In Search of Poppy Seed Muffins.

Sometimes I get intense cravings for poppy seeds.  Maybe it's the Eastern European heritage, maybe it's the nutty, oily crunch only they can give a baked good.  Maybe it's because I enjoy them most as a vehicle for almond extract, since the poppy seed seems more than well suited to that bitter almond flavor.  In my flavor showdown between vanilla. lemon, and almond,  almond wins out every single time.

poppy seed bread.

It seems there are a shortage of good muffins in the world.  I think I surprised a muffin-loving friend recently when I admitted that I prefer loaf-pan quick breads to muffins.  Muffins just seem to stale quickly, and with a loaf of bread, I can slice off what I like.  Nevermind that it's tougher to transport a slice of quick bread than a muffin... 

Then there are the muffin tin liners: to use or not to use? 

But every so often, I really want a muffin.  And, I really want a poppy seed muffin.  And then I remember that I've never really found the perfect muffin to satisfy what in my mind a poppy seed muffin should be.  Poppy seed muffins seem to come in either lemon or almond flavors.  Lemon leaves me wanting as much as I like it, and almond muffins never seem to contain the bracing amount of almond extract that I so badly desire.  Most poppy seed muffins are dense and overly oily - probably because most are oil based and contain a LOT of it.  Most are crazy sweet too, containing as much sugar as flour in some instances.   A recent Internet perusal of poppy seed muffins/loaf breads met with the same results I've been accustomed to, but fortunately I was able to turn to a recent cookbook crush to meet my needs.

poppy seed bread.

I think I identify most with cookbook obsessed home cooks.  We are the lot that hears mention of a new book (or are even the ones that scan publisher websites for upcoming releases), get our hands on a copy, and then set to work making what marvels lurk inside.  I have so many titles that seem like living, breathing friends, the authors voices coaching me through the language of their worlds.  I have learned so much from so many titles, and been endlessly inspired. 

Those who are with me also fully understand the "cookbook crush", and I'll bet that a whole genre of my peers can site readily those tomes that grabbed them tenderly (or vigorously) and caused them to think of nothing other than what was on the page and on the plate for days on end.  I go through many of these each year, and increasingly there are just so many great books coming out that I never need to wonder what to make next at my house.

I began reading Cheryl Sternman Rule's Yogurt Culture a few weeks ago, excited from the first page after she opened her story in Eritrea.  Eritrea, a tiny country I couldn't have found on a world map before our in-depth geographical study of Africa last year.  It is a simple and well written book, a heavy thing that feels good in your hands, the pages thick and somewhat glossy (but not so glossy that they encourage fingerprints).  I made her recipe for 9 chocolate cupcakes right away to use up some chocolate frosting from a birthday cake commission.  I wasn't at all surprised that every family member loved them.  After the muffin discussion with my friend, I figured I needed to make poppy seed bread (or muffins) - so I looked to Cheryl's lemon almond version of a loaf cake that looked like it had good bones for poppy seed inclusion...

Lemon AND almond!  I have read poppy seed recipes for years and never have seen the two together.  And despite my almond addition, I did add the zest of 1 lemon and found it to balance everything well.  This was also a butter-based bread, with only 1 cup of sugar in pleasant proportion to the 2 cups of flour (and 1/2 c. almond meal).  I was sold.

poppy seed bread.

Billed as a loaf cake, I actually made it pretty much as written on the first go.  I baked it in small, disposable tins - disposable except I've been washing them out and reusing them since last Christmas when I wanted to give petite pound cakes as gifts.  (Sometimes, I think the best bakeware is the absolute cheapest.  The thin aluminum allows great browning on all sides.)  There was probably a bit too much batter for the 3 pans, and that's when I conceded that a muffin might be in my future.  I altered it a little bit more, decided upon using tin liners, and lined up a couple neighbors to share in the wealth of muffins.

Almond Lemon Poppy Seed Bread (or Muffins) (adapted from Cheryl Sternman Rule)

makes 15-16 standard size muffins, 1 9x5 sized loaf, or 3 3 1/2x6 mini loaves

  • 10 T. room temperature butter (that's 5 oz.)
  • 2 c. AP flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. blanched almond meal
  • 3 T. poppy seeds, preferably fresh Dutch Blue ones
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 room temperature eggs.
  • 2 1/2 - 3 t. almond extract, depending on your level of almond love
  • 1 c. plain yogurt (not a thick Greek style)

Preheat the oven to 350, and butter your loaf pan(s) or line muffin tins with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, almond meal, poppy seeds, and lemon zest together until well blended.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or another bowl with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until lightened and "fluffy", about 5 minutes.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the almond extract.  On low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients until just blended.  Add the yogurt, also blended until just incorporated, then add the final half of the dry ingredients.  Mix well, but don't overmix - and use a spatula for the final few strokes to be sure there are no dry pockets.  The batter will be somewhat stiff.

