Morning Glory Muffins

IMG_1244Wait! Before you go out and harvest a basketful of these beautiful flowers, I should warn you Morning Glories are highly poisonous (every single part of the plant is deadly, in fact). These muffins are Morning Glory in name only! Actually, they take the name of the little New England bakery where they originated. Or do they? Hmmm… they are kinda glorious in their own way, and they are most often served in the morning.

I’ve mentioned in a past entry that I have an unending love for homemade muffins. To me, they’re made even more lovable by the fact that they’re essentially cupcakes one might permissibly eat for breakfast!

There are certainly drawbacks to seeking muffin bliss, though. Tons of muffin recipes are loaded with completely unnecessary fat and empty calories, for instance. But, it’s also a consideration that measuring ingredients and whipping up a batch of twelve mini cakes may not be your idea of something wise to do right after rolling out of bed! Maybe, then, we’re of like mind since I typically make muffins about once a month and most usually on a weekend morning when time might be more plentiful.

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Today’s recipe, inspired by Cook’s Country’s spin on a classic muffin, is a personal attempt to bridge the gap between my dessert wish list and my nutritional aspirations. Using an excellent recipe as a springboard, I made some changes to incorporate whole grains, lower the sugar content, reduce cholesterol and even reduce the calories (though, as it turns out, their recipe was already a lot healthier than most recipes on the internet for Morning Glory Muffins).

Let’s Talk Ingredients

Unsweetened Coconut Flakes — If you’re like me, you probably wouldn’t consider the added sugar in ordinary packaged coconut flakes — at least not until you were trying to reduce your sugar intake. While there’s not a lot of caloric difference between sweetened versus unsweetened coconut flakes, there are some interesting differences I feel make unsweetened coconut a better choice (reduced sugar is only a bonus).

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Compared to the sweetened stuff, unsweetened coconut has more genuine coconut flavor. After glancing at the ingredients label on both, I now know why! Unsweetened coconut contains only coconut. Sweetened coconut, however, also contains sugar, propylene glycol, salt, and sodium metasulfite. I’d like mine with extra metasulfite, please! Mmm… just like mom used to make! As it turns out, propylene glycol is added to ensure the coconut stays eerily sticky and moist while the sodium metasulfite (an industrial disinfecting agent when you’re not busy eating it) is added to make sure the coconut flakes remain sparkling white even after months on the store shelves. Is it really so important that the coconut be pearly white?

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour — I typically try to replace at least half of the all-purpose flour called for in a recipe with whole wheat pastry flour (unless I’m making a very delicate cake or soufflé). Whole wheat pastry flour is whole wheat flour that is ground extra finely so it doesn’t weigh down soda-leavened baked goods. If you don’t mind a slightly denser texture or you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute regular whole wheat flour.

IMG_1411Oat Bran — Intimidating as it sounds, oat bran is simply the hard, outer layer from oats (usually removed in processing) that contains high amounts of dietary fiber. You can usually find it in the bulk grains section or somewhere amidst the baking aisle. Bob’s Red Mill, a widely-distributed brand, is usually easy to come by. If you aren’t able to find oat bran, you can easily substitute quick oats (also known as quick-cooking oats) and get nearly the same effect, but with less fiber.

Egg Substitute — I hate the universal name for this ingredient because it makes it sound totally artificial. Egg Substitute is 99% egg white and 1% added ingredients such as beta carotene (for color) and other vitamins and minerals to boost the nutrition value. Be sure to check the labels of egg substitutes to be sure that they’re not hiding added sodium, sugars, thickeners, or other unnecessary ingredients. We buy a brand called Nu-laid which we also use for midweek omelets. If all else fails, simply use two egg whites in place of the egg substitute.

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Honey — I love to add honey to replace at least part of the granulated sugar called for in some baking recipes — especially if the recipe has a lot of fruit in it. Since it’s sweeter than sugar, about 3/4 cup of honey can stand in for 1 cup of granulated sugar. Depending on the recipe, you may need to reduce the amount of the other liquids by about 2 tablespoons to compensate for the extra moisture honey adds. For this recipe, a light-colored, wildflower or clover honey does wonders to highlight the natural sweetness of fruit. For an added bonus, seek out local honey!

Dates — James loves dates maybe more than your average person. I tend to agree with him on this. There’s just something almost sinful in their deep-and-sweet flavor that seems right at home in a muffin. If you can’t find dates or you don’t prefer to use them, feel free to use double the amount of raisins called for.

Method to the Madness

I changed very little about the recipe’s mixing method, though I did streamline it a bit. Many of the seemingly tedious steps in the method, however, wound up being beneficial to the finished product.

Toasting the walnuts and coconut is a step you can’t skip since it really heightens the flavor of both. Though it was a tad tiresome to press the juice from the fruit and then reduce it over the stove, skipping that step would’ve made for a very dense textured muffin with an unfocused taste. Also, when mixing any muffin batter, it’s very important not to over mix since this inevitably leads to tough, leaden muffins that are sure to disappoint.

