Bake With What You Have – Part I
I have a private client at the moment who has three sons; 11, 14 and 16. I grew up with three brothers so I know how much they can eat, but for years now I’ve lived in a household of two and more recently three and I’m just not accustomed to those quantities anymore. This client wants ideas and recipes for hearty, healthy snacks for the boys. So I’ve been testing and making a variety of things including lots of muffins. Muffins are in many ways ideal: they are baked in individual portions; they freeze well; they are portable; and they are adaptable to many different tastes/styles/ingredients. I have a feeling my client’s boys could eat a whole batch of these in one sitting but for those with smaller families, freezing part of the batch is a great idea.
I have always loved to bake and made more than my fair share of layer cakes out of the Joy of Cooking as a teenager. My tastes have changed over the years and I like things a bit less sweet now but until a few years ago, I carefully followed dessert recipes. Not anymore. The cook-with-what-you-have mindset has wormed its way into my baking (and other desserts) as well and I substitute and tinker to my heart’s content. There are still some recipes I strictly follow and certain chefs whose recipes I know better than to change because they are always perfect (David Lebovitz among others). . . .However, muffins are the perfect foil for tinkering and I want to convey that freedom to adapt baked goods like this to my client(s) so that good, home-made snacks like the below muffins become part of people’s regular routines.
I’ve been playing with these Apple Oat Muffins this week and they are a perfect example of a quick-to-make snack (dessert, breakfast, picnic treat) using items you might already have in your pantry or you can substitute with ingredients you do have on hand. They are just barely sweet but the combination of the fruit, the texture of the oats and the spices works well.
Muffin (and waffle, pancake, biscuit. etc.) recipes often call for buttermilk. I hardly ever have buttermilk on hand so I substitute either whole milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice per cup of milk or yogurt or a combination. Both work really well. I use whole milk in all my baking/cooking and think it gives the best results but 2% is workable too.
These muffins would also be delicious with the addition of raisins, chopped walnuts or almonds, shredded coconut, other dried fruit or fresh blueberries or raspberries. You could substitute mashed bananas for the apple sauce though you might reduce the sweetener a bit since bananas are sweeter than apples. And speaking of sweeteners, you could substitute maple syrup for the honey or use brown sugar or granulated sugar though honey is a bit sweeter than sugar so reduce the sugar amount by 1/4 or so.
You could also play with different kinds of flour or combinations of flour. You might use half spelt flour and half all-purpose, etc. Kim Boyce’s wonderful book Good to the Grain is a wonderful resource on whole grain flours of all kinds.
Apple Oat Muffins
When tinkering with baked goods you do want to keep the proportion of dry and wet ingredients the same. There are a few other rules (which I will explore in Bake With What You Have – Part II) but muffins are pretty forgiving so go ahead and play around and see what you like.
These muffins are not very sweet. If you like things a bit sweeter by all means add a few more tablespoons of honey.
12- 15 muffins
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or other flours-see note above)
1 1/4 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt (if using milk, add 1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar)
1/3 cup honey (or other sweeteners-see note above)
2 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil (or other vegetable or nut oil)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
grated zest of half a lemon (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly oil or butter a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl combine applesauce, milk (or yogurt), honey, oil, egg and lemon zest, if using. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir quickly until just combined. Add the chopped apple and fill muffin cups.
Bake for 16-18 minutes.