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I love a good muffin!
And I love having an easy and adaptable recipe that I can rely on.
A book that I have enjoyed for years is The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. In The Complete Tightwad Gazette (Amazon affiliate link- this post may contain additional affiliate links) the author shares an adaptable recipe for muffins that uses basic ingredients and can be customized to your own tastes or ingredients that are abundant to you.
I loved having this adaptable muffin recipe and worked to transform it when we made the transition to traditional foods. My muffin formula has been modified to incorporate soaking the grains (to aid in digestion and reduce phytic acid and other anti-nutrients) and uses healthy fats.
Using a formula for making dishes really helps keep our food budget under control and make the most of those dollars. Formulas help us to reduce waste, increase variety and even add extra probiotic ingredients to our meals. If you love these ideas be sure to check out my book, Design a Dish, for even more formula ideas.
Let’s Design a Muffin!
Grain: Use 2 to 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour. Or substitute oatmeal, cornmeal, or rye flour for the whole wheat flour. My best results come from 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats.
Liquid: 1 cup. You want a liquid that will do two jobs. First it will act as the liquid to bind all of your dry ingredients together just like in any muffin. Second (maybe more important?) you want a liquid that will be slightly acidic in order to help reduce the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients that are naturally occurring in your grain(s). You could use yogurt, kefir, or buttermilk for your already acidic liquid. Or you can use milk and an addition such as whey, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, kefir, or lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon of acidic medium for each cup of liquid. You can also do what I often do and use water for half of your liquid. Example use ½ cup yogurt and ½ cup water to total 1 cup or ½ cup milk, ½ cup water plus 1 tablespoon whey. You can use plain water plus your acidic medium for a less rich but still delicious muffin if that is what you have available.
Fat: Use ¼ cup melted butter or coconut oil. Or you can substitute an all natural nut butter for all or part of the fat. Another thing that works well is using a “wet addition” for all or part of the fat. For a savory muffin, you might try olive oil as your fat.
Egg: Use 1 egg. This goes back to using the best quality ingredients you can afford. Pastured or free range eggs are great if possible.
Sweetener: Use up to ½ cup of a natural sweetener. You could use Sucanat, Rapadura, honey, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, evaporated cane juice or a combination of any of these. Keep in mind that honey, maple syrup and molasses are liquid. Use caution when using these in combination with wet additions so your batter does not become overly wet. I have had excellent result using as little as 2 tablespoons of sweetener especially when combined with additions that are on the sweet side. When using honey, I always use less than I would of something like Sucanat. If making a savory muffin, use only 2 tablespoons or eliminate completely.
Baking Powder/Baking Soda: Equal amounts of both work well for me. You could choose to only use baking powder but I find that the soda works well with the slight acidity of the soaking liquid.
Sea Salt: ½ teaspoon of Sea Salt.
You could stop here and make your muffins plain. I’ve made plain muffins before and they turn out great. But one of the really fun things about a method like this is the ability to customize the muffins to items that you have on hand.
These can be used in any combination you wish. This is a great way to use up small amounts of leftovers.
Dry Additions: Chopped Crispy Nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts), sunflower seeds, raisins, shredded coconut, etc. Poppy seeds are a nice dry addition. I usually use 2 tablespoons.
Wet Additions: Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed banana, cottage cheese, cooked and mashed sweet potato, cooked and mashed carrot, frozen zucchini that has been thawed and drained, home canned fruit that has been drained and cut in chunks, fruit juice (lemon, lime, orange as a flavoring only).
NOTE: When using wet ingredients, your muffins can get quite wet. This could cause the need for additional baking time. To help eliminate this, I keep the wet ingredients to no more than ½ cup.
Spices: 1-4 teaspoons depending on your preferences. Use one or a combination. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, cloves, grated orange peel, grated lemon peel, etc.
All Natural Fruit Spreads: Here is an idea for a nice change of pace. Fill cups half full with plain batter. Add a teaspoon of fruit spread and then top with 2 more teaspoons of batter (my children love this).
