Success! Healthy muffins experiment # 4

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Very pleased to report the 4th experiment was a huge success!  I came up with a healthier alternative to a traditional blueberry muffin, and it tastes like a blueberry muffin.  It’s really good!  At this point I don’t even notice the odd colour.  I see one and think “delicious muffin get in my mouth”.

Thanks to Calorie Count I have the nutritional data again, and I notice the sodium is still fairly high, based purely on using baking soda.  No other ingredient has salt.  I want research further into leavening agents to see if anything can be done about that.

Just how healthy awesome is this muffin?

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The flavour not was sacrificed in the name of nutrition, to make this just required opening my mind to some new ingredients and getting more creative.  I compared my muffin to what you can buy at two popular fast food chains:

mcdonalds muffin

McDonald’s blueberry muffin

That is a lot of calories!  The salt in the next one is even more insane!

tim hortons muffin

Tim Horton’s blueberry muffin

After reading those charts, I’m even more excited about my muffins!  I learned a lot by experimenting to make a healthier muffin.  If you try this recipe, I suggest adding a little more water, my batter was very thick.

The spelt flour came from the Bulk Barn, and they have two types of spelt, the stone-ground spelt has way more calories (ha ha, get it?) than the sprouted spelt.  I used sprouted spelt.  I’m going to check what other brands are available locally though since there seems to be a big difference in the numbers of the flour.

Time required: 30 min

Yields: 12

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $45 ish

Cost per muffin: 52 cents

Ingredients:

  • 230 g frozen blueberries
  • 188 g organic sprouted spelt flour
  • 63 g egg whites
  • 60 g organic, unrefined red palm oil
  • 50 g Splenda granulated sucralose
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 4 oz water
  • 4 g pure vanilla extract, Lorann Madagascar Bourbon

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Instructions:

1.Grease the muffin tin.  (Grease it really well because mine stuck badly.)

2.Combine all of the wet ingredients (except the berries) with the Splenda.

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Something really awesome about baking by weight is that I used way less dishes!  All I needed to do was sit the mixing bowl on my scale, and add each ingredient one at a time until the desired weight. So easy!

3.Measure out the dry ingredients and add them to wet, gradually.

4.Stir in fruit and spoon into tray. They are an… alarming colour I’ve begun to refer to as “blinding chartreuse”.

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The batter was very thick.

5.Bake 20 min.

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6.Remove from tray immediately.

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So happy!

Verdict:

They tasted great!  We tried them with breakfast when they were fresh from the oven, and they were amazing.  However the real test of a muffin is once it’s cooled down.  I’ve yet to eat a baked good straight out of the oven that tasted bad.  These muffins were still very tasty once they cooled completely.

Boyfriend Unit says, “They’re delicious. Better eaten warm.  But still delicious.”

Once the muffins cooled the texture got crumbly. I believe this is caused by the spelt flour.  Future baking plans include looking into correcting the crumbliness, lowering the sodium content in the leavener, and find a flour with less calories.

Playlist: Walk the Moon – Shut up and dance

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Healthier muffins experiment # 3

Well this looks… appetizing.  But looks can be deceiving.

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Research into a healthier muffin continues, and now only one more ingredient needs to be replaced.  These muffins were made without butter.  The fat is provided by unrefined red palm oil, sold by Nutiva.  Before you rush out and buy some, something to consider.

PSA:

Not all red palm oil is created equal.  The production of red palm oil is responsible for rain forest destruction and destroying the habitats of orangutans in Southeast Asia.

Nutiva’s oil is grown and produced in Ecuador on small family farms.  They partner with Natural Habitats to ensure the growth and production of their product does not contribute to deforestation or habitat destruction.  Before you buy please look into where and how the oil is produced.

I searched around to find the substitution ratio, and found two different options:

  • 1:1, for 100 grams of butter use 100 grams of oil
  • use an 80% and 20% split to mimic the water content of dairy butter

I went with the 80/20 split, and it turned out great.

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The baking time was the same.  The texture was light, and soft.  There was no weird flavour.  They were an unpleasant shade of greenish-yellow, but check out that nutrition content!

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Boyfriend Unit also enjoyed these!  I asked him if this tastes like a weird health food, he said no, it’s a bit different from the muffins I’m used to, but it’s really good.

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This is starting to get fun.  I like figuring out how low can I get those numbers while still making it taste good.

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:

health muffins exp 2

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?