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I’ve had more than my fair share of frothy angry moments dealing with muffins that simply will not let go of the muffin tin. It’s enough to make you want to run away from home! I’ve learned the best way to prevent this is to: 1) have a decent muffin pan without scratches or a compromised finish; 2) spread the cooking spray evenly into each muffin cup and even a little bit around the top surface where the muffin tops might end up resting; 3) resist the temptation to immediately try turning out the muffins, let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes so they can shrink away from the sides of the cups; and 4) if the recipe involves lots of blueberries which tend to bleed and stick to the sides of muffin pans, you might want to use muffin cup liners. Other than in the case of blueberries, however, muffin cup liners annoy me!

Morning Glory Muffins

Adapted from Cook’s Country
Serves 12

    8 ounces canned crushed pineapple
    1 medium tart apple, peeled, cored and grated
    1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened preferred)
    1/2 cup walnuts
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 cup oat bran
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
    1 large egg
    1/2 cup egg substitute
    1/3 cup honey
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
    1/4 cup golden raisins
    1/4 cup chopped dates

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray cooking spray into each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin; using your fingers, spread the cooking spray evenly inside each cup.

    In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, toast the walnuts, stirring constantly, until they begin to be toasty and fragrant (approximately 3 minutes). Add the coconut to the skillet and continue stirring until coconut turns light brown (be careful, it can burn very quickly). Pour the toasted coconut mixture into a bowl and allow to cool.

    Place the crushed pineapple and shredded apple in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or large measuring cup. Using a rubber spatula, spoon, or fork, press the fruit until all of its juice is drained. The juice should measure about 1 cup. Place the juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (this should take 5-7 minutes; do measure the juice to be sure it’s no more than 1/4 cup). Set aside to cool.

    Meanwhile, process the toasted coconut and walnuts in a food processor until finely ground (or chop each as finely as possible).

    As the reduced juice is cooling, in a large mixing bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat bran, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the melted butter, the reduced juice, egg, egg substitute, honey, and vanilla. Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture just until combined. Stir in the apple-pineapple mixture, walnut-coconut mixture, carrots, raisins, and chopped dates.

    Divide batter evenly among muffin cups using a large spoon. Bake at 350-degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool in tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve warm.

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If you’re just making these for two or three people, you’ll be delighted to know they can be stored unrefrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days without losing any of their spunk. Or, you can individually wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them for up to 3 or 4 months; taking one or two out as necessary and reheating in the microwave.

Though the ingredient list seems so crowded you might wonder which flavor wins out, what we like best about this recipe is the way each ingredient lends its own special talents to the overall taste. The natural sweetness of fruit and carrots (boosted by the honey) makes for a muffin that isn’t so sweet that you miss out on all the fun. Toasted walnuts and coconut — though ground finely so as not to add a toothsome or mealy texture — shine through and take the taste over the top.

These muffins pack quite a wallop of flavor while offering a boastful amount of nutrition. Though the original recipe was already quite reasonable for a muffin, I managed to lower the calories a tad, boost the fiber, and reduce the cholesterol by 48%! The best part: you can’t taste that it’s healthy! These turned out to be a very exciting part of a well-rounded breakfast. Had they been ordinary, non-glorious muffins, however, all there would’ve been room for in the calorie budget would’ve been coffee!

(Approximate Nutrition Information: 1 muffin = 298 calories, 15g total fat (8g sat., 3g mono, 3g poly), 38mg cholesterol, 312mg sodium, 4g fiber, and 6g protein.)

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~ by Jason on June 16, 2011.

4 Responses to “Morning Glory Muffins”

  1. Serves 12…is that 12 muffins or 24 muffins? No one in my house eats only one muffin.

    • Ha! 😀 It’s 12 muffins. Actually, truth be told, James and I had one and a half each that morning and then one and a half again later that same day. With the calories being so reasonable, though, it wasn’t such a big deal.

  2. If you’re using honey, remember to allow for the extra moisture… and that you only need a third the amount of honey to make it taste as sweet as sugar! Dad’s a beekeeper, and we have a ton of honey recipe books around. I may have to out some up on my blog!

    • Beekeepers are brave heroic souls. I love honey. I love bees… but I’m terrified of them!! 😀

      You’re right about reducing the liquid called for in a recipe when substituting honey, though, and I should’ve also pointed out that honey is sweeter than sugar so it’s NOT a 1-to-1 substitute. Thanks for pointing that out to the readers.

      In this recipe, since the other liquids are already reduced and the honey isn’t used to replace all of the sugar called for, the texture of the muffins didn’t suffer. Using honey as a sugar replacement, too, can affect the browning of baked goods.

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