Portion into the prepared muffin tins (or loaf pans), filling about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes for muffins, slightly longer for mini-loaves, and 45-55 minutes for a large loaf.  A tester should come out cleanly from the center and the tops should be slightly browned.

Leftovers store well at room temperature for 2 or 3 days if covered tightly with glass.

poppy seed muffin

I'll admit that these taste best after just coming to room temperature; the tops have a slight crust that disappears by the next day.  But the airy yet stable structure of these muffins are just what I have been looking for, and I was able to enough almond extract to satisfy myself and 3 tablespoons of poppy seed are enough to give them a good crunch in every bite.  You could decide to glaze these with confectioner's sugar thinned with lemon juice, or more almond extract (and milk or cream instead of the lemon juice) - but they are just fine as is.  Next time I have the craving for a poppy seed muffin, I'll know just where to turn.

poppy seed muffin

Apple Hazelnut Blueberry Muffins. And, organization.

2015 is off to a good start.  Late last year, I read Marie Kondo's bestselling book on organization after David Lebovitz mentioned it online.  It's the kind of book that repeats itself for emphasis, but I didn't mind it.  I took away a lot of good advice, and have taken to paring down tons of worldly possessions that aren't doing me any good and might do someone else better.

Harder than getting rid of paper and toy clutter is getting rid of clothes.  I HATE shopping for clothes, and really it's not a stretch to say I can't recall the last time I shopped for clothes (not counting the desperation trips to the super thrift right down the street), so I tend to packrat them even if I don't figure I'll ever wear them again.  Inspired, I did get rid of some clothes but, it's harder still for me to part with t-shirts.  Some upwards of 20 years old, t-shirts are my fashion life.  At least most of them are now filed in an orderly fashion in my drawers, folded just one more time in half than my previous t-shirt fold has saved me tons of space in my dresser - I have room in my dresser that I never knew existed.  Thank you David Lebovitz.  Your power of suggestion has saved my (organizational) life.

In addition to well organized sock and t-shirt drawers, I took another organized cue and started my new year with a solemn vow to make sure my kitchen  is completely tidied up before going to bed.  The kitchen is my domain; I spend almost my whole day in it, or the attached dining room where my son is doing his schooling work.  It's a pleasant, south-facing space that has good light and is generally fairly clean.  But I am of the ilk that does not dry her dishes but rather waits for them to dry.  I do other things when they dry, but I do not take out a towel and dry them.  I'm stubborn that way.  I realized that having to empty the dish rack in the morning and then tidy the rest of the kitchen/dining area was causing me stress before our school day even began.  

After a week of spotlessness before bed, I can attest that I feel better coming into my space in the morning.  It makes for more peaceful breakfasts, and helps the day get off to a good start.  It just makes me happy in general not to be thinking about how I should scrub out the sink as my kid is trying to do his math.  (I also let the breakfast dishes dry in the rack, but before starting on lunch, I start with a clean space again.  I find I'm doing less dishes this way too - just 3 times a day instead of what seemed like endlessly.)

Other things making me happy in general are muffins.  Muffins are not usually something I get overly excited about - they are utilitarian and something I usually make out of necessity (even though that never stops me from trying to find really good ones).  Ordinarily I'd rather make tea cakes or quick breads, anything in a loaf pan really and I'm not sure why.  Muffins have a good place in a kitchen with kids, that's for sure.  And having a supply of them for the inevitable snack request is just good thinking as a parent I guess.

I've been enjoying the recipes in Whole Grain Mornings (Megan Gordon) for weeks now.  It's a great book of breakfasty inspiration, which I kind of need in the box-cereal free environment that I've created for ourselves.  We eat plenty of oatmeal and other porridge, but I don't break out of my smoothie mold easily, and I've that one particular son that is so picky.  The book is arranged by season, and the winter season is where I began, making Morning Glory Oatmeal (steel cut oats, carrot, raisins, coconut, why didn't I think of that??) and Pear Hazelnut Oat Muffins.  Those muffins!  I first made them in my clean kitchen before bed, getting the ingredients measured (the whole book has metric weights!  YES!) for quick morning assembly.  I got 15 muffins instead of 12, and we ate them by the multiples.  When warm, like a portable bowl of comforting oatmeal and when cool like moist slices of cake.  Like any quick-bready recipe, I cut the sugar in half and didn't miss it at all.  And then I started playing around with the flavors.  I'm fairly certain anything you add to these muffins will be a good idea.

apple blueberry hazelnut muffins.

