Kim Boyce’s Carrot-Spelt Muffins

Most of my experiments with whole-grain baking have consisted of half-heartedly dumping whole wheat flour into a dough recipe. They usually turn out fine, but I’ve never been transported by any of these efforts, and I’ve never felt like the end result was particularly inspiring. And then I received a review copy of Kim Boyce’s Good To The Grain, and I found myself racing around the bulk foods section of our local health food store, thrilled to nab a bag of oat bran and discover a source for amaranth.

Never before have I read such clear descriptions of different grains—their histories, inherent flavors, how they react in baking, what each variety is best for.  And never before have I trusted so fully that these grains could be used with delicious results. I love that the author has developed recipes that emphasize each grain’s strengths—this isn’t health food (just look at how much butter there is), but it’s whole food—baking that really showcases the flavors of these somewhat unfamiliar ingredients.

It helps that the book is gorgeous, too. And that when I debated which recipe to make first, the editor, Luisa Weiss, wrote me to say EVERYTHING was good (”That book is a revelation!” she wrote, and this is a lady I trust on such matters.)

I started simple, with carrot muffins warmed with allspice and topped with buttery streusel. A little more than half of the flour is spelt, an ancient grain that has an innate sweetness. I swore I’d follow the recipe diligently, but ended up without buttermilk, so I substituted cultured goat milk from a local dairy. Either is fine, it turns out, and the scent of these baking is heavenly.

If you need me, I’ll be out buying buckwheat and kamut.

Kim Boyce’s Carrot-Spelt Muffins
from Good to the Grain
makes 8 to 10 muffins

Streusel topping: (Maggie’s note: this made a LOT of streusel. You could probably halve this part and be fine, unless you’re streusel crazy. That said, it’s super tasty, and you could also throw it on some fruit for a delicious crisp.)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour
2 tablespoons oat bran
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Dry mix:
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrots (about two medium)

Wet mix:
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk (cultured goat milk is ok)
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Rub muffin tins with 1/3-cup capacity with butter (or line tins with paper liners.) To encourage even baking, the author suggests filing alternate cups in a 24-cup tin, or to use two 12-cup tins. I never am good at following directions.

2. For the streusel topping, measure the flour, oat bran, sugars, and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the butter to the dry mixture. Rub the butter between your fingers, (or use a pastry blender) breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the mixture feels coarse, like cornmeal. The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe.

3. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain that may remain in the sifter. Stir the carrots into the dry ingredients.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk slowly into the melted butter, add the egg and whisk until thoroughly combined. Using a spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

5. Scoop the batter into 8 muffin cups. The batter should be slightly mounded above the edge. (Note: I made slightly smaller muffins, and got 10, but they don’t rise a ton, which might be the point of mounding them high to not get flat tops.) Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the mounds of batter and press it into the batter slightly.

6. Bake for 32 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. The muffins are done when they smell nutty and the bottoms are dark golden-brown and the tops are crisp. Remove the tins from the oven, twist each muffin out, and place it on its side in the cup to cool. This insures that the muffin stays crusty instead of getting soggy. Eat warm from the oven or later that day, or freeze and reheat.

In "whole grain", baking, carrot, muffins, spelt

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