Raspberry Almond Muffins

As much as the little devil on my shoulder (or would that be my two sons and husband?) may cajole, I don’t want to make what is essentially dessert masquerading as breakfast most mornings.  But no quick breads, scones, or muffins?  Why bother getting up?  My solution when temptation hits is to moderate it by hitting up my whole grain flour collection.

Besides the modern greats (Good to the Grain, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals) I’ve found the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book to be an excellent companion to keep me on the straight and narrow.  And to my mind this book gets extra credit for being ahead of its time–originally published in 1984, well before whole grain baking was trendy, cool or whatever.  And it’s remarkably forward-looking in other ways, with chapters for those sensitive to gluten, egg, and dairy.  (Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about such things, but such books are a treasure for those who do).   And while this particular recipe uses wheat, it could be easily adapted for dairy and/or egg free diets.

Raspberry Almond Muffins (3 of 4)

As a bonus, these muffins also have less added sugar, as they rely on orange juice for much of their sweetness.  Using fruit juice where you tend to see milk in baking recipes is just another great trick I’ve learned from the Laurel Kitchen.  And orange juice adds the freshness of citrus, even while not imparting an orange-y flavor that might or might  not be welcome.

Raspberry Almond Muffins (4 of 4)

But enough about all that, because of course the real question is how they taste–as Maria Speck points out, people always want to sell you on whole grains for the health benefits, but who cares if you don’t also want to eat it?

First the raspberries–it just me, or are these thimble-sized fruits undeservedly forgotten in muffin baking endeavors?  They’re slightly larger than blueberries, but still small enough to be stirred into batter without needing to be pre-thawed (hurrah–no thinking ahead required).  Each little berry practically melts into a delicious burst of warm fresh jam in the oven.  (I used the last of a bag of raspberries we picked last fall at our town farm–the same ones I used for that raspberry cake I told you about just a year ago.  If yours have clumped up, just defrost slightly–no need to do so fully–so they separate out and can be stirred in).

Raspberry Almond Muffins (1 of 4)

Personally, I think those berries would possibly carry the day on their own, but just a trickle of almond extract turned out transport these to a new level–both enhancing the fruit and imparting its own alluring aroma that, at least for me, is utterly compelling.

And let’s be honest–it does make it just a little-bit dessert-like.

Raspberry Almond Muffins

Note:  of course you could use fresh raspberries–which would reduce the cooking time–but these are so fleeting a pleasure I can’t bear to eat them other than fresh.

Makes 14 muffins

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (7 ounces)
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1/4t baking soda
  • 1/2t powdered ginger (optional)
  • 3T butter
  • 3T brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4c orange juice
  • 1/2t almond extract
  • 1c frozen raspberries
Preheat the oven to 375F, and line or grease 14 muffin tins.
Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and soda, and ginger in a medium bowl.
Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl, then beat in the egg, orange juice and almond extract.
Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined.
Fold in the raspberries and spoon the batter evenly into the wells of your muffin tins.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the muffins spring back when lightly pressed, or a tester comes out clean.

Raspberry Almond Muffins (2 of 4)

Pear Gingerbread Muffins

I know:  more gingerbread.  But I had to share here a post I wrote over on Honest Cooking.  After all, is there such a thing as too much gingerbread?  No, I didn’t think so.

I always think there’s something sumptuous about the idea of spices.  Hundreds of years ago, when spices were rare enough to be plied as currency, preparing food laced with a cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves must have been more than merely welcoming–it was a statement. Today, of course, spices are no longer such a precious specie–cinnamon is an everyday flavor, nutmeg almost as much, and cloves we even use for decoration.  Still, somehow that legacy of luxury seems to linger, and I think that must be why I always feel a bit profligate when I add spoonfuls of these potent powders to a batter or dough.

Funnily enough, though, the end product is more about comfort than extravagance.  Take gingerbread–laden with spices, but what is more homey? To these gingerbread muffins, I’ve added chunks of juicy pear, a fruit that begs to be combined with these warm flavors. It’s cozy feet in slippers in the middle of winter, but I could eat it any time of year.

Note:  Feel free to substitute whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour for up to half the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. In fact, this is another advantage of the spices: they add enough flavor that picky eaters probably won’t even notice the whole wheat.
Pear Gingerbread Muffins
  • 2c (9.2 ounces or 260 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • pinch of mace (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 c dark brown sugar (1.4 ounces/40g)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c (120mL) light molasses
  • 1 c (240mL) cold water
  • One Bosc (or other baking) pear, diced.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C).  Line, or lightly butter 12 standard (1/3-cup/80mL) muffin cups.
Whisk flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, mace if using and salt in medium bowl to blend.  In a second larger bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar, molasses, and eggs. Stir in the cold water. Add half of the dry ingredients and stir until blended. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in the diced pears.
Bake gingerbread until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes (check after 20 minutes).
Set on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the muffin tin and allow to cool completely on the rack.