I actually only topped some of my muffins with nuts instead of baking them inside as Megan suggests.  The baby likes nuts and isn't allergic, but I'm not too fussy with chopping so I then have to pick through the whole muffin as he eats it.  My older boy doesn't care for hazelnuts (I know, right?  More for me.) so I put them only on the top of some of them as a solution for us all.  I like how they get all naturally toasted, and it's like staking a claim to as many muffins as I like.  Or as many muffin tops as I like.

Megan reduces the oven heat immediately after adding the muffins to the oven.  I didn't do this, and in several batches the muffins were all fine.  You may choose to lower to 375 after the muffins hit the oven if you want.

Apple Hazelnut Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Megan Gordon)
makes about 15 muffins
  • 75 g. (3/4 c.) rolled oats
  • 120 g. (1 c.) AP flour (I used wheatier Lonesome Stone AP, which is like a white whole wheat)
  • 60 g. (1/2 c.) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. cardamom
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt
  • 215 g. (1 c.) peeled and shredded apple - 1-2 apples (do the shredding just before assembling to prevent browning)
  • 62 g. (1/3 c.) granulated sugar
  • 85 g. (6 T.) unsalted butter
  • 240 ml. (1 c.) yogurt/milk mixture (she calls for buttermilk, I make the milk about the thickness of buttermilk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. blueberries fresh or frozen (add frozen still frozen and not defrosted)
  • hazelnuts enough to top muffins, about 2 T. chopped nuts per muffin
 Preheat the oven to 425, line muffin tin with liners or butter them well if you prefer.

In a small bowl, combine oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.  Mix well to combine. 

Melt the butter over low heat, and shred the apple.  Put the sugar in a large bowl that will become your mixing bowl.  Add the butter, and stir well to combine and start to dissolve the sugar.  Then, whisk in the yogurt/milk (or buttermilk), eggs, vanilla, and shredded apple.  Add the dry ingredients and fold/stir it in gently.  Finally fold in the blueberries.

Fill the muffin tins almost to the top.  Top with coarsely chopped nuts if desired, and bake 22-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool the muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.  The texture of the muffin changes as it cools - it sets up more as it gets cooler.  I've had good luck keeping them in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.


In a way, this recipe reminds me of Dorie Greenspan's Breakfast Bread, which includes applesauce and oats (and I also make it with half the sugar, and just a nut topping).  She calls the bread "almost puddinglike" inside and these muffins, at least while warm, would remind you of that description.  I would expect you could use fruit sauces instead of the shredded fruit, especially if baking by weight.  I'll probably try using applesauce or pearsauce or maybe even pureed mango or something.  I do know for certain that I'm not done with these muffins.

Can a muffin make you more organized?  I like to think so.  Having that little, generally nutritious something to pop in a hungry mouth on a whim is pretty nice.  I might make a point of more muffins, and maybe even stashing some in the freezer.  I got away from muffin freezing because I tended not to grab them and then months would pass and I'd discard my labors.  But with muffins this good, there's no need to freeze.  For breakfast, snack, or even as a dessert, they have helped my year get off the ground in a very nice way.  A nicely, organized way!

Daring Baker's Challenge March 2013: Hidden Vegetables.

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!

I kind of opted out on the challenge this month - in part because I've done my fair share of hiding vegetables in baked goods.  Instead of making something new,  I have quite a few successful experiments that I'll list here for you.

For example:

Beet Cake.  This was de-gluten-free-ified  from one of my favorite local bakers, Annie Wegner-LeFort. It was also a hit with my son, who would never touch a beet if prepared traditionally.  Click the photo for the recipe (and a link to the original, gluten-free recipe) on flickr.

chocolate beet cake

Hidden Veg Muffins.  There is pureed carrot in here, and some banana, making for a muffin with very little refined sugar.  For some reason, my kid will not eat carrots - but I try and sneak them in where I can, and this is one place where they went undetected.  Recipe is also linked to the photo on flickr.

hidden veg muffins.

