"Blank-Canvas" Buttermllk Muffins

By • January 11, 2013 1 Comments

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Author Notes: Ah, bread, how many ways do I adore thee?

Seriously: if the guy thing doesn't work out, I could probably marry bread and be very, very happy.

Okay, that sounds weird. But this is me trying to stick up for the underdog.

See, bread is definitely an underdog in LA. In this anti-flour, carb-hating world, the sacks of wheat flour at Whole Foods sit untouched, gazing forlornly at the upturned noses of Beverly Hills elite.

I mean, the cards are just stacked up impossibly against carbs. Even if you were actually going to Whole Foods to buy whole wheat flour, taking your presumed step toward a healthier lifestyle, your eyes immediately wander to neighboring flours, positioned (strategically) at eye level.

At first, they're curiosities. Mostly because there's so many of them. Tapioca flour? What on earth is teff flour? How do you get flour from potatoes and coconuts? Is buckwheat a new wheat?

Thus begins the spiral into the racy world of gluten free cooking. There's kitchen shelves filled with bulk-bin plastic bags of flours that you've never heard of but "sound interesting." (Note to self: make sure to label bulk-bin flours from the bulk-bin when you get home. Even if you think you'll remember the whitish-browish flour is buckwheat, and the whitish-whitish one is tapioca....). Strange urges to buy guar gum and arrowroot. Cavalier, off-the-cuff attempts at making buckwheat-flour chapatis (eek). Uncontrolled impulses to bake donuts at 6:30 a.m. just to "test out that almond flour I bought".

My own brief gluten-free fling came to a screeching halt when, one day, I was asking my mom for a samosa recipe.

"You have to use all-purpose flour," she flatly stated, before even describing the recipe.

"Wait, all-purpose? I can't use something else?"

"It won't come out good." My mom refused to budge.

"What about semolina flour? Spelt flour?? How about rice flour?"

"Look, you want good samosas, you have to use all-purpose flour."

And that was that. I mean, a world sans samosas - even if it's a world sans bloating, weight gain, malaise, and all the purported ills of wheat - is, for me, a world barren and dry.

Another lesson of bread's glory came to me in the form of these beautiful and immensely satisfying buttermilk biscuit muffins. After eating these, any cold feet threatening my love for gluten have been officially fully warmed. You know, some things in life are just meant to be enjoyed - happily and in moderation. (And they won't precipitate the need for a cleanse or an emergency detox, I promise.)

And so, I present to you the gluten-no-holds-barred, happy and homey, actually healthy, lovely and easy muffins! They're adapted from the Moosewood Vegetarian Cookbook, which is amazing. I've adapted them to be egg-free, and I love that they're not too sweet - like a cross between a buttermilk biscuit, pancake, and muffin. Mmmmmm.

This basic recipe is an absolutely perfect springboard for creative, budding-chef geniuses who get impatient with precise recipes. It's foolproof and forgiving, which means the muffins are totally customizable to your tastes and random inspirations. They're literally the blank canvas of muffin world. Making these, you become a kid from the 80s who's been given a blank white t-shirt and 500 tubes of fabric paint. Go crazy!

The first time I made them, I added ground fresh fennel seeds and cumin seeds. (YUM). Want them salty? Add some chopped spring onions, cilantro, sub some of the wheat flour with cornmeal, and some fresh sweet corn. You could also add sharp cheddar cheese, cracked pepper and jalapenos. And I think they'd probably go wonderfully with any type of fruit. (I've made them with grated lemon zest, peaches, strawberries, blueberries....)

Other tips - using half buttermilk or yogurt and half milk gives it extra richness, and adding brown sugar (or coconut sugar) gives it a caramelized sweetness. I have a long-standing affair with coconut oil, so I use it in place of butter - but feel free to use either (or both! Or, how about a mashed avocado? That's the spirit!). AND feel free to add any extra flavors you want, like chopped mint, vanilla extract, or both! (See what I mean about customizable?)

Finally, the key to making the muffins rise, if you're not using eggs, is to bake them at a high temperature and aerate the wet ingredients well. Oh, and make sure to grease those muffin tins well so you'll be able to slide them out in one piece - and enjoy them piping hot!
Macedoine

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Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 c yogurt thinned with 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter, or neutral oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional - omit if making "salty" variations)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed soaked in 2 tbsp warm water for 10 minutes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • optional add-in ideas: 1/2 cup fresh fruit (patted dry), such as blueberries, strawberries, peaches; OR 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (increase honey to 1/3 cup); OR 1/2 cup sharp, grated cheddar cheese; OR 2 tbsp crushed aniseed/fennel seeds; OR 2 tbsp
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease muffin tins with a generous amount of butter or oil (use more grease than you think!)
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Sift if you've got a sifter. (I didn't. Need to go back on Amazon...)
  3. Blend all the wet ingredients in a different bowl. I blended with a stick hand-blender make sure it aerated well.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry, mix until just combined, and spoon into muffin tins.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until centers are done.
  6. Enjoy warm, sliced, with some goat cheese, warm melted butter, or any other spread that suits your fancy! And thank the Universe for inventing bread.

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