Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cran-Orange Buckwheat Muffin Nirvana

Last week, I attained nirvana in two forms: swooshing down the slopes of Winter Park, CO and eating these muffins. I'm not sure which was better. Colorado had mountains and beer and good friends . . . but the muffins had fresh cranberries! And orange zest! And if I looked at them long enough, they would tell me jokes! That's like being with friends, no? 
Seriously, though, these muffs were tight - er, delish. High in fiber, bursting with fresh fruit, and relatively low in sugar (and can be dairy free if you stick with just oil). Despite the fact that this blog might be what you call sugar-heavy, I try not to use sugar needlessly. Sure, I use gobs of confectioners sugar in my frosting (though less than most standard recipes or anything you would find on a grocery store shelf), because let's face it, if you're eating frosting, ya ain't tryin' to cut down on your sugar. At least not for that particular indulgence. But when it comes to something like a muffin, why use more sugar than you need to?

A standard muffin recipe is for twelve muffins. I routinely see recipes calling for 2/3, 3/4 or even 1 cup of sugar. This is more than you need! Depending on the recipe, it might be for a large volume of batter (even if it says only 12 muffins), in which case you can either make ginormo muffins or 18-24 normal-sized guys. In that case, maybe the additional sugar is warranted. But for your regular twelve-slot tin, with muffins that bake up one or two centimeters above the rim, 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar per batch is plenty.
In case you haven't noticed, I love me some fruits in my baked goods, which helps to naturally sweeten things. In this recipe, even with supertart cranberries, 1/3 cup of sugar was enough to balance out the tartness and sweeten the muffins. And if you're baking muffins with a sweeter fruit, like apples, blueberries or (especially) bananas, 1/3 cup of sugar will definitely be fine. If you're making a straight bran muffin or maybe a lemon-poppy seed, you might want to up the sugar to 1/2 cup. I've found that you can cut the sugar in a recipe without making any other changes. So if you see a good recipe that calls for more sugar than you need, take liberties with your sweetener.

But Kaaaaatie, what if I like a reallllly want a sweet muffin? Then quit your whining and go eat a cupcake, because a muffin's not what you're looking for. Kidding. If you want to make a batch of sweet-treat muffins, use your sugar where it counts - on top. Your taste buds will get more bang for their buck with a sprinkling of sugar on top of each muffin than if you were to add twice as much directly into the batter (this is a great tip for those who like sweet cornbread - skip the honey or sugar in the mix and sprinkle the top with a few pinches of raw sugar). For a crumb topping, mix 3 tablespoons of brown sugar with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and distribute evenly over muffins.

And for kicks, here are some pics of my other nirvana. These are the good friends:

 This is me and the mountain (don't worry- it didn't take me down every time):

. . . and these are the beers!

Cran-Orange Buckwheat Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

3/4 cups buckwheat flour
1-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground blueberry flaxseed (optional)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 plain nonfat yogurt (or another 1/4 cup of oil)
2 tbs. orange zest
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries (or frozen and thawed)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients well, adding cranberries last. Fill cups of a standard muffin tin 3/4 full. Bake for 23-27 minutes. Find your own nirvana.


  1. Correction from original post: the recipe as written is not dairy free (I forgot that I subbed in yogurt for half the oil). Sorry!

  2. Ummmm, the only way the trip could have been better is if you had made these muffins while we were there.

  3. Made these yesterday and they were great. (Also worth noting they work with blueberries if your local grocery store is out of fresh cranberries)


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