And speaking of muffins, these Sweet Potato Muffins went over well at my house as well.  A whole cup of sweet potato puree in these!

sweet potato muffins

I mentioned in the notes for these Vegan Zucchini Carrot Muffins (also posted on flickr), that the world really doesn't need another muffin recipe - but that sometimes a good muffin recipe is hard to find.  I've made these several times - and they are deliciously able to hide about 2 cups of shredded vegetables and keep them hidden from suspecting children.

vegan zucchini carrot muffins

On a more desserty note, I had tinkered for some time with black bean brownies.  I probably haven't made them again in the 3 years since I wrote about them, but they were good, and vegan to boot.  I do highly recommend whipped cream with cayenne pepper though, which is what made these brownies not truly vegan.

Deena's Chocolate Zucchini Cake is probably one of my most favorite cakes ever - if you don't include her Honey Cake.  So much of what Deena writes sticks like glue in my  head.  The opening of her post on this worthy cake says: "My friend's husband once left her a note in the kitchen that read: Honey, we're out of bundt cake."  I always think of this when I want to make a bundt cake, because I grew up in a bundt cake-eating family, and I long to hear (or see)  these words lingering around a bundt in my own house.  My Husband is not so much a sweets eater, so I live vicariously through these words - and I make this bundt cake in the height of zucchini season when I have friends for supper.  Perhaps when my kids grow big enough to leave me notes, I'll be as lucky as Deena's friend...

chocolate zucchini bundt cake

Since adding copious amounts of shredded vegetables to cake is usually always a good idea, I took Susan from Wild Yeast's lead and made a cake with a whole lot of shredded parsnip.  The original cake was made with carrots, and it too is one of my favorites.  I try to leave myself a supply of sourdough ends to dry and grind up, just so I have the ability to make it on a whim, since there is no flour in this recipe - only dried bread crumbs!  I wonder how this cake would fare with well-drained zucchini?

baked parsnip bread crumb cake
Sourdough Breadcrumb Parsnip Cake.

Most recently, I made these Carrot-Banana Muffins, which were devoid of refined sugar and gluten.  In my opinion, they are the perfect near-dessert muffin - and they really satisfy a sweet tooth.  And we all know that I have a whole mouth full of those that I'm trying to deal with.

carrot banana muffin

Hopefully, I'll be bake to my Daring self next month and able to concoct something new and exciting.  But I'm glad I had a chance to think back on all of the ways I've been successfully able to hide vegetables in the baked goods here at my house.  Be sure to check the Daring Baker blogroll and website for more inspiration!

Carrot-Banana Muffins (The New, Improved, and Sugar-Free Year)

I can't believe it's already a week into the new year.  I just got my decorations put away today, after a week of procrastinating and bewilderment at how easily exhausted I get recently.  I have good energy until about lunchtime, and then I seem about shot for the day.  The good news is that I have finished reading an actual novel, and I read about 4 new to me cookbooks.  The cookbook reading is nothing new of course, but my healthy title choices were timely since Julia and I decided to go for year #2 of Sugar-Free January

Last year, I felt like I was going through sugar withdrawal.  Every single day seemed like a trial, I tried hard to find sweet replacements so I didn't feel the pangs of deprivation.  But a weird thing happened after January of 2012 bit the dust:  I had recalibrated my sweet tooth.  Instead of "needing" sweets, I came to appreciate them in much smaller doses - and I thought carefully before choosing and baking for myself.  I have to say that trend lasted throughout the year too.  But even though this Christmastime saw only 2 batches of cookies coming from my kitchen, when they were added to the sweets that congregated at the farm for my Christmas break, I definitely felt like I overindulged for the final week of the year.  Sugar-Free January is always a good idea I think.

carrot banana muffins

This year, I easily went 2 days without even thinking I was missing something sugary at all.  Then, a few, well chosen social situations found me making polite exceptions... but even then, I didn't overdo.  I ate a small square of coconut cake that barely weighed anything and reminded me of being 8.  I had a similarly tiny morsel of peanut butter rice crispy treat with a thick topcoat of chocolate.  I ate the last brandied cherry some friends dropped off as a gift.  Not all at once, just perfectly curated and well deserved if I have anything to say about it.  My goal this year isn't to be as militant as last year, but rather to continue on my path of continual sweets reduction.

Over the past year, I have come to realize that it isn't even eating the sugar that appeals so much to me, it's the baking and making with it.  I'm happy just tasting something and giving 90% away, and I really just adore any reason to fire up my oven and feel organized in my kitchen.  After 20 trips up and down the stairs carting ornaments, lights, and laundry I took a break this morning to make some muffins that almost any diet (except the unfortunate nut allergic) can appreciate: Carrot-Banana Muffins.

