After biting into one of these tender and moist muffins, I couldn’t help but wonder why every better-for-you muffin I’ve bought at a store has tasted so bad. I’ve all but given up on them because they have unfailingly been disappointing, heavy and dry, more penance than pleasure. I’m not exactly sure where they are going wrong, but I do know where this recipe goes right.
First, mixing regular whole-wheat flour with a more tender variety yields just the right texture, soft and cakelike, with a satisfying heartiness. For tender flour, I use whole-wheat pastry or white whole-wheat flour to keep the muffin 100% whole grain, but all-purpose is fine, too. Second, using enough healthy oil instead of butter keeps the saturated fat down without sacrificing the grain-coating tenderness fat provides. Adding less sweetener and more berries to the batter than is typical makes these better for you, too, without sacrificing taste.
Honey instead of refined sugar not only adds a lovely layer of flavor, it helps keep the crumb extra-moist. You could keep the muffins refined-sugar-free if you prefer, but I think it is worth the flourish to sprinkle the tops with a crunch of coarse sugar. I seasoned these with ground cardamom, which has a heady, fruity aroma that hits you before you even take a bite and ultimately heightens the flavors of the honey and bursting baked blueberries.
But if you want to switch things up, the muffins are also excellent with a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest instead of the spice. Either way, these muffins are a swoon-worthy experience that’s in a different class entirely from the healthful muffins you have probably tried before. If you know of a shop that makes them this good, please let me know. Until I find one, I’ll stick to baking my own.
Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins With Honey and Cardamom
These muffins are not only tender and moist, bursting with berries and wafting with the fruity aroma of cardamom, they are better for you, too, made with whole-grain flour, healthful oil and with less sweetener in the form of honey than most muffins have.
½ cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus more for brushing the pan
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour, white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1½ cups fresh or frozen (unthawed) blueberries
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cardamom
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup mild honey
½ cup plain full-fat or low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons demerara or turbinado sugar (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly brush a 12-cup muffin tin with oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours. Place the blueberries in a small bowl. Take 1 teaspoon of the flour mixture and sprinkle it over the berries, tossing to coat evenly.
Add the baking powder, cardamom, baking soda and salt to the bowl with the flours and whisk to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, honey, yogurt and vanilla until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined; do not overmix. Gently stir in the blueberries.
Evenly divide the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle the top of each with ¼ teaspoon of the sugar, if using.
Bake for about 17 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Let cool in the tin on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a butter knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Serve warm, or let cool completely.
Yield: 12 muffins
Storage Notes: The muffins can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days or individually wrapped and frozen for up to three months.
Ellie Krieger is a cookbook author and registered nutritionist.
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