Healthier muffins experiment # 2

This weekend marked the beginning of my blog’s transformation into a healthier way to enjoy desserts.  Yes!  Let us eat more desserts, and more often!  I tried those elusive muffins again and got much better results.  Am still making some modifications and excited for batch # 3.

I intentionally overstir batter for the colour bleed.  Blue muffins for days!

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My motivation to make this change towards healthier desserts is three-fold.

  1. I refuse to entertain the notion of a sad, soulless existence of healthy eating without dessert.  What good is eating better food if you cannot enjoy the extra deliciousness of a good dessert?
  2. I’ve baked with traditional ingredients solely because that is what I’m used to.  I grew up in a family that stocked granulated sugar, table salt, all-purpose white flour, et cet.  Now that I am a responsible adult and no longer shackled by somebody else’s grocery decisions, it is time to make the switch!  Belatedly.
  3. Theoretically… if one can reduce the nutritional impact of a dessert by 50%, one can then enjoy that dessert twice as much without remorse!

Alright. Fine.

It’s more about recognizing that desserts are okay in moderation, and desserts become even more okay (transcendence!) if you reduce the nutritional impact they have on your health.   If I can make reductions to the Nefarious Hexad™ (calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbs, and sugar) that I eat on a daily basis, I will.

Yesterday I wrote about substitutions and the benefits of baking with sucralose and half salt instead of sugar and table salt.  Before doing anymore baking, I spent a few hours converting some recipes into grams and fluid ounces.  In the past month I’ve gotten into the habit of weighing food for meals and cooking, so carrying it over to baking was easy.

Then it was time for round 2 of muffins.  Along with using sucralose and half salt again, I used two egg whites instead of a whole egg.  Used the amazing ingredient analyser on Calorie Count, I confirmed that the nutrition content improved significantly, except for one thing:

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Sodium went up.  Cholesterol did not change.  And everything else went down.  The change in salt caught me by surprise, I didn’t realize egg whites have so much salt.  Hmm.  What to do.

I’m thinking one or two small changes before I’m finished.  Then it’s recipe posting time.

Boyfriend Unit tested a muffin from each batch, the 2nd batch is pictured below:

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He said 1st batch is good, but agreed it was overdone.  He said the 2nd batch seemed exactly like normal muffins to him, they taste better than 1st batch, but he detected a faint aftertaste of something.

I found the muffins slightly too sweet but as I chewed, I began to second guess myself.  Is it really too sweet, or do I just think it’s too sweet because I’ve always thought artificial sweeteners were extra sweet tasting?

And then the strangest thing happened.  Within a minute of finishing the muffin, I noticed the aftertaste too.  It was just like what happens when you stir a package of Crystal Light into water, when suddenly you can taste the powder from inhaling as you stir.

Hmm.  I can live with an aftertaste for the sake of a healthier muffin.  The aftertaste wasn’t gross, but it was strange, and I’d like it gone.  Why does sucralose leave an aftertaste?  More research is needed.  For Science.

Hit me up with ingredient substitutions you use in baking.

Certainly NOT Mary’s muffins

So that muffin recipe I was so excited to score the other week from my friend who makes delicious muffins?  These are nothing like her muffins.  Hers are baked to perfection and not overdone like mine.

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I’m working on a project to improve the nutritional content of my baked goods.  I will make this at least one more time to test my results.

In lieu of bananas, I used one cup of fresh blackberries and one cup of frozen blueberries.  This reduced the natural fruit sugar from 60 grams to 20 grams.

I really do love bananas.  (I used to think brown sugar was a food group so this is unsurprising.  There’s a story I could tell you about my brother in-law catching me with a bowl of brown sugar, and only brown sugar, for breakfast.)  I’m not giving up bananas or anything crazy like that.  Just enjoying them in moderation now.

Instead of using white sugar and table salt, I substituted granulated Splenda, an artificial sweetener made from sucralose and maltodextrin, and Half Salt, which is made of iodized salt and potassium chloride.

Splenda does not contain calories, fat, or carbs.  As this was my maiden voyage consuming Splenda, first I read Health Canada’s position on sucralose before trying it.  The Canadian Diabetes Association recognizes Splenda as a sweetener that diabetics can enjoy in moderation.  At least it’s not going to poison me out of the gate.  Onwards!

Half Salt contains 50% less sodium than table salt and I’ve been using it for a year without noticing any difference in flavour.

So how did the muffins taste?  Well hold on.  Let’s see the nutrition benefit first.

Using the Calorie Count recipe analyzer, take a look:

calorie info

 

As for the taste, the only thing about these muffins that went wrong was I cooked them too long.  They had the texture and consistency of a regular muffin.

