I stuff them full of whole grains and fiber. I’ve been meaning to mix up a container of multigrain flour, ever since I stocked the freezer with a beautiful variety of flours some months ago. And since I’m trying to cook in greater quantity, but less often, I baked enough for a loaf to eat right away, and some muffins to freeze for lunchboxes and quick breakfasts. This bread is incredibly moist, with a complex, fruity flavor and something reminiscent of gingerbread. I am tempted to retest the recipe with less butter, since there is so much fruit to maintain the moisture. If you try, let me know how it goes!

This recipe looked so easy (mix the wet ingredients, mix the dry, mix them together–done!), but it needed some tweaking. If your ingredients are not all at room temperature, the butter will not mix smoothly into the wet mixture. I had cold eggs and overripe bananas straight from the fridge, and they didn’t play well with the softened butter. But if you cream the butter and the sugar together first, and then add the rest of the wet stuff, you’ll be fine. No extra bowls, either.

By the way, I finally acquired a kitchen scale, and I already love not having to use a slew of measuring cups. You can get along just fine without one, but I’m finding it more and more useful.

Multigrain pumpkin banana bread and muffins

adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup (8 ounces) softened butter

1 1/3 cups (10 ounces) brown sugar (I used dark brown)

6 Tbsp. (4 1/2 ounces) honey

4 large eggs

2 cups (15-ounce can) pumpkin puree

2 cups (16 ounces) mashed banana

2 Tbsp. (2 ounces) apple juice

3 cups (12 ounces) Multigrain Flour Mix (see below)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

coarse sparkling sugar to sprinkle on top

Multigrain Flour Mix

from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup oat flour (you can grind 1 cup rolled oats in the food processor)

1 cup barley flour

1/2 cup millet flour

1/2 cup rye flour

Whisk all the flours together in a bowl, then store in an airtight container.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of two 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ loaf pans (or one loaf pan and a dozen muffin cups).

Beat butter and brown sugar together. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and beat well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the multigrain flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to the wet mixture and stir until just combined.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full of batter; then fill the loaf pan (it should also be about 2/3 full). Sprinkle the coarse sparkling sugar on top of both.

Put both pans on the middle rack of the oven. Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges look browned. Remove and cool completely in the pan on rack. Move the loaf pan to the center of the oven and bake for another 35-55 minutes. Cool completely in the pan.

Baking with whole grains

I’ve baked with whole wheat flour for several years now. I certainly haven’t given up white flour, but I often replace up to half of the white flour with whole wheat in a recipe that I’m comfortable with. In some recipes you can get away with using all whole wheat flour (brownies!), and some recipes are designed to showcase the nutty flavor of whole wheat (remember these chocolate chip cookies?). I’ve been meaning to try baking with some other whole grain flours, but that meant planning ahead and making a special trip to Whole Foods or Bulkfresh Pantry.

After months of flipping longingly through the pages of Good to the Grain and La Tartine Gourmandeboth of which are full of recipes with unusual flours, I finally spent a couple of hours stocking up on a variety of whole grain flours. I bought about two pounds each of barley, rye, spelt, millet and buckwheat flours. While I was at it, I bought oatmeal, and raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds, too. I also contemplated quinoa and amaranth flours, but balked at the price. I had plenty to experiment with, so I stopped there.

At home, I labeled each bag of flour and dropped it into a zippered freezer bag. They all pack nicely into the freezer where they’ll stay fresh until I’ve worked my way through some more recipes. I can’t wait to try these Rye Crumble Bars, and Sunday morning might be the perfect time for some Five-Grain Cream Waffles.

But my first attempt was the currant scone recipe with spelt flour from Good to the Grain. It was already late in the evening and I wanted something for an easy breakfast the next morning. I made two small changes: using raisins instead of currants, and making 14 smaller scones instead of 9 large ones. And if I haven’t confessed this before, I’ll tell you now: I almost never sift. Unless it’s a wedding cake or there’s cocoa powder (that stuff really clumps) in the recipe, I just dump the dry ingredients in the bowl and whisk them together well.

The scones were lovely, and we each had two for breakfast and finished them off the next morning. They were incredibly tender, but with a slightly crunchy golden crust. The spelt flour has its own subtle sweetness, so there’s only a little bit of sugar in the mix, just waiting for a bit of butter and your favorite jam.

Spelt and Raisin Scones

adapted from Good to the Grain 

1 1/4 cups spelt flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 T. sugar

1 T. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large baking sheet. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the butter chunks and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in the raisins. Pour in the cream and stir just until the dough sticks together and all the flour is incorporated.

Using an ice-cream scoop or two spoons, scoop out 12-15 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, leaving a couple inches between the scones. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown. If you bake them the night before, just pop them back into a 300 degree oven until they are warm.