Admittedly, after watching him scarf down my muffins for more than two years, I was a little surprised to find out that he “likes” my muffins…but doesn’t “love” them. At first, I didn’t understand. Then I realized: he’s English. Growing up, he rarely saw what we in America refer to as “muffins.” The type of muffins he was accustomed to were the kinds with Nooks and Crannies™, the ones we aptly call “English Muffins.”
It wasn’t until he came to the United States in the early 1990s that he really embraced the American muffin, which by then had grown into a behemoth monstrosity containing an entire day’s caloric intake. Needless to say, he loved these muffins. Who wouldn’t? No one ever went on a diet because buttery, sugary food tastes bad.
I like those muffins too, as an occasional treat or an afternoon snack. But when it comes to breakfast, I really don’t feel like eating a baked good (glorified piece of cake, really) the size of my face. And the problem is, even once I’ve eaten one, I’m hungry about 30 minutes later. I need something hearty and filling that will keep me going until lunch…or at least until my self-appointed Mid-Morning Snack.
These muffins, adapted from a Nancy Silverton recipe, fit my qualifications. They are packed with seeds and whole grains, yet don’t feel like leaden fiber bombs. And since they aren’t “low-fat” muffins, they also don’t have the rubbery, sugary quality of those muffins that occasionally masquerade as health food. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re like me and love muffins chock full of grains and goodies, you’ll love this recipe.
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from La Brea Bakery
Note: Silverton calls for flax seeds, but I use flax seed meal instead. You need to grind flax seeds to derive their full health benefits. Also, make sure your poppy seeds are fresh. The oils in the seeds can cause them to go rancid easily. I store mine in the freezer to keep them fresher for longer.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons wheat bran or wheat germ (either will work)
1/4 cup millet
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon flax seed meal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup mild honey, such as clover
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
For the topping:
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, toss together the seeds until combined. Set aside.
Prepare the batter: Preheat the oven to 325ºF and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray, or line with paper muffin liners.
Spread the sunflower seeds, oats and wheat bran or germ in rows on a baking sheet, leaving space between each row (if your wheat bran is “toasted wheat bran,” you do not need to do this for the wheat bran). On another baking sheet, spread the millet, sesame seeds and flax seed meal in rows (only the quantities for the batter; you do not need to toast the seeds for the topping). Toast both sheets for 6-8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Allow to cool.
Turn the oven up to 350ºF.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the sunflower seeds, wheat bran or germ, flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Process until the sunflower seeds have the same consistency as the flour. Add the toasted oats, millet, sesame seeds, flax seed meal and poppy seeds and pulse on and off a few times, just to combine.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter on low until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the honey to the butter mixture and beat at medium-low speed until well blended. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Add the flour in 3 additions, mixing on low just until the dry ingredients disappear into the batter. Do not overmix.
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the topping in the bottom of each muffin cup. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, filling them to the rim. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the topping over the surface of each muffin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out on a rack. Serve warm.
Yield: 12 muffins (Silverton says you should get 18, but I definitely only got 12)