Sunday, May 20, 2012

Caramel Apple Almond Muffins

Who doesn't love a good muffin? From saccharine, chocolate-packed desserts to healthy powerhouse meals, the baked treats are portable, no-fuss edibles that can be whipped up in a flash and house anything you have on hand. Sure, you could go out and buy one of those gigantic "baby coffee cake" - like objects from the bakery or grocery store, but they're expensive - and not just in the monetary sense. At about 625 calories and over 30 grams of fat each, you might be stuck with a bit more "muffin" on your top after a few.

You could go the low-fat / high fibre route in the muffin-sphere, for sure. Gosh knows there are plenty of those in the stores. But come to think of it, how good are most of those? Most are either so gummy and heavy that they become blocks that stick on the way down, or are dry and grainy puffs of sawdust that make you cough with every bite. Most pre-fabricated muffins that cut out the fat make up for it with gads of sugar, HFCS or chemical texture enhancers - having minimal, if any, effect on the calorie count.

At home, it's a lot simpler to control the sugar, fat, sodium and quality of what comes out of the oven. After years of dieting in my younger life (yes, I was a fat kid), and my own failed test runs in the kitchen, I think I've figured out the balance of decadence and health with these babies. Firstly, I used a thick, homemade applesauce as the base of these jumbo muffins, then thinned it out with almond milk. For sweetness without excessive sugar, I mixed a stevia baking blend with two caramel-flavoured stevia packets (both from Krisda) and just a bit of dark brown sugar. A touch of vinegar really added to the tenderness of the crumb, and the natural fat content in the almond milk and egg powder kept the moisture "real" and not hit-you-over-the-head as "low fat". Speaking of the crumb, I wanted to keep it as whole grain as possible without making it feel super heavy, so I picked whole wheat pastry flour out of my pantry and was very pleased with the overall results!

Caramel Apple Almond Muffins
Makes 4 jumbo muffins (about 8 "regular")
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade)
1/4 cup stevia baking blend (I used Krisda)
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (I used Silk)
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp dried whole egg powder (or one egg)
2 packets caramel-flavoured stevia (I used Krisda)
1 apple, peeled cored and diced
3 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 tbsp large-flake rolled oats
1/2 tbsp flaked almonds
1 tsp turbinado sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375F, grease 4 jumbo muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  2. In a bowl, beat the applesauce, stevia baking blend, brown sugar, vanilla, almond milk and rice vinegar until smooth.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, egg powder and caramel stevia.
  4. Fold in the apple and slivered almonds.
  5. Portion into the muffin cups and top with oats, almonds and sugar.
  6. Bake 30 minutes.
  7. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rackand cool completely.
Amount Per (Jumbo Muffin) Serving
Calories: 263.9
Total Fat: 4.3 g
Cholesterol: 22.8 mg
Sodium: 21.7 mg
Total Carbs: 58.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.1 g
Protein: 5.1 g

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