A feature of baking with both Splenda and Half Salt I really appreciate is that the substitution ratio is 1:1.  If the recipe calls for one cup of sugar, you use one cup of Splenda instead.  No need to figure out how to bulk up the recipe to compensate for lost volume. (EDIT: July 23, 2016, after 5 months of baking with Splenda I can state with confidence despite what the package says, I will never use the 1:1 substitution ratio. The less Splenda used the better, too much leaves a weird after taste.)

The granulated Splenda package has a note that baking time may need to be reduced, which I forgot, and that Splenda can withstand baking temperatures upto 232° C or 450° F.

I am satisfied with this experiment and excited to try it again.

While researching the pros and cons of alternate ingredients, I saw various mention of bad taste or weird side effects.

Have you noticed anything strange about cooking with non-traditional ingredients?

 

Banana muffins (from Cat Can Cook)

I tried this banana muffin recipe from Cat Can Cook because I had some seriously ripe bananas and I could not get ahold of my friend to get her muffin recipe.

Good news: the Cat Can Cook recipe also yields delicious muffins.

Even better news: I got the recipe from my friend today for next time. 😀

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Time required: under 1 hour

Yields: 12

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $24

Cost per muffin: $0.31  (you may notice the cost per item has dropped lately, more on that next time)

Ingredients:

  • 4 over ripe bananas
  • ½ C white sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ⅓ C melted butter
  • 1½ C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • splash of pure vanilla (I added this)

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 176°C / 350°F.  Grease muffin tin.

2. Mash bananas, add sugar and egg and melted butter, beat until combined.

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3. Combine all dry ingredients in seperate bowl, then add to wet, half the bowl at a time.

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4. Pour into muffin tin and bake 24 minutes (original recipe says 20 but that didn’t work for my oven)

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5. Let them cool at least 10 minutes before enjoying.

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Verdict: These are fantastic, I’ve made them twice now.  Shamefully the first batch didn’t even survive the night in a household of 2 people.  They are that good.  Today I only broke one.  They are really easy to make, and taste great.

Blueberry muf… blueberry parts

It’s a well-documented fact that any and all attempts of mine to make banana bread end poorly.  I had given up on making banana bread completely, until New Years day.

My friend had made banana muffins for breakfast, and they blew my mind. They were so delicious, just like banana bread. But not a loaf.  Last night I made them, and they turned out great.

“That’s it!”, I said to Boyfriend. “I am never making banana bread again. From now on it’s muffins.”

He was okay with this proclamation since he would still get to eat them.

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This morning I wanted to make blueberry muffins as I have company later for tea.  I called up my mom to clarify a measurement in the recipe, and got to work. They looked so good.

Until I tried to remove them from the pan and realized I had forgotten just one thing.

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Greasing the pan. Is apparently really important. Sigh.

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Blueberry muffins

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I love blueberry muffins. My mom makes amazing blueberry muffins, and hers are the standard to which every other muffin falls short. She uses the recipe of her good friend.

I grew up within a short drive of the Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada, and blueberries are the official fruit of my home province. Represent, bitches.

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There is a large blueberry field behind my dad’s cottage, so I have eaten a lot of blueberries in my life. In fact blueberries are such a big deal where I grew up, we have town festivals to celebrate them. Imagine. Everybody turns out just to pimp one particular fruit. When I was little, we’d dress in blue shirts and stand on marked spots to form a big human blueberry and they’d take aerial photos.

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Time required: 1 hr

Yields: 14

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $28

Cost per muffin: $2

Kitchen implements I used:

  • muffin tin + large muffin liners

Ingredients:

  • 2 C flour
  • ½ C granulated white sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 C milk
  • ⅓ C vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C blueberries

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat open to 400°F / 204°C and put muffin liners in tray.

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Measure out the milk and oil into a liquid measuring cup.

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4. Beat egg until it’s foamy, then add to liquid.

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5. Add wet to dry, stirring until just combined. The batter will have a slight pull to it.

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6. Fold in the blueberries. Hopefully you have Canadian berries, but if not I guess you’ll have to make do with your inferior fruit. Frozen berries bleed colour but who cares because the bluer the merrier.

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7. Spoon batter into prepared tray.

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Leave some room for expansion.

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8. Bake 18-20 minutes and move to wire rack.

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9. After cooling, store in a sealed container. Take one with your tea and call me in the morning.

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Verdict: Delicious!  The texture improved over night.

I did try one last night after they were freshly made, and found it a bit disappointing. The bottom of the muffin stuck to the liner.  I called Mom, who suggested bake them for 15 minutes, leave them in tray for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

But when I had one this morning, it was bang on and the liner peeled off without sticking. So I think I’ll reduce baking time by 2 minutes next time and see how it goes.

Playlist: Final Fantasy VI – Another World of Beasts