How do you get rid of most of the fat and keep all of the flavor? We’ll show you.

Your average coffee shop muffin clocks in at five hundred calories and twenty grams of fat. And ours? Two hundred calories, five fat grams. How did we do it? Over months, I tried dozens of recipes and scores of ingredients to produce muffins whose nutrition, texture, and taste beat any muffin I could find. Here are the secret techniques we discovered along the way, and our top recipes.

Egg Replacements

Baking without eggs can be tricky. In fact, it was my biggest concern. Grinding flax seeds and blending them with water (one tablespoon flax plus four tablespoons water equals one egg) results in a consistency similar to egg whites. It binds the ingredients and produces a very good muffin if you don’t mind the distinctive taste of flax seeds – slightly nutty with a musky finish. I like it. Some of my tasters did not. Egg Replacer (available in natural foods stores) is a blend of leavening ingredients and stabilizers in a gluten-free base. Muffins made with Egg Replacer did not rise quite as high as those made with flax seeds. They were also a tad gummy.

Step-By-Step: Making Perfect Muffins

  1. Whisk dry ingredients to break up any clumps and ensure even distribution of all ingredients.
  2. Beating the Spectrum Spread into the syrup makes it easier to incorporate the fat evenly into the dry ingredients.
  3. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the liquid ingredients. The well makes it easy to mix.
  4. Mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened and there are no streaks of flour in the batter. Overmixing will make the muffins tough.
  5. To avoid having all the blueberries sink to the bottom of the muffins, first spoon a generous tablespoon of plain batter into each cup in the muffin tin. Then fold the berries into the remaining batter and continue to fill cups.

The winner in terms of taste, texture, and appearance was the muffin that used neither substitute. Simply increasing the liquid ingredients worked best. If you’re trying to adapt an existing recipe that calls for eggs, a substitute is often necessary. However, because I was creating my recipes from scratch, I was able to combine ingredients in a way that eliminated the need for eggs altogether.

Butter Replacements

I had high hopes for Spectrum Spread as my butter substitute. It did not disappoint. Available in the refrigerated section of natural foods stores, it’s a non-hydrogenated, dairy-free butter substitute. More and more, I’m finding I prefer it to oil for certain types of baking. In the case of muffins, those made with oil were noticeably heavier than those made with Spectrum Spread. For most of my recipes, one-third cup was sufficient. However, when using cornmeal or bran, I found one-half cup was necessary. In any case, most traditional muffins call for one cup of butter, making my muffins much leaner but just as delicious and moist.

Prune purees that are sold as fat replacements can work in muffins but are not as versatile as Spectrum. Prune puree tastes like the fruit, which can be a bonus or hindrance, depending on whether you want to add that flavor or not. Even more problematic is the dark color of the puree, which works well in a bran muffin, for instance, but can mar the appearance of a corn muffin. Light-colored Spectrum is easier to work with and is my recommendation in the following recipes.

Milk Replacements

Using the right liquid ingredients will help keep muffins moist and tender. Full-fat soymilk, such as Edensoy, was generally a good stand-in for cow’s milk. However, in some instances, I preferred other liquids. Orange juice enhances the flavor of the orange zest in Cranberry Orange Muffins and eliminates the need for additional sweetener to balance the tartness of the cranberries. Similarly, it helps sweeten the pumpkin in the Pumpkin Spice Muffins.

The Double Corn Muffins required a different approach. Soymilk overpowered the corn taste, and juice seemed inappropriate. Water blended with corn kernels was the solution. It allows the corn flavor to dominate. For the Banana Walnut Muffins, instant or grain coffee adds a subtle layer of unexpected flavor that works well with both bananas and nuts.

The Right Technique

When mixing, I find that stirring the dry ingredients with a wire whisk eliminates the need for sifting. It breaks up clumps of flour and baking powder and helps to evenly distribute other ingredients.

For folding the flour into the liquids, a rubber spatula works best. It allows you to scrape the bowl and stir the batter up from the bottom. This helps to eliminate pockets of dry ingredients in the batter that may not bake properly in the muffin. Although it’s important to thoroughly moisten the flour, it is essential to avoid overmixing, which will result in tough, rather than tender, muffins.

For best taste and texture, allow muffins to cool until just slightly warm before serving. All recipes were tested in muffin tins with a half-cup capacity. Cooking times will vary significantly with larger or smaller muffin tins.

Muffins taste best the day they are made. However, if necessary, leftovers may be wrapped in foil, stored at room temperature overnight, and reheated the next day. For longer storage, wrap the muffins in heavy-duty foil and freeze them. They’ll keep for about a month. To serve, defrost at room temperature and place muffins loosely wrapped in a preheated 325-degree oven until warm, ten to fifteen minutes.

The recipes that follow are recreations of eight all-time favorites.

