High Country Baking: Muffins that taste good and are good for you
December 31, 2013
Editor's note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
It's January, our time of dietary repentance. Weeks of holiday indulgences left us contrite and eager to return to simple, healthy food we can eat without guilt or regret. This muffin, made with whole grains and no refined sugar or butter, is a good example. It's moist, light and flavorful … good for breakfast or served with soup and salad at lunch or dinner.
Like most muffins, these come together quickly. Combine the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, mix the two, and bake. As you complete this simple process, a couple things will assure superior results. To create a tender crumb, mix the batter as little as possible; stir gently and stop immediately when no more dry ingredients are visible. To ensure a soft, moist texture, remove the muffins from the oven as soon as a tester inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. And, cover them immediately when they're cool to prevent them from drying out in our arid climate.
Want to make more? The recipe can be doubled successfully.
Healthy Whole-Grain Muffins
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above
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Makes 12 two-inch-by-one-inch mini-muffins or six regular muffins
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup plain yogurt (no-fat or low-fat)
1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the cups of the muffin pan with paper liners and grease them lightly with a vegetable oil-flour spray.
Combine the oats, both flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, coriander and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously.
Use a second bowl to combine the canola oil, honey, yogurt and egg, whisking until blended and smooth. Pour this into the dry ingredients (scrape every drop of the liquid mixture into the dry one to assure that the muffins are moist). Using a silicone or rubber spatula, quickly and gently mix the two, stopping immediately once they're blended; the batter won't be smooth.
Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup to slightly below one-fourth of an inch from the top. Bake until the muffins rise, turn a light golden color, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This usually takes from 12-15 minutes for the mini-muffins and from 16-18 minutes for the regular-sized muffins.
Remove the baked muffins to a rack and let them sit in the pan for about four to six minutes, then, carefully remove them to cool further on the rack. They can be served when they reach a warm temperature or cooled completely and wrapped or covered airtight. Once wrapped, they can be frozen for a month or stored at cool room temperature for a day. Before serving, warm them, wrapped loosely in foil, in a low oven.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.