Paul and I have just had the nicest vacation together. There was swimming and sailing, blackberry picking, hiking, lying on the beach, boat adventures, a 60th birthday party with impromptu (yet eerily synchronized) line dancing, visits with friends and family, and a lot of eating. We were lucky enough to be able to spend our first wedding anniversary together, and celebrated by going for dinner at our favourite restaurant in Vancouver, the Raincity Grill. We have spent a few special occasions there, and have never been disappointed with their level of service or their amazing and mostly local food. This time was no exception. I had the regional vegetable tasting menu, and I literally licked my plate at the end of two of my four courses. The cucumber gazpacho with basil sorbet may have been the best thing I have ever eaten. Ever.
Anniversary celebrations done with, it was time for Paul to pack up and head back to Stockholm, while I have stayed behind in Vancouver to work a little, and try to sort out some red tape with my residency in Sweden. Fingers crossed the Swedish Migration Board will be swift with their paperwork. Before we left Stockholm for our vacation, I made it a goal to have enough muffins in our freezer that Paul would have one to pack in his lunch every day until I got back. Mostly I made the classic bran muffin, with some minor modifications (I subbed mashed banana for the apple sauce and added some diced figs), but it was also a good opportunity to try some ideas I’ve had on the back burner for a while.
One of the cool things I have discovered at one of my local grocery stores in Stockholm is the build your own muesli bulk bar (Muslimix); a wall of bulk bins holding various breakfast cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. The first time I saw it I knew I wanted to build a muffin around it. I was pretty selective with what I chose for my muesli, and probably would have chosen differently if I was building it to eat straight up for breakfast, rather than being used for baking. I passed by things like corn flakes and bran flakes that I thought wouldn’t hold up well in the muffin, and opted instead for sturdier whole grains, seeds, and dried fruit. My muesli mix included, in approximately equal parts: puffed quinoa, buckwheat flakes, spelt flakes, psyllium seeds, white and black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cranberries, golgi berries, and apricots. If you don’t live in a cool city that has build your own muesli bulk bars in their grocery stores, you could certainly opt for a pre-mixed muesli, or build your own at your local bulk food store.
The psyllium seeds were a really interesting addition, and are something I plan to do some experimenting with. Not only are they very high in fiber, but the husks are water soluble and when mixed with a liquid, expand and become mucilaginous – which is exactly what it sounds like, stretchy and mucous like. Because of this property psyllium is often used as a binder in gluten free baking, and, I think, may have been part of why the structure of these muffins turned out so well in spite of being very low in added fat. I mixed 1 cup of muesli mix with 1 cup of very thin apple sauce and a touch of extra virgin olive oil, and set out on foot do to some errands while the mixture sat in the fridge. When I got back after an hour or so, the muesli had absorbed a lot of the liquid and had a thick and stretchy texture.
The spice in this muffin is quite intense, but compliments the mild apple sauce flavour really nicely. I am quite proud of myself for successfully buying nutmeg and cloves in Swedish, both of which were a bit of a gamble because there wasn’t a direct translation.
Muslimix Spice Muffins Recipe:
These would make a really good ‘morning muffin’ where you mix all of the wet ingredients together and put them in the fridge the night before, and just add the dry ingredients and bake first thing in the morning. The spice is quite intense, so if you don’t want all of your muffins taking on the spice flavour, store these in a separate container or freezer bag. I think these muffins are particularly fun because every bite is a little bit different. This recipe makes six large or 12 smaller muffins.
1 cup thin apple sauce
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Muslimix
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Mix applesauce, olive oil, and muesli together in a medium bowl, and place in the fridge. Come back to it in an hour or overnight, just give it enough time for the muesli to have absorbed some of the liquid from the apple sauce. The mixture should be thick, but still wet.
Preheat oven to 350 F, prepare your muffin cups. Stir the egg and sugar into the muesli mixture. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the wet, mixing until just combined. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, and bake for 20 min.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2010