Monday, September 28, 2015

Spiced Yogurt Muffins

Let me start this post off by saying I hate wasting food...I absolutely hate it. I do not buy an item unless I know I will be able to use all of it in some way or another. When my baby girl was 6 months old and started eating solid food, I wanted to get some whole milk yogurt for her. The best options for plain unsweetened whole milk yogurt at my local grocery store all come in a 32 ounce container...that's a lot of plain yogurt, and no one else in the family eats plain yogurt by the spoonful. 

Since, as I said before, I do not like wasting food, I had to find other ways to use this vast amount of yogurt because there is no way my baby could eat 32 ounces of yogurt before the expiration date. Currently my favorite way to use extra yogurt is to add it to pancakes such as Whole Wheat Chia Seed Pancakes. Yum! But today I was in the mood for muffins and, of course, I have a large container of plain yogurt in my refrigerator that I need to use up. I found a lot of recipes that sounded just delicious (translation: future blog posts!), but the one I finally landed on came from Food and Wine, and, let me tell you, these spiced yogurt muffins certainly hit the spot! 

These muffins are so light and moist with delicious warm spices and not too sweet for breakfast. They are delicious with a cup of coffee! Even though they are not overly sweet, these muffins do contain a cup of brown sugar. I did let my three-year-old have one. Actually, he had two. He grabbed a second one when I wasn't looking! I can't say that I blame him...they were quite good! I usually do not give him anything with that much sugar for breakfast, but I believe it is okay in moderation, and he eats very well. Also, I could not eat them in front of him without offering him one. Especially since he saw me making them and got really excited when I said I was making muffins. The baby girl did not have one of these...I'm sure she would have loved it, but I really try to limit her sugar since she is only one-year-old and still getting used to eating solid food. 

But enough talking about these muffins...let's get to making them! Like any quick bread, these muffins start by combining the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, then gently mixing them together until they are just combined. Always follow this rule with standard pancakes, muffins, waffles, etc. and they will turn out light and fluffy for you! 

The original recipe called for mixing the dry ingredients together in a food processor, but that sounded like unnecessary extra dishes to wash in my opinion, so I skipped that and simply whisked them together in a large bowl. I also chose to include the brown sugar with the wet ingredients since there was so much of it. I was afraid it would not incorporate well with the flour and spices without using a food processor (as suggested) and thought that it would melt into the wet ingredients (which it did). So in a large bowl, I whisked together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 Tablespoon of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, 1/2 teaspoon of cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated (or regular ground) nutmeg. This is quite a few ingredients, so I actually mixed these together at night before I went to bed and covered the bowl with plastic wrap till morning. All of that measuring is a little time-consuming with two tiny humans running around under your feet! I imagine you could use 2 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice if you have it, but I have not tried this since I don't keep it on hand. I happened to have all of these spices in my cabinet...I love having a well-stocked spice cabinet! 

Next in a medium bowl, I whisked together the 2 eggs, 1 1/4 cup of plain yogurt, 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 4 Tablespoons (or 1/2 a stick) of melted butter, and 1 cup of brown sugar. The original recipe calls for plain low-fat yogurt, but I used whole milk because that's what I had. It just added extra fat to the recipe, but I wasn't really going for a super-healthy low-fat recipe here. I think vanilla yogurt would also work if that is what you have. I'm all about using what you have in a recipe if it make sense. 

Then I poured the yogurt mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture and gently mixed until it was just combined. Don't worry about lumps...they will take care of themselves when the muffins bake. You just want to mix it enough that when you gently move the batter around you don't see big spots of flour. I also like to let muffin and pancake batters rest for a few minutes. That is why I put the oven temperature later in the recipe. I do the same with pancakes. I make the batter, set it aside, then preheat my oven. Then the batter has a chance to rest for a few minutes while it is preheating. 

That was before resting, and this is what it looks like after resting only 5-10 minutes. I'm not sure if you can tell a big difference in the pictures (I apologize, I am definitely more of a cook than a photographer!) but small bubbles will start to appear in your batter. If you give it another stir, do so very gently! 

I set my oven to 375° and put paper liners in my muffin tin then lightly sprayed them with cooking spray. I used coconut oil spray, and the muffins still stuck to the paper slightly if I didn't remove them slowly, so I don't think I would try these without the liners. Then I spooned the batter into the prepared muffin cups filling each cup about 2/3 full. I typically over-fill when making muffins and cupcakes and then I get less than what the recipe calls for, but this time it was perfect, and I actually ended up with exactly 18 muffins! I was so proud! (It's the little things, ya know.) Then I sprinkled the batter with some cinnamon-sugar. I'm sure you could skip this step, but I do love a little sugar on top of a muffin. The original recipe called for sprinkling them with a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, but I much prefer the taste of cinnamon to nutmeg, and I keep a container of cinnamon-sugar in my cabinet at all times. You just never know when you're going to need a little cinnamon-sugar in your life! I don't typically keep pumpkin pie spice on hand, but if I had some, I definitely would have used a combination of sugar and pumpkin pie spice just to highlight all of those warm spices even more! 

Then I baked them for 18 minutes. They smelled heavenly while baking! The house was filled with a lovely spicy aroma that I adore! After the 18 minutes were up I took the muffins out of the oven and touched the tops gently and they were springy, and I also tested with a toothpick that came out clean, so I knew these were good to go! You don't want to press your finger into the muffin because they are tender, so of course they won't spring back if you do that. Just press them gently and if the tops spring back and there is no finger indention left in the muffin, you know they are ready. 

Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes then transfer them to a wire rack. These were delicious warm from the oven, but I suspect they might be even better the next day...I'll certainly find out in the morning! (**Update: I had one this morning with my coffee. I think they were best warm from the oven, but they were still very good at room temperature!) 

I imagine you could make these muffins a bit healthier. Perhaps I will try the next time I make them (I will update with any changes or substitutions at that time.). I would use half white and half white whole wheat flour. You could probably also cut down on the sugar and maybe increase the applesauce to compensate or even add in a bit of maple syrup or honey. I also imagine you could use coconut oil in place of some or all of the butter and throw in some flax or chia seeds. I have not tried any of this, so I cannot speak to how the muffins would turn out with these changes, but if you try any of them before I get a chance, post a comment please! 

These muffins are perfect for fall and the coming winter months. I hope you will try them, and if you do please let me know if you liked them as much as I did! Happy muffin-making! 

Spiced Yogurt Muffins
Original Recipe from Food and Wine

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (whole or low-fat)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
Cinnamon-Sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, applesauce, vanilla, butter, and brown sugar. 
3. Pour the yogurt mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture and gently mix until just combined. Set aside. 
4. Heat the oven to 375°. Line 18 muffin cups with paper or foil liners. Lightly spray the liners with cooking spray.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups filling each cup 2/3 full. Sprinkle each muffin with some cinnamon-sugar (if desired). 
6. Bake for 18 minutes, until the muffins are springy; let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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