Monday, July 11, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

A few weeks ago I ended up with some free time with the munchkin while the peanut was napping.  My freezer stock on muffins was getting low and we were having company that weekend, so I thought a baking project might be fun.  When I asked her what kind of muffins we should make, she chose pumpkin.  Hmmm...I have been trying to find a recipe for wholesome pumpkin muffins for a long time, since most traditional recipes are loaded with sugar and fat.  First I tried this one which was kind of yucky, and then I found this one which is delicious and so healthy, but not entirely pumpkin.  When scanning through my muffin recipes, though, I realized my Whole Wheat Apple Muffins might be the perfect one to modify!

My only issue with a straight substitution of the 1 cup of apple sauce for 1 cup of pumpkin, though, was that I would likely end up throwing away half a can of pumpkin puree (yes, I know, I should be able to find another use for the rest of that pumpkin but the reality is I'm not always that organized!).  So I wondered what would happen if I just threw the whole thing in the batter...and voila!  The extra veggie puree just seems to make the muffins more moist, but didn't weigh them down at all.  I love these muffins, and the munchkin LOVES these muffins - she has requested them three times since the original batch!  Unlike most heavy pumpkin baked goods, these are light and almost flaky, barely sweet, and have just enough cinnamon to highlight the pumpkin without being overpowering.  Even hubby, who is not much of a pumpkin fan, isn't opposed to eating these - I'll take that as the highest compliment of all :)

Pumpkin Muffins

Dry Ingredients
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted unsalted butter
1 14 oz can pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare regular or mini-muffin cups by spraying with oil or lining with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and fold together until just combined.

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes for regular muffins (20 minutes for mini-muffins) or until muffins are puffed and turning golden brown on top. Serve warm if possible, or freeze once cool and warm in microwave just before serving.

Makes 14 regular or 28 mini-muffins

Friday, July 8, 2011

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few days ago I told you about the Oatmeal Flax Cookie recipe I found on the King Arthur Flour website, and hinted at another great recipe to come.  Well, I am so excited to share this one.  Many of my other cookie recipes are delicious but hearty and more healthy tasting...the type of cookie I happily serve as a snack, but might be self-conscious calling them dessert to a not-so-health-conscious audience.

This cookie, however, tastes like a delicious, home made chocolate chip cookie, no qualification or apology necessary.  But the secret is they are 100% whole grain, and have about half the sugar of some traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes I found, with no sacrifice in taste.  In fact, I think these are better because they are not so cloyingly sweet.  And the texture is great, slightly crisp around the edges, with plenty of soft chew, which is helped by the addition of the oats.  I cut the amount of chocolate chips in half from the original recipe and I think they are plenty chocolatey, but you could up the chips if you want.  Another great feature of these cookies is that they hold up really well:  they maintain their chewiness after a few days sitting on the counter and are amazing if frozen right away and warmed through in the microwave.

So I challenge you to try this recipe and still insist that whole grains don't belong in dessert baking.  Personally, I will enjoy the fact that I can have my treats and know that I am at least getting some health benefits even from dessert!

Refrigerated Dough*

Room Temperature Dough

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup quick rolled oats, ground in a food processor or blender if you prefer a smoother texture

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Beat together first 7 ingredients using a hand or stand mixer (if you are doubling the recipe, I'd recommend the stand mixer if you have one).  Add the egg, beating until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.  Add the flour and oats, mixing until combined, and finally mix in the chocolate chips.  

Refrigerate the dough for as long as you have the patience for, up to overnight.  The colder the dough, the less they will spread (*see note below).  Drop dough in 1 tablespoon balls on 2 lightly greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheets, allowing for spread (note if you only have 1 pan and are cycling multiple batches, the cookies will spread a lot more if the dough is placed on an already hot baking sheet).  Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-11 minutes for room temperature dough or up to 14 minutes if it's been thoroughly chilled, until cookies are just browning at the edges.

Let cookies cool completely on baking sheet, or if you want the sheet for another batch, give them at least a few minutes to set before transferring to a cooling rack.

Store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a few days (if they last that long!), or freeze and reheat in the microwave.

Makes 27 cookies

* I'd only recommend bothering with the refrigeration if you really prefer a thicker cookie.  I tried these both ways (as you can see in the pictures) and the room temperature dough yielded a very nicely shaped cookie as well, not too thin at all.  In fact, we preferred the thinner cookies since the appeared bigger so it felt like a better deal :).  Plus, refrigerated dough is very difficult to scoop (think about trying to scoop solid butter), so another option would be to scoop the dough FIRST and then refrigerate if you have the room.  Or better yet, scoop your dough and freeze on a cookie sheet, then transfer frozen balls to a zip-top bag to have fresh baked cookies whenever you want, no scary chemicals from grocery dough needed!

Coconut Variation: Replace half of the butter with coconut oil, reduce the oats to 1/2 cup and add in 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut.  YUM!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oatmeal Flax Cookies

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the store and bakery at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT.  KAF is the maker of the Organic 100% White Whole Wheat Flour I love using for my pizza dough, hamburger buns, and every day bread.  White whole wheat flour is pretty amazing stuff - it allows us to make baked goods that are completely whole grain but still have the tenderness we've become accustomed to in years of eating white flour.  

While I have been an avid fan in breads, I have generally stuck to whole wheat pastry flour in muffins and cookies.  After my visit to the KAF store, however, I was perusing the extensive recipe catalog on their website and curious about whole grain cookies that use white whole wheat flour (KAF doesn't actually sell whole wheat pastry flour, so that could have something to do with their recipes as well!).  If you have not visited the website yet, you should definitely check it out - there are recipes for everything, well thought-out comments from reviewers, and if you have any questions, a live chat feature where you can get answers from expert bakers!

Getting back to the recipe at hand, while I am very happy with my Healthier Oatmeal Cookie recipe as a wholesome dessert treat, I haven't given up on the idea that maybe there's a better whole grain cookie out there.  I decided to try a few from the KAF website, starting with one for Oatmeal and Flax Cranberry cookies.  I often add flax meal into my Healthier Oatmeal Cookies, but really liked that the flax was actually built into this recipe.  I was also curious about how different a cookie would be when made with butter instead of oil.  And I think the answer is, when it comes to cookies, butter is better.  These cookies are more cohesive and richer.  The oats give them nice texture and the flax makes them really hearty, but the addition of dark chocolate chips push these over the edge to being decadent even without tons of sugar and with NO refined grains.  I'm starting to be ready to throw my all purpose flour away for good, but I have one more cookie recipe coming up soon that may be the clincher if you're not already convinced!

Oatmeal Flax Cookies
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup (2 sticks) soft butter - I know, this sounds like a lot, but this recipe makes a lot of cookies!
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

1 1/2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup flax meal
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips (or dried fruit)
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, salt, and egg until fluffy.  Mix in the flour, oats, flax meal, chocolate chips, and nuts (if using).

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes or so at room temperature, for the oats to soften. Towards the end of the rest period, preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.

Scoop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each ball of dough slightly (cookies will not spread, so create whatever cookie shape you like - I recommend keeping them on the thick side!).

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, until just brown around the edges. Cool them on the baking sheets for 10 minutes or so, to allow them to set. Move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Makes not quite 4 dozen cookies.