Ever since decadent, bedazzled cupcakes stole the show, poor old muffins seem to have taken a back seat:
Don’t think of them as ugly cupcakes, people! Think of them as the healthier alternative – they’re a cupcake-shaped vehicle for all the wholesome, nutritious goodies that we wouldn’t dare put in a frilly frippery of a cupcake. Cupcakes are the Mary and muffins are the Rhoda. Refer to the following highly intellectual analogy:
These particular muffins were inspired by a church project – since I was baking lots and lots of muffins for homeless folk, I decided to fiddle a nutritious recipe using one from the Brown Eyed Baker’s blog as a starting point. Her recipe is for oatmeal muffins with dates, cranberries and pecans – mine are oatmeal muffins with apple, raisins and pecans. Um. I ever so slightly forgot the recipe while traipsing around the supermarket and so did a few last-minute substitutions, but the result was super-yummy anyway :-). They aren’t exactly a health-food what with the sugar and stuff but they’ve definitely got more substance to them than most sweet nothings. They’re moist and not too heavy and fibrous; I don’t care how healthy it is – even if you have completed clinical trials proving beyond doubt that bran muffins can give you a 6-pack, I still won’t eat them if they are the same density as a bowling ball or feel like heavy-duty sandpaper on the tongue. OK that’s a lie because I would really like a 6-pack but you get the idea.
The term “muffin top” is a strange oxymoron, given that cupcakes are more likely to produce this condition than a fruity fibre-rich muffin (fibre aids weight-loss! true story!). Since I’m on that topic, what is WITH all the young ladies of today showing off their oozing flesh-tyre muffin tops as if it’s a good thing?? *pushes large granny-spectacles back up nose indignantly and resumes knitting*.
For 12 Slender-Waisted Oat Apple Raisin Pecan Muffins:
1 cup traditional rolled oats (if you are South African – it can only be Jungle Oats)
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar – if you think brown sugar is better for you, use that. I just like the rich taste it gives.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon (or more, if you’re a cinnamon hound like me)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 green apple, peeled, cored and chopped into little bits – don’t grate it, the chunks give a nice texture
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk (or milk soured with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice – just mix and let it stand for a few minutes – et voila!)
1 large egg, beaten
Cinnamon sugar (optional)
(Don’t you feel healthier just reading the list of ingredients?? Feel free to substitute ingredients which are similar – such as chopped dates or dried cranberries for raisins, almonds for pecans, etc.).
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Unless you’ve also just baked vast quantities of muffins for a good cause, in which case the oven’s ready to go. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan or use paper liners – I used liners. For prettiness.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the pecans, apple and raisins and give it a stir.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, buttermilk and egg. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and using a SPATULA gently fold in until the ingredients are ONLY JUST MIXED and moistened. A few little lumps are ok – rather a few lumps than a raisin-studded rubber ball, which is what you will get if you mix it too energetically.
Gently plop the batter into the prepared tin. I purposefully used smaller quantities than usual to avoid getting a muffin top (ha! ha!). They give muffins a bad name, after all. I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon sugar over the top of mine, for extra cinn-fulness.
Bake for 15-20 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely before storing (aka eating).
PS: Muffins appear in two of my favourite books – in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (the sisters generously give their Christmas-morning muffins to a less fortunate family) and in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (admittedly, in the form of a cat, but a Muffin nonetheless – do yourself a favour and read this book if you haven’t yet! It’s one of my top three).