The season of excess is upon us. I considered explaining what I meant by that, but that just seemed excessive. You all know what I'm talking about. And I'm not complaining about any of it. Far from it - I love this time of year.
But it does present one with some special challenges, namely how to balance all that excess and keep yourself healthy during the enjoyment of it. I'm still working on finding my own solutions, and would love to hear how you go about staying sane and balanced. For me, it comes down to accepting that I can't do it all, and so I must lower my expectations of myself or I risk over-exhaustion and inevitably feeling disappointed in my shortcomings. Which wouldn't be very festive at all. So I try to be okay with the laundry piling up, if it means I get to attend a bunch of holiday events with my family. Christmas shopping happens haphazardly, at best, and I've given up on my ideal of giving elaborate handmade gifts. Instead, the goal is thoughtful and personal, in whatever form that may take. And I'm fine with having last-minute, thrown-together dinners because I spent an entire afternoon making and decorating cookies with my boys. Balance, when you find it, sure does feel good.
But speaking of cookies (or, more precisely, the general category of Sweets that they are a member of), I am still very balance-challenged in the food department. I always over-indulge at this time of year, and feel bad about it afterward. And I'm not going to even pretend I'm pledging to do things differently this year. Lots of special, once-a-year treats are so firmly a part of the holiday season for me that I really don't want to resist them. But I do still want to strike a balance of some sort.
So I decided that I needed to have an easy, healthy baked treat to add to my holiday baking mix. Something that could do double-duty as a breakfast item and a mid-afternoon sweet snack. Something I could feel good about my kids eating multiples of, no matter the time of day.
I came up with muffins. I was at my sister's house on Sunday, and she made a batch of pumpkin muffins that filled her home's morning air with the coziest, warmest scent. I arrived home determined to make my own house smell that good! I wanted a mix of whole grains and no refined sugar, to counter what I know are my tendencies toward very sugary, empty starch-filled desserts. But I didn't want anything that tasted too healthy - I still need to feel that it's a comparable alternative to traditional pastries if it's going to be vying for my sweet tooth!
The end product was just what I was hoping for. Despite being packed with whole grains, the muffins are light and tender and not too sweet. Using a strongly-flavored honey, however, resulted in the curious occurrence of a muffin that tastes intensely of honey, without the accompanying intense sweetness usually associated with honey. It may be the first time I've really understood the flavor nuances that using honey in baking can impart; I've never before been able to untangle them from the general overpowering sweetness factor. Using honey as a flavor instead of as a sweetener is something I'd like to explore more.
But until I can find some extra time for that, I'm content to keep making these muffins, an entire batch of which my family can and will eat in a day. I figure as long as we're going overboard for the next month or so, we might as well devote a portion of that indulgent energy to something our body will be grateful for!
And to all of you here in the States, happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is filled with everything you need to feel nourished, loved, and fulfilled. I'll see you all back here next week . . .
Multigrain Honey-Pumpkin Muffins
yields 12 muffins
80 grams brown rice flour
45 grams light buckwheat flour
30 grams millet flour
30 grams teff flour
30 grams almond flour
30 grams potato starch
24 grams cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 oz (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup wildflower honey (or your favorite flavorful variety)
1 large egg, room temperature
6 grams (1 tsp) vanilla
252 grams (1 cup) pumpkin purée
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a muffin pan with paper liners, or grease the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), cream the butter and honey. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix to combine. (Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled at this point.) Add the flour mixture and mix on medium speed until the batter is fully blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the pumpkin purée and blend thoroughly.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted near the center comes out with just a few fine crumbs on it, and the edges of the muffins have just begun to brown. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling on the rack.
Enjoy muffins warm (butter optional), or at room temperature. Muffins keep, covered and at room temperature, for up to three days.
Posted by Tara Barker at 12:25 AM