Sunday, March 8, 2009

Alternatively Delicious Carrot Muffins

In line with my previous post about baking with alternative sweeteners, I made a delicious muffin. Inspired by a recipe from Baking with Agave, a wonderful text covering its title matter as wholly as I've ever seen in any text, these carrot cupcakes are awesome! As I've preached before, I'm trying to experiment with alternative flours and sweeteners. Agave is great because it's sweeter than sugar but has the same amount of calories, so you get the same result with less amount. A problem I've found with agave, however, is that it is a liquid, so it makes wet batters even wetter, which can potentially mess up your baking chemistry in the oven. Which is why I like to scan older recipes as guides for the corrected proportions of wet to dry, taking agave liquid into account. I have to say, this is the first time I've baked with agave and truly truly loved the results. The recipe also calls for barley and oat flour, an interesting combination. I've been a fan of oat flour for quite some time now, but it's hard to use it alone. I like it because it has a slightly sweet flavor, but it does not contain gluten, so (a) it doesn't rise, and (b) it doesn't help form a nice gluten web when mixed, allowing ingredients to stick together. Basically oat flour can't be used alone for baked goods that you want to seem like "traditional" baked goods. Barley flour comes from hearty barley. One of my favorite grains, barley does contain gluten, but not much.
Although I enjoyed experimenting with these alternative flours, and they do help make a great muffin (below), I think I'll continue to experiment with others until I find my favorite match.

Carrot Muffins (makes about 18)

5 carrots, grated
1/2 c raisins, chopped into smaller pieces
1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1 c raw walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 c barley flour+1/2 c oat flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
1/2 c butter, softened
3/4 c agave
1 c greek style plain yogurt (nonfat or whole milk yogurt is fine)
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees if you have a convection setting, otherwise to 375.
Grease 2 muffin tins and line with paper cups (or not).
In a medium bowl, mix shredded carrot, chopped raisins, coconut, and walnut pieces.
In a second medium bowl, mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In an electric mixer (or by hand), cream butter until lightened in color. Add agave and continue to cream. Agave is sticky so be sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl while mixing.
With the mixer on low speed, add eggs, one at a time. Wait maybe a minute after adding each egg before adding the next.
Finally add yogurt and vanilla and be sure to mix well, not forgetting to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add half of the carrot mixture, mix, and then add half of the dry mixture, and mix.
Add the rest of the carrot mixture, mix, and then the rest of the dries, and mix well.
Use a #15 scoop to scoop batter into muffin tins, or just use a big spoon for less-accurately-sized-but-still-beautiful-and-delicious muffins. Fill any empty muffin tin space halfway full with water so the pan doesn't heat unevenly, causing muffins to bake unevenly.

Bake for 30 min, but check after 20 to see how they're doing. Remove from oven when inserted toothpick comes out almost clean (a little wet is good). Once removed from the oven, allow muffins to rest in pan until cool enough to handle, then transfer to cooling rack.
They'll keep for about 10 days. Delish!

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