Have you ever had one of those mornings where nothing seems to go the way you had planned? As if, rather than you waking up on the wrong side of the bed, the rest of the cosmos did? I had just such a morning a couple of weeks ago. I woke up looking forward to having a leisurely morning; I was going to work in the evening, which means I could wake up late, linger over coffee and breakfast, and test out a pumpkin muffin recipe, all without breaking a sweat trying to rush out the door. Such was the plan, anyway. Instead, I woke up to the sound of running water and Conor’s poor step-mom in a state of panic. The massive fish tank in the basement was somehow, steadily, leaking out of the bottom, and a large puddle of water had already accrued on the floor. I could just imagine the poor fish watching helplessly as they sink to their doom.
After damage control and cleanup (and the fish put safely in another tank), I set myself to hurriedly eating breakfast so I could start baking. My leisurely morning had turned into yet another rushed morning…
And that’s when I noticed the bees.
Now, you may not know this about me, but I am very frightened of bees. And it’s a healthy fear, I feel, but bothersome nevertheless. So there I am, mixing away, when I find not one, not two, but THREE bees flying around the kitchen! And a further four just lingering by the door, brazen as you please! SEVEN BEES in my kitchen. You can imagine my panic. Conor’s step-mom to the rescue this time, swatting at them with aplomb, but the whole process took up more precious time and left me feeling harried and drained.
You know that old adage about never cooking when you’re in a bad mood? There’s a reason it stuck around. Food never tastes good when you’re in a bad mental state while preparing it, and that includes being stressed! I should have walked away right there. Instead, I compounded the problem by deciding to do something I NEVER do – use gluten free all purpose flour and xanthan gum when baking. I’ve always avoided using gums because they can be particularly difficult to digest, and I prefer to avoid starches in favour of protein- and fibre-rich flours. But I was trying to save time, so I used all purpose and xanthan gum. The result? The world’s gummiest muffins, ever. I had to throw out the whole batch! Wasted time, money, and effort do not a happy Sam make.
They might look good, but I assure you, the texture was horrific. Never again!
The second trial of these muffins went a little better – I stuck to my usual mixture of flours and omitted the gum – but without eggs the muffins were tiny little things, and the crumb topping was great the first day and then went all soft after that, resulting in muffins that went moldy pretty quickly.
Not bad for a second trial, but I wanted something a little fluffier.
They say the third time’s a charm, and in this case, it holds true. I decided to stop trying to be a miracle worker and just use eggs in the muffins, and to skip the crumb topping altogether. I also changed up my sweeteners. Instead of using maple syrup I made some date puree, which lends a rich caramel flavour that is just irresistible. I’ve been working at an organic nut and dried fruit store called Pestacio for the past couple of weeks and they sell THE BEST dates I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating in my entire life. They are fresh and soft and melt-in-your-mouth ridiculousness, you can just eat them like candy. Or make an all-natural and mineral-rich sweetener! For a tutorial on making date puree, scroll to the bottom of the page. If you’re ever in the Yonge and Lawrence neighbourhood, I highly recommend stopping by (and sampling everything!).
Using an ice cream scoop makes portioning out muffins super easy and mess-free.
Finally, pumpkin muffin success!
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins (makes 12 standard size muffins)
~ Gluten free, soy free ~
- 1 cup gluten free oat flour
- 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/4 cup sucanat
- 2 tbsp flax meal
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp dried ginger
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup good quality dark chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/3 cup date puree (or maple syrup, honey)
- 2 large organic eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your muffin tray with liners.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the vanilla, coconut milk, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, and date puree. Mix well.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the oat and buckwheat flour, along with the almond and flax meal. Add the sucanat, cinnamon, ginger, and sea salt, and mix well.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir until just combined, then gently fold in the dark chocolate.
- Portion out the batter into your muffin cups and then bake in the middle rack of the oven for approximately 30 minutes. The muffins should have browned on the top and a toothpick should come out clean.
- Let cool for 20 minutes and then dig in! If you try to eat them when they’re still piping hot, the muffins may stick to the paper liners.
Date Puree (makes 1 cup)
- 1 cup dates, pits removed
- boiling water (about half a cup)
- a dash of cinnamon
- Place dates in a bowl with some boiled water – just enough to cover them, about half a cup.
- Let the dates soak for about 15 minutes. If they are particularly dry you will need to soak them for longer, perhaps an hour, but if you get your dates from Pestacio, they will be ready in no time.
- Place the dates and their soaking water, along with some cinnamon (optional) in a blender and blend on high until smooth, adding more hot water if necessary.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use in place of other liquid sweeteners in a 1:1 ratio.