Monday evening I announced, "Muffins for breakfast tomorrow!"
And the children fell to their knees (okay, it was only the 11-year-old) and begged, "Please, Mom, don't make them completely whole wheat! Put some white flour in!"
I raised my eyebrow (okay, not really; I am physically incapable of raising one eyebrow; probably I just made a frowny face) and said, "Oh, come on, they're not that bad. Muffins are quick breads. You barely notice the difference in muffins."
"They don't taste as sweet as other people's muffins."
He probably has a point there. I don't like to eat super sweet muffins, so the slight bitterness of whole wheat flour has never bothered me, and I usually do not add extra sugar to make up for it.
Maybe if I could have kept my children's taste buds safely sheltered from the world, he would not know what he is missing. But this past year the 11-year-old has acquired the freedom to range around our urban neighborhood unsupervised. He has, I suspect, tasted the illicit luxury of coffeeshop muffins bought with his own money. There is scant going back once innocence is lost.
"Or, Mom, at least could you put more sugar in them?"
Hmph. Philistines. "How about I sprinkle a little sugar crust on top?"
"No, it's the middle that isn't sweet enough."
"But it'll have blueberries!"
I turned to my spouse, the food processing engineer, who (a) has to stay somewhat abreast of the nutrition literature, and (b) has perfected the art of rapid calculation followed by a guess that makes it sound like he knows exactly what he is talking about. "Mark."
"If we had to live on homemade muffins, would it be better for us to eat low-sugar muffins made with some whole grain flour and some white flour, or would it be better to eat whole-grain muffins with more sugar in them?"
He rolled his eyes at me (okay, he probably didn't roll his eyes, but I'm not sure how to describe what he did. Let's say he made a "here's a caveat" face). "You realize that all the relevant research about this sort of thing is inconclusive."
"Well, if it is an either-or, my instinct -- just my instinct, mind you --"
"-- is that it's better to keep it 100% whole grain and add the sugar. Because the relevant research does indicate that more whole grain is associated with better outcomes. And also the white flour has the same effect on your body as sugar anyway. So at least you're not leaving out the additional nutrition and fiber, even if it comes with sugar."
"Got it." I turned back to the pleading child. "Okay. This time I will make sweet muffins." I stormed into the kitchen (okay, I probably did not storm so much as stalk) and made these. They weren't blueberry because I discovered the dried cherries while I was rooting around in the fridge.
Extra-Sweet Cherry Yogurt Muffins
- 1 cup yogurt thinned with a little milk, OR 1 cup buttermilk, plus extra if needed (which you will)
- Heaping 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 egg
- 3 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled, or other oil
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup sugar (it hurts my teeth just writing that -- a *tablespoon* in every muffin!)
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
The night before: Put the dried cherries in a bowl and add enough thinned yogurt to moisten all the cherries. Stir and let soak overnight in the refrigerator. (Even a half-hour's soak will do some good, if you don't have overnight.)
In the morning, grease a 12-cup muffin tin and preheat the oven to 400° F. Beat the egg and melted butter together with the remainder of the thinned yogurt. Add the almond extract. Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, then gently stir in the liquid ingredients and the cherry-yogurt mixture. Add more yogurt and milk if needed to moisten all the dry ingredients (it's hard to say how much liquid will have been soaked up by the cherries). Divide among the cups of the muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes; test with wooden pick before removing. Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes before taking the muffins out of the cups to finish cooling on a rack.
+ + +
Now let me tell you something. I do not (repeat, do not) like sweet muffins for breakfast. And the idea of these terribly sweet muffins -- I used the amount of sugar suggested in Mark Bittman's "Sweet and Rich Muffins" recipe, but did not add the extra fat -- kind of horrified me, which is why I used yogurt instead of the ordinary whole milk I usually used; I thought perhaps it would balance the sweetness a little bit.
Fatal mistake. I should have left it unbalanced.
These were very yummy muffins. I had a taste "of Mark's, to evaluate it" and now I am personally responsible for demolishing three of them.
So now I have this "aaaaagh, what have I done?!?!" feeling. I fed my kids a tablespoon of sugar in their muffins and I liked it. This is less sugar than in the most current formulation of Cocoa Puffs.
Of course the kids liked them too. I am still going to write "dried cherries" on my grocery list this week.