They come from a new cookbook written by healthy diet and living guru Dr. Weil (compiled with help from a chef and a restauranteur, Michael Stebner and Sam Fox).  Most times when reading Dr. Weil, I just really want to hire a private detective to see if he occasionally stops in at a donut shop in a moment of weakness.  I don't subscribe to a life of monastic purity, instead I strive for balance and moderation - and donuts when I feel like it.  In the cookbook True Food, there is plenty of inspiration for healthy eating featuring ingredients that are fairly straightforward (except the sea buckthorn, which I confess I had to look up).  It's easy, seasonal food that is photographed well and infinitely appealing to a generally healthy eater like me.

But I didn't get truly excited until I read the recipe for these muffins which not only fit nicely into a sugar-free regimen, they also are gluten and grain free - and full of enough decadent but healthful ingredients to convince you that you've had a slice of cake.  And I suspect with a well placed dollop of cream cheese frosting, you would have just that.

carrot banana muffin

I ground the last of the almonds I had on hand, which miraculously turned out to be the correct amount.  I didn't have the finest almond meal, which was okay with me, and added a great texture to the finished muffins. I also cut back slightly on the cinnamon, walnuts, and dates (on the dates only because I wasn't so lucky with the last of them).  They are moist and sweet, like the best carrot cake you've ever had, but better since they aren't hyped up on sugar.  You might never suspect there isn't a single granule of refined sugar in these.

Carrot-Banana Muffins (barely adapted from True Food, Dr. Andrew Weil, Sam Fox, and Michael Stebner.  Stebner's wife Ally is credited with coming up with this genius recipe.)

makes 12-16 muffins depending on size
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 4 oz. butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 bananas, mashed (my bananas were huge, so I used 2)
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 c. pitted and chopped dates
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 325, and line a muffin tin with papers.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and coconut and whisk well to combine.  In a separate large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer (or by hand) until creamy and soft.  Add eggs, bananas, honey, and cider vinegar and beat until well mixed.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir well to combine.  Fold in the dates, carrots, and walnuts.  Portion into muffin cups (you can fill them quite full, there isn't a lot of rise), and bake for 35-40 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

 Even better than the flavor and texture of these muffins, is the appreciation that comes when finishing one.  Normal muffins have me craving a second as soon as I finish the first - and these were satisfying enough to stand at a single muffin portion.  Perfect as the great sugar contemplation of 2013 is fully underway.  

I haven't quite decided how I will store them.  I suspect I'll keep a couple in the refrigerator for a few days since they are so moist I think room temperature could be quickly detrimental.  The rest will go into the freezer, for tucking into my bag when I'm not sure how long the errands will take, or for snacks at the movies that I hope to get to sometime soon.  I am looking forward to seeing how they age!

More Adventures in Gluten-Free Baking

I somehow feel like it's my personal goal to bake gluten-free treats that taste so good no one has any clue they are gluten-free.  It's not because I have trouble with gluten, and it's not because I'm vying for blog clicks and cashing in on a trend:  it's purely because baking is an adventure and gluten-free baking is the biggest adventure of all.

It's been awhile since I tried my first experiments with GF baking.  It began when I realized that my Vita-Mix could easily turn any whole grain into flour.  Since I run a fairly "whole food" kitchen, I already had tons of  raw material to work with - and the only thing standing in my way were a few minutes of prep time and the mess involved when grinding up lots of miscellaneous grains at once.

I've gotten a little smarter since I've discovered I love baking with GF ingredients, and I made a shelf in my pantry for all of my supplies.  Instead of grinding what I need when I need it, I can usually reach for a quart jar and then only occasionally run into the need to refill it.

GF baking pantry shelf

What exactly is on the shelf?  I keep jars of sorghum flour, brown rice flour, teff flour, tapioca flour (also called starch), potato flour, xanthan gum, a gluten-free AP mix that I make up according to this recipe, and a canister of coconut flour that a friend gave me and I haven't tried it in anything yet.  I personally have not yet found much difference between brown rice flour and white rice flour, so I only keep brown rice - and a nice bonus is that it is available in bulk at my co-op without being prohibitively expensive.  (Purchased rice flour is also much more finely ground than what I can produce in my Vita-Mix.)  Now that I've got a basic GF pantry going, it's easy to keep things in stock - and grind things from my other whole food staples like quinoa, millet, and oats on an as needed basis.