Savory Muffins: These make a nice accompaniment to a simple soup dinner. Use only 2 tablespoons of sweetener or omit entirely. I have had excellent results using a combination of whole wheat flour and rye flour or whole wheat flour and cornmeal (1 cup each). For additions use things like shredded cheese (1/2 cup), a few strips fried and crumbled bacon (we would use turkey or beef bacon), 2 or 3 tablespoons of any or all of the following; minced or grated onion, shredded zucchini, finely chopped, leftover cooked vegetables (I like broccoli), Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs of your choice. If using dried herbs use 1 to 2 teaspoons.
Soak It: Combine your choice of grain(s) and your liquid in a bowl. Don’t forget your acidic medium if using milk or water. Allow to soak, covered, at room temperature for a minimum of 7 hours.
Mix In: After your soaking time is up, mix in your egg and oil. The first time you make this, it is going to seem all wrong. The batter that has soaked all day will be thick and seem very hard to mix. I usually mix in one egg and when that blends well then I slowly start adding any additional eggs (when making multiple batches) and the oil. Don’t be tempted to add additional soaking liquid when you start out. You want that batter to be thick so your muffins turn out with a beautiful amount of rise. I’ve tried a thinner batter hoping for easier mixing and ended up with muffin pancakes. Add any moist or wet ingredients (such as honey, molasses, vanilla, etc.) to this batter. Hold off on adding things like blueberries until the two bowls are combined so they don’t turn to mush. No one likes mush berries.
Separate Bowl: Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Go ahead and put any spices or dry additions into this bowl.
Combine: Combine the 2 bowls until mixed. Occasionally, the mixing will be challenging and you might have ‘bits’ of grain that don’t combine. I don’t worry too much about this and just do the best I can. Your finished product might have spots of a slightly different color but will still taste great. Stir in any final additions such as blueberries.
Bake: Put your muffins into prepared muffin tins (or use liners). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18-25 minutes. Your baking time may vary depending on how wet your batter is and altitude. I usually set the timer for 18 minutes and then check them every 3-5 minutes afterwards until a toothpick comes out clean.
Double up! Save energy and time by making a double batch. These keep very well when covered or can be stashed in the freezer for future use.
After several years of designing our muffins, we’ve developed some favorites.
- Lemon/Poppy Seed: When we want muffins or breakfast cake and I have nothing on hand that needs to be used up, I make a lemon poppy seed. 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and ground ginger plus ½ teaspoon of nutmeg are my only additions. Simple and delicious.
- Peanut Butter/Banana: Bananas that are too ripe are very common here (seems I can never accurately estimate the banana consumption at my house. Either I buy too few and they are gone too quick or too many and they become too ripe). My additions then become overripe bananas and peanut butter. I usually replace half of the fat with the peanut butter (1/4 cup fat would be 1/8 cup peanut butter plus 1/8 cup of my butter or coconut oil). This makes a very tasty combination.
Now that you are familiar with the components to muffins, here is your formula. Let the experiments begin!
Basic Muffin Formula
2 to 2 ½ cups grain
1 cup buttermilk, yogurt, kefir or milk with 1 T apple cider vinegar added
Combine your grain(s) with your liquid of choice. Cover with a cloth and let sit at room temperature for 7 hours or overnight.
After your soaking time has completed add and mix well;
Up to ¼ cup fat
In a separate bowl, combine;
Up to ½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Up to 1 ½ cups “dry additions”
Combine the 2 bowls until mixed. Add in any moist or wet additions.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18-25 minutes. Your baking time may vary depending on how wet your batter is to start out and your altitude. Makes plus or minus one dozen depending on your ingredients.
Variation: Breakfast Cake
Here’s a great idea! Put the batter in an 8 inch square pan or a loaf pan and sell to your family as “Breakfast Cake”.
No need to wash each little muffin tin. 😉 A double batch fits perfectly in a 9×13 cake pan. Keep an eye on your quantity when pouring into pans. Sometimes your choice of ingredients can result in a batter that makes more than will fit in a pan without running over. Fill pans no more than ¾ full to be safe. When batter exceeds the pan, put the remainder in muffin tins. Only have batter enough to fill a couple of tins? No problem putting water in the empty tins will aid in cooking and avoid burning the tins.
Muffins and Breakfast Cake are not just for breakfast. They make a wonderful snack or light dessert!
Want to learn more about traditional cooking? Check out the Fundamentals eBook from my affiliate partner Traditional Cooking School!
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