As I’ve mentioned before, I love muffins. They feel substantial yet a tad indulgent (cake, for breakfast!), the perfect size for packing around with you for snacks, undeniably cute, and great gift-giving foods (slightly sweet, individual servings, like cookies, but healthier than a dessert). Plus, there’s a great Seinfeld episode about muffins. Have you seen it? You should. Although, I disagree with Elaine, who likes just the muffin top: I think the whole thing is marvelous.
I know the flavors here are similar to those in the Crunchy Apple Salad, but I’ve been feeling a particular penchant for orange zest and cranberries lately. The combination in this recipe is really delightful: a sweet, moist bread with a flash of tart here and there.
This was my first foray into baking with xylitol, and I was quite pleased with the results. Xylitol is a sweetener that promotes dental health (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but apparently it’s true), has a third less calories than sugar, and has a very low glycemic index. Now, I usually hate sugar substitutes. Splenda, for instance, has a repulsive aftertaste and, from what I have read, is a chemical cocktail that sounds far worse than regular refined sugar. I’m also unimpressed with the brands of Stevia I’ve tried (another chemically aftertaste), although maybe I just haven’t hit on the right one yet. I got a bag of Xyla at Whole Foods the other day, though, and I love it! My sister-in-law recommended it, and she was spot on. If you’ve been looking for a sugar alternative, I would definitely give this a try. It’s nice because, unlike honey or agave, you can substitute it directly for sugar, as it comes in a granular form. This makes for a nice, light muffin that isn’t at all gummy—a difficult feat when making a whole wheat baked good with a liquid sweetener. I haven’t tried any other brand yet, but would love to know if anyone has found a cheaper option. The Xyla was great, but rather pricey.
I hope you have a relaxed, wintery morning in the near future when you can pop a pan of these in the oven, then cuddle up with something hot to drink, something good to read, and a plate of these scrumptious little cakes. I think they’re particularly good with orange marmalade.
Speed it Up: You can save time by using raw cranberries, instead of cooking them first. If you do that, omit the agave and reduce the flour to 2 C. I did that the first time I formulated the recipe and liked it. However, the resulting muffin is much less sweet than the recipe below, and the cranberries are surprisingly tart when you bite into them, especially if you eat the muffins right away. If you like that level of tartness, give it a try. You can also leave the cranberries (and agave and 2 T of the flour) out all together, which makes for a sweet, subtly orange treat.
Special Diets & Allergies: Vegetarian, nut free, soy free (if you use a soy-free milk), dairy free (if you use a non-dairy milk)
Cranberry Orange Muffins (with Xyla)
Makes 12 Muffins
These moist, light muffins are as healthy as they are tasty. The xyla and agave give them a touch of sweetness, a nice contrast with the tart cranberries and bright orange zest. You can use raw sugar in the place of the Xyla if you like, but, either way, make sure you put it into the wet ingredients and let it sit for a bit. Both come in a much larger grain than regular, refined sugar and this will allow the grains to dissolve. The measurement for the cranberries is post-chopping (not measured and then chopped). Also, it’s hard to put too much orange zest in these, so be generous. Lastly, as with any whole wheat recipe, you need as much oomph as you can get out of the baking powder, so get these into the oven as soon as possible after you mix the dry and wet ingredients together.
1 C frozen cranberries, unthawed and chopped
2 T agave
2 C + 2 T regular whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
3 t baking powder
1 C unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of choice)
1/2 C Xyla
2 T vegetable oil or other mild-tasting oil
4 t orange zest (about 1 large orange)
Grease a standard-size muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Combine the cranberries and agave in a small saucepan and cook, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, or until the cranberries are soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove the cranberries from the pan and set aside.
- Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl.
- Whisk the eggs, milk, Xyla, oil, and orange zest together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the milk mixture, mixing just until combined. Fold in the cranberries, being careful not to overmix.
- Quickly spoon the batter into the muffin tin and bake, in the middle of the oven, for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. When they are done, a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins will come out clean.
- Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove them and place on a rack to finish cooling.
- Serve warm, with orange marmalade if desired.