And, can I add that sorghum flour is my most favorite flour ever?  It's absolutely worth the expense, and I adore the texture and flavor it gives baked goods.  In fact, there was a whole cup of it in the blueberry muffins I decided to make yesterday...

GF blueberry muffin

These muffins, admittedly, were best fresh from the oven.  In fact, all of my tasters didn't suspect they were GF at all, and the texture was exactly like that of a regular blueberry muffin.  When I tried one this morning, the texture had changed a little, but was still very good - especially with a cup of coffee.  I should have tossed the frozen berries with a tablespoon or two of the floury mix to keep them from congregating towards the bottom of the muffins... I'll remember next time.

When I want muffins, I usually decide last minute - so waiting on butter to come to that magical room temperature isn't always an option.  I used coconut oil to great effect, it's 10 tablespoons by weight (the weight of butter),  I've given you the gram measurement.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl)
  • 142 g. coconut oil, soft room temperature
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1 c. sorghum flour
  • 1 c. tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 c. + 2 T. plain yogurt (I used full-fat)
  • 1 c. blueberries, not defrosted if frozen
Preheat oven to 350.  Ready 18 muffin liners in muffin tins.

Mix the brown rice, sorghum and tapioca flours, the baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  (Toss the frozen berries with a tablespoon of the flour to keep them from sinking to the bottoms of the muffins.)

In a large bowl, mix the coconut oil, sugar, and orange zest with a hand mixer until just well combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add half of the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.  Add 1/2 c. of yogurt and mix until just combined.  Add the rest of the flour mixture, then the rest of the yogurt, mixing after each addition as previously described, taking care not to overmix.

Fold in the blueberries.  Portion into the muffin liners, about 2/3's full, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  They should just be starting to brown around the edges, and a tester should come out clean from the centers.

I considered juicing the orange I used for zest and mixing it with enough powdered sugar to make a glaze.  They didn't need it, but would be pretty and perhaps more dessert worthy if you do it.

GF blueberry muffins.

For a picnic last Sunday, I baked up some GF brownies - and I have to say they were better than any brownies I've ever made before.  They were also adapted from a Gluten-Free Girl recipe taken from Alice Mendrich, so I knew before I even began that they would be amazing.  What I didn't know is that they would age well.  I saved one a full 4 days to test this theory, and they were even better than when fresh.  I didn't bother with a double boiler to melt the butter and chocolate, and I didn't bother with the cold soak to stop cooking either - I just made sure to heat the chocolate over low heat and watched not to over bake.

Gluten-Free Brownies (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl/Alice Mendrich)
  • 8 T. butter (1 stick), cut into 8 pieces
  • 4 oz. dark chocolate (I used Callebaut), chopped
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/4 c. tapioca flour
  • large handful of raw walnuts, broken by hand over the batter
Preheat oven to 400.

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter together with the chocolate.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper (I use 2 pieces that overlap in a criss cross, so that I can lift them out easily).  In a medium sized bowl, blend the sugar and eggs for a full 3 minutes - until the sugar starts to break down a little and the mixture looks thickened.  Add the vanilla and salt and blend in well.

Add the flours, and use a spatula to blend in thoroughly.  Scrape in the melted chocolate and butter mixture, and fold in well until no streaks remain.  Crumble some walnuts over the batter and fold them in too.  Then, spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the pan isn't jiggly when tapped, and fudgy crumbs cling to a tester inserted into the middle of the pan.  I started checking at 20 minutes - and they were perfect within 24 minutes.  Remove pan from oven to a cooling rack, and let cool completely in the pan until room temperature before slicing.

Store any leftovers tightly wrapped (I used foil, since we were picnic-ing).  They will remain very good for several days.

gluten free brownies

Like all alternative kitchen adventures, GF bakery can have the connotation of being healthier.  These two examples of baking are not necessarily healthier for you, but they are proof that GF bakery can taste amazing and fool anyone who may have the predisposition to think that by their very nature, GF bakery tastes rubbery and awful.

In general, I'm baking a lot more thoughtfully these days.  I'm not baking just for the joy of baking as I usually do;  I have successfully stopped eating so many baked goods personally.  So I'm making the most of each opportunity I have at my oven: taking care to ensure that no matter your dietary need, there can be a quality, homemade baked good made to amaze you.  If you happen to have a GF challenge for me, let me know... maybe it will be my next gluten-free kitchen adventure!