Monday, May 9, 2011

SOS from a Vegan Baker and the Le Pain Quotidien Chia Muffin, Gone Vegan.

I like to think I'm a decent enough baker. Especially when it comes to veganizing a recipe or playing around with alternative flours (millet, chickpea, gluten-free, brown rice, spelt, you need to borrow some, just holler), starches, and sweeteners.

When it comes to muffins, however, I'm a total loser.

Are they edible? Usually. Do they taste okay? Sometimes. How do they look? Ugly, if you want to be nice about it.

The evidence...

Even if it tastes good, I simply cannot let this muffin out of the house looking like that.

I guess my ideal muffin would be like the Vegan Blueberry Corn Muffin from Whole Foods...or the Blueberry Muffin from Le Pain Quotidien. Or the Vegan Spelt Muffins at Essene.

Does anyone out there have muffins on lock? Can you give me some advice on making muffins look prettier? Rising higher? Having a smoother, more appealing top? Can we bake muffins together?

The Supermodel Muffin Gallery:

When I have a little bit of muffin success, I can't help but share it. Inspired by the non-vegan Chia Muffin at Le Pain Quotidien, I vowed to make my own version. I inspected my husband's Chia Muffin during lunch this week, took note of the ingredients (a mix of regular and wheat flours, a touch of cocoa powder, agave nectar, a chia seed crust on top) and patched together this recipe. 

Obviously I was not too confident about this recipe and while they certainly looked a lot more appealing than usual, I was ready to tell my husband "We don't have to eat these" until we both took a bite.

Not bad...really moist muffins that practically leaped out of the liners without sticking to the sides, with tops that wanted to be broken off and enjoyed first. Hints of chocolate, the nutty flavor of chia, okay, so these were quickly slipping out of Not-Bad Territory and straight into Respectful Muffin Recipe Road. After we both polished off a few, I could feel the Muffin Curse lifting.

This is a muffin recipe that I am proud enough to share. Omega-3's, a gorgeous muffin figure, and rich flavor - what more could you want from a muffin? Yep, they're under 250 calories each. 

Vegan Chia Muffins

1 cup flour
1 cup wheat flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 tbsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together dry ingredients and then add wet, stir until well combined. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin tin and sprinkle a handful of chia seeds on top of each muffin. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 8 muffins.

Did I do anything differently? Well, I smoothed out the tops of my muffins to try to make them look prettier and more uniform. I made 8 muffins instead of a dozen so that they would be bigger and fill the muffin tins and grow a rounder "top". They're not quite there yet, but at least they tasted great!

So, SOS...what are your muffin tricks?


The Kuntrageous Vegan said...

With muffins; you're supposed to combine the wet ingredients and the dry until just combined or they end up dense/gummy and don't rise well :)

The Kuntrageous Vegan said...

What I meant to finish with is, I normally combine the wet ingredients in a large bowl, then add the dry and stir them with a bamboo spoon until just combined-less than thirty strokes.

kellywhitephillips said...

Thanks - that is certainly one of my problems. I will do the 30-count.

sweet swallows said...

I agree, muffins are very sensitive, and don't like to be mixed much. I do the opposite though, I make a "well" in the dry ingredients, and add the wet. Then I mix just until everything's moist, keeping the strokes to a minimum. Also, how are you filling your muffin cups? I find that an ice cream scoop works best to keep them airy. If you're spooning and packing the batter in, that usually keeps them dense. Good Luck!

kellywhitephillips said...

I make a well, also. I think I mix so much because of little chunks of flour. Should I be sifting?

I use a 1/4 measuring cup to fill my tins. Should I not smooth the tops? Do you brush the tops with anything?

sweet swallows said...

Don't worry about little chunks of flour. My unprofessional opinion is that those chunks create air bubbles that help to keep the muffins light. I don't ever sift for muffins, but you can give it a try.

I don't brush the tops with anything, though sometimes I'll sprinkle with demerara sugar for pretty presentation. I'd say don't smooth, and if you've got a scoop with a release mechanism, use it. Any extra mixing, including packing the measuring cup and packing the muffin tin, can make them dense. And if you want big tops, you just gotta fill them more.

Anonymous said...

I love Le Pain's chia seed muffins too and I quizzed one of the employees. They said the ingredients included bananas, dates and yogurt

Anonymous said...

i got the full recipe ingredients from the recipe La Pain restaurant themselves. although they wouldn't give me the amounts. here it goes. butter, banana puree, agave, cocao powder, eggs, vanilla extract, organic wheat flour, baking powder, salt, chia seeds, organic soy milk, low-fat yogurt, and dates. i hope this helps. i've been trying to a way to get the amounts and instructions. i'm not the most experiences baker. so if this helps anyone and you can share the amounts back with me, i would greatly appreciate it! my email is