I am not a chef nor am I a professional baker. But I have followed quite a few recipes over the years, and while most of my creations have been adequate, some were stellar (if I do say so myself!). A lemon Bundt cake I made while we lived in Illinois was perfection, that cassoulet I created one time while we lived in our second house in North Carolina surprised us all (in a good way!), the home-made marshmallows I whipped up in Tennessee (the second batch—the first batch I accidentally sprinkled baking soda on top of the finished ones and was that an eye-opener!) were sufficiently squishy, and they even melted in your mouth! Oh, and the chicken parmesan with spaghetti I put together in Florida was given high praise (and even a few claps!). I like to think my family was not just being polite while knowing I had spent several hours in the kitchen sweating over a recipe, and I still like to try a new one occasionally (one that stands out is a recipe I found for Salisbury steak—I made it the day before my husband left for his new job in North Carolina 10 years ago. It was almost as good as Swansons!).
The older I get the less patience I have for following a recipe. Take muffins. Over the last few months I have significantly reduced my sugar intake (mostly due to my out-of-control snacking on Kirkland semi-sweet morsels—which now taste more like milk chocolate morsels), and I now search for recipes for which I can substitute honey and maple sugar as the sweetener. I read several loaf bread recipes, and after following one or two, I realized that most of them are quite similar and that they take about an hour to bake. One day I decided to take all the loaf bread recipes I had tried and turn them into a muffin recipe, adding whatever I had on hand, and they turned out great. I have found that they are quite forgiving if you put in a bit more flour than a recipe might call for or if you decide to add an extra banana or throw in a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree or peanut butter.
Remember when I wrote that I am not a baker or chef? Well, as you can see from the top photo, I am also not a food stylist. I know the muffin looks a little naked on the white saucer, and I suppose I could have taken a carnation from my daughter’s bouquet—received from her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day—but I did not have the patience to even do that. If you think the first photo lacks sophistication (an understatement, I understand), you might roll your eyes at the second.
Think of this recipe as a template. It’s a starting point from which you can take it and run in whatever direction you choose. I use raisins because it lends just a touch of sweetness, but what if you don’t like raisins? Use dried cherries or blueberries or even (gasp!) chocolate chips. Don’t have bananas? Use half a can of pumpkin puree or peanut butter or dice an apple (or all three?). The fats that I use (butter, oil) can be changed up and you might want to use a bit more if you do not use applesauce.
I have found that these muffins take anywhere from 21 to 23 minutes to bake. The baking times depend on how much batter you put in each cup and your oven. Keep in mind you do not want to overbake these muffins.
Set oven to 350°. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with oil (olive, canola or whatever you have) and then scoop a small amount of flour into each cup, shake around and remove the excess.
2 cups flour (I use 1 cup unbleached, 1 cup whole wheat)
1-½ teaspoon baking soda (I use a regular teaspoon)
¼ to ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (omit if you want)
1 tablespoon cinnamon (use whatever amount you like, and feel free to add other spices. I would use nutmeg, too, but I’m allergic to it.)
¼ of a stick of butter (I have used a little more, with fine results)
3 tablespoons of olive oil (or whatever oil you like)
1 snack cup of applesauce (about 4 oz.)
½ cup honey, maple syrup or a mixture of both
Vanilla (as much as you want)
1 or 2 ripe (or not so ripe) bananas, mashed
1/3 to ½ cup pumpkin puree and/or ½ cup peanut butter
½ to ¾ cup raisins, dried fruit or chocolate morsels (more or less, up to you!)
For wet ingredients, in a large bowl mix together softened butter (I use the microwave on a low power), then mix smooth using a hand mixer. Add olive oil, applesauce and honey, and mix again. Add eggs (I put both in at once, but if you want to beat after each once, that’s fine). Then add vanilla and mix again. Next, I sprinkle some of the flour mixture (maybe 1/3) into the wet ingredients, mix that in, and then scoop some of the mashed banana, pumpkin puree and/or peanut butter and mix. Then I do that again until it is all incorporated. I stir in raisins and scoop ¼ cup or so of batter in each cup. Slide into oven, set the timer for 18 minutes and then insert the knife (or a toothpick) in the middle of the muffin to see how many more minutes to add. More than likely a lot of wet batter will remain on the knife, so set the timer for about 2-3 more minutes and check again. After that, I would set the timer for one minute at a time so as not to overbake. If a very small amount of batter remains on the knife, remove from oven and after five minutes (approximately) place each muffin on a cooling rack (the muffins should finish baking while in the tin). Alternatively, you could set the timer in the beginning for 20 minutes and start testing in one-minute increments before removing from oven. I like to keep a watchful eye earlier for fear of overcooked muffins.
Depending on how much batter you have (it will vary depending on the ingredients), you will need to fill some of the muffin tins again, but keep in mind this batch will take less time because there are fewer muffins. I have in the past sprayed the cups and floured them for the second batch, but I have baked them again using nothing except what was left from the first baking, and they did not remove quite as easily but were intact.
By now, you might be wondering why I took the time to write out this recipe and all of the narration that goes with it. I understand. But I must say that quite often I nibble on these muffins while I am correcting edits on my 2nd book, creating pins and Facebook posts, and conducting research for a book that I started 20 years ago but never quite finished. Along with my traveler’s mug full of watered-down, cream-ladened coffee (GERD), these Template Muffins help me suppress my cravings for overly sweet chocolate morsels.
If you try these muffins, I’d love to hear how they turned out!
Thanks for reading,