A pastry chef dissing sugar can come across as an oxymoron. But I have always been a pastry chef hell-bent on not using corn syrup, food coloring and on avoiding overly sweet and cloying creations. Since I left my job, I have been trying to wean myself off the need of reaching for something sweet (usually chocolate – even dark chocolate contains sugar) after every meal. Breakfast pastries are not part of my breakfast any longer (well, with the exception of Italy, where I cannot forego cappuccino and croissant) as the notorious sugar crash induced by such foods has become more noticeable as I age.
Besides, sugar tends to suppress your immune system and, while half the country is running for cover to avoid the flu or sweating it out under the blankets, it might be wise to help my body stay healthy.
These muffins, from a recipe I changed and adapted from the NY Times Health section, will not win any awards at the World Muffin Championship but they are surprisingly light and fluffy, sweet enough to go with my bitter coffee and, with half the calories of a regular muffin, guilt-free.
They feature buckwheat flour, which has a pleasant and nutty taste, helping to cover the sometimes bitter after taste of gluten-free flours (the culprit is chickpeas). Buckwheat is not related to wheat at all; rather, it’s derived from a fruit seed in the rhubarb family.
My favourite all-purpose gluten-free mix is Bob Red Mills although I hear wonderful things about Cup4Cup, a gluten-free mix containing no chickpeas or fava beans that a former pastry chef from the French Laundry developed (sold at Williams Sonoma, Dean and De Luca, Wholefoods and other health food markets and online).
RECIPE – Yields 12 muffins
1 1/4 C Buckwheat flour (180 g)
3/4 C AP Gluten free flour (100 g)
2 ts Baking Powder (10 g)
1 ts Baking Soda (5 g)
1/2 ts Salt
1/3 C Honey (125 g)
1 1/2 C Buttermilk (360 g) use a mix of full fat yogurt and milk if buttermilk is not available in your country
1/3 C Vegetable oil – canola or grape seed but not olive (75 g)
1 ts Vanilla Extract (5 g)
1 C Frozen Blueberries – or other berry of your choice (170 g)
- Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
- In a different bowl (or in the bowl of a mixer), beat the eggs, honey, buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract.
- Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Fold in the berries by hand (if using the mixer), taking care not to break them.
- Scoop the batter into previously sprayed or buttered muffin tins – fill the tins completely.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 375F (190C) or until brown.
- Muffins keep a couple of days at room temp, a few more days in the fridge and up to a month if frozen.