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Makes 12

When using frozen berries, don’t defrost them. They’ll disintegrate when you stir them into the batter. To avoid having them all sink to the bottom, spoon some of the batter into the muffin tin before folding in the berries. Once the batter is spooned into the tins, sprinkle with cinnamon-flavored maple sugar.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups soymilk
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen (undefrosted)
  • blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon maple sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in soymilk.
  3. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.)
  4. Spoon a generous tablespoon of batter into each cup of prepared muffin tin. Fold blueberries into remaining batter, which will be fairly stiff, and continue filling cups to top. Stir together maple sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle generous 1/4 teaspoon of mixture on top of each muffin.
  5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 5 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 193 calories, 4g protein, 5g fat, 34g carbohydrates, 3.2g fiber, 254 mg sodium, 10% calcium

CRANBERRY ORANGE MUFFINS

Makes 12

As soon as cranberries begin showing up in the supermarket during the early fall, I freeze a few bags of them for winter baking. Frozen cranberries work every bit as well as fresh in these muffins. Just don’t defrost them. They’re much easier to chop while still frozen. Use a vegetable peeler to zest all citrus fruits and then mince the zest with a knife. Be careful to peel off the colored part only. The white pith can be very bitter.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced orange zest
  • 1/3 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (undefrosted) cranberries, chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped coarse
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in orange juice and add cranberries.
  3. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.) Fold in pecans.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups to top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 3 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 218 calories, 4g protein, 8g fat, 35g carbohydrates, 2.8g fiber, 288mg sodium, 9% calcium

APPLE CURRANT OAT MUFFINS

Makes 12

Apples, currants, and oats are delicious together in these fragrantly spiced muffins. Use a coffee grinder to pulverize the oats in two batches.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground to a powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups soymilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup currants
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside.
  2. Combine ground oats, flours, baking powder, salt, and spices in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in soymilk and vanilla and add apple and currants.
  3. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.)
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups to top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 3 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 188 calories, 4g protein, 6g fat, 32g carbohydrates, 2.9g fiber, 254mg sodium, 11% calcium

BANANA WALNUT MUFFINS

Makes 12

You’ll get the sweetest and most pronounced banana flavor by using very ripe bananas. Puree them in a food processor for best results. Because the puree counts as part of the liquid in this recipe, be sure your measurement is accurate. To toast the nuts, spread them out on a baking sheet and place the sheet on the middle rack of a preheated 350-degree oven until the nuts are fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee (or coffee substitute)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup banana puree (from about
  • 3 very ripe bananas)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup untoasted walnuts, chopped fine (for topping)
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside.
  2. Place grain coffee in glass measuring cup. Add boiling water and stir to dissolve coffee. Set mixture aside.
  3. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in pureed bananas, reserved grain coffee mixture, and vanilla.
  4. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.) Fold in 3/4 cup toasted walnuts.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups to top. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup untoasted walnuts evenly over muffins and press down slightly. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 3 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 269 calories, 7g protein, 12g fat, 36g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 251mg sodium, 10% calcium

LEMON POPPY SEED MUFFINS

Makes 12

Dry-roasting heightens the flavor of the poppy seeds in these classic sweet and tangy muffins. Simply add the seeds to a small, nonstick skillet and roast over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. I have a definite preference for vanilla soymilk in this recipe. However, plain soymilk is a fine alternative. If using plain soymilk increase the vanilla extract from 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, dry roasted (see note above)
  • 2 tablespoons minced lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla soymilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder, salt, poppy seeds, and lemon zest in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in soymilk and vanilla.
  3. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.)
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups to top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 3 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 203 calories, 4g protein, 8g fat, 31g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, 267 mg sodium, 11% calcium

DOUBLE CORN MUFFINS

Makes 12

Hi-lysine cornmeal gives these muffins a sweet, nutty flavor that is enhanced by the use of corn “milk,” a blend of corn kernels and water, as the liquid component. Extra lysine helps make the protein in cornmeal more readily available to the body.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cups hi-lysine cornmeal (available in natural food stores)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside.
  2. Place corn and water in blender and blend until fairly smooth, about 45 seconds. This should yield 1 3/4 cups of “milk.” If you get less, add additional water to equal 1 3/4 cups. If you get more, discard excess liquid. Set mixture aside.
  3. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in reserved 1 3/4 cups corn “milk.”
  4. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.)
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups to top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 3 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 197 calories, 3g protein, 8g fat, 32g carbohydrates, 2.1g fiber, 314 mg sodium, 9% calcium

PUMPKIN SPICE MUFFINS

Makes 12

The secret ingredient here is a touch of cornmeal. Its thirsty nature helps absorb the moisture of the pumpkin and lightens the texture. And the pumpkin gives each muffin 15 percent of your RDA of vitamins A and C.

  • Oil for greasing muffin tin
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup hi-lysine cornmeal (available in natural food stores)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup Spectrum Spread
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  1. Set rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil standard 12-cup muffin tin and set it aside.
  2. Combine flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in large bowl. Stir well with wire whisk. Whisk together Spectrum Spread and maple syrup in medium bowl until creamy. Whisk in pumpkin and orange juice.
  3. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquid mixture. With rubber spatula, fold flour into liquid just until thoroughly moistened. (Do not overmix.) Batter will be stiff.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups to top. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove muffins from oven. Let rest in tin about 3 minutes. Run table knife around each muffin to loosen. Remove muffins from tin and set on wire rack to cool until just slightly warm before serving.

PER MUFFIN: 216 calories, 3g protein, 7g fat, 37g carbohydrates 2.6g fiber, 337mg sodium, 15% vitamin A, 15% vitamin D, 9% calcium

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