Weekday toaster oven muffins with coconut, chia seeds, and cranberries, plus an Instant Pot yogurt sidebar
We are not a muffin people. I mean, they’re fine and everything, but given the option at a bakery, I will go for just about anything else. Croissants always win. Scones are a close second. I might even go Danish over muffin. Muffins are usually too sweet, too big, a bit claggy, and just nothing to write home about. I know there are exceptions, and I’m always willing to give them a try on the advice of a trusted advisor, but generally speaking, meh.
Except there is something particularly alluring about the size and shape of a muffin, is there not? Especially for little hands? The idea of cramming of muffin full of healthful ingredients, and then getting your kid to gobble down a little packet of tasty nutrition? I’ve tried and tried, green muffins, muffins with shredded carrot, muffins with shredded zucchini, muffins with flax and wheat germ. I think I might be starting to understand why we are not a muffin people.
What I wanted was a tasty muffin that was not overly sweet, not so crammed with nutritious ingredients that my kids won’t touch it, and not so complicated that I need a weekend morning to put it together. I’ve done it! These use canola so there’s no mucking about melting butter at 6AM. They mix up in one bowl. They have enough sweetness to make them a little treat-like, but enough wholesomeness to feel good about eating them on the regular. And for morning efficiency, the extra key in my household is baking these in our toaster oven.
Now, for a moment, please allow me to return to my proselytizing ways and sing of the Glories of the Breville toaster oven (I believe it is some iteration of the Breville SmartOven). I didn’t buy it; my dear friend had one, but had no available counter space for it, so it was languishing in her basement, so when my other dear friend trekked out to Chicago for a visit she ever so kindly lugged it back on the airplane for me. I know! I owe her forever, my friends are the best.
This toaster oven gets used multiple times a day. I roast vegetables in it exclusively, never bothering to turn on the big oven (especially nice because of the absurd required preheat for my big oven); we warm tortillas by the half-dozen; we make melty “grilled” cheese; we heat up any and all leftovers; we even use it to make toast. And it makes early morning baking a real possibility. It is SO fast to heat up, even to 400°F/205°C, it has a convection setting, and it turns out beautiful muffins.
Now listen up: this recipe only makes six muffins. It uses a half-muffin tin, because that’s what fits in this glorious toaster oven. I see no reason why you couldn’t double it, and use a full muffin tin, and get a full dozen perfectly lovely muffins out of it. Or use this recipe as written, and then fill half of a full tin with water, the other half with muffin mix, and get the intended six. Whatever. But. As written, this recipe only makes six muffins, because that is the perfect number of muffins for a non-muffin family. Do not attempt to use this mix and make 12 muffins, you will end up with the saddest little flat mini pancake muffins ever. Actually, that sounds delicious, so if you do make the attempt, please! Report back.
You’ll note also that this recipe calls for whey. What on earth, you are probably saying to yourself. But bear with me. If you make your own yogurt, as I have been as of late, you may strain it, and then you have on your hands whey, which everyone yells at you to not get rid of because it’s so nutritious, but then it just sits in glass jars in your fridge and drives you crazy. Here! A use for it! I think you could very happily substitute in plain yogurt, or milk, or buttermilk, and the effect would not be dissimilar, so don’t be dissuaded.
While we’re on the subject, may I suggest that, if you own an Instant Pot, you should really start making your own yogurt? I was doing it regularly for a while, using two Mason jars and the approach at Hip Pressure Cooking. However, twice the Mason jars shattered when I went to pull them off the rack, and I had to toss the whole lot. Ugh. I abandoned the attempt for a while, but recently got back into it with a nudge from Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark. Now I do a full half-gallon of milk at a time, straight into the pot, no worrying about glass breaking. On mine, after adding the milk, you seal on the lid, then hit the “yogurt” button, and then push “adjust” until the screen reads “boil”. Let it do it’s thing, and after about 45 minutes it will beep, the screen will say “yogt” and you can open it. I then turn it back to the boil setting for about five minutes with the lid off (apparently this helps thicken it), then pull the liner out of the Instant Pot and allow to cool to about 115°F-120°F. When cooled, you add a bit of the warmed milk to a few tablespoons of yogurt (HERE is the greatest challenge, remembering to save a bit of your yogurt from the previous batch), stir, then stir that yogurty mixture into the full pot of warmed milk. Pop back into the Instant Pot, cover (vent open), and turn on the yogurt setting. 8 hours later you have yogurt! I then use a funnel to put the warm yogurt into two 4 cup, wide mouth Mason jars, and refrigerate until cold before straining through cheesecloth, and end up with a large Mason jar full of thick, delicious yogurt, and another large Mason jar full of whey. Hence this immensely long sidebar. Phew.
Back to the muffins! These are filled with chia seeds, coconut, and dried cranberries, because these are the things that make breakfast work at our house, and that we add to oatmeal, yogurt, quickbreads, and muffins. The chia seeds are great for you, the cranberries are tangy and sweet, and the coconut gives a little sweetness and a little, er, I’m not sure exactly. Deliciousness. I think any other substitutions would work great. Please, report back!
Weekday toaster oven muffins with coconut, chia seeds, and dried cranberries
- 4 oz whole wheat pastry flour This is about 1 cup. All purpose also works.
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 heaping tbsp unpacked, dark brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 oz whey If you don't have whey, you could use milk, buttermilk, or plain yogurt. Greek yogurt might be too thick.
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.9 oz canola oil This is a bit less than 1/4 cup.
- 1 tbsp chia seeds This is about 0.4 oz.
- 1 tbsp unsweetened, shredded coconut This is about 0.3 oz.
- 1 small handful dried cranberries I like the ones sweetened with apple juice. This is about 2 oz.
Preheat your toaster oven to 400°F/205°C, and set the convection setting on. You can use your regular oven too, obviously, though without convection they may take a little longer to bake.
Spray your 6 cup muffin tin with cooking spray, or line with muffin papers.
Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Make an indentation in the center of the dry ingredients mixture. Add in the wet ingredients: whey, oil, egg, and vanilla. Without combining them with the dry ingredients, whisk together the wet ingredients. You could (and probably should) thoroughly mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl before adding to the dry ingredients, but that is one dish too many for my weekday mornings.
Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until they are just combined. Don't overstir.
Add in the chia seeds, coconut, and cranberries, stirring just once or twice to distribute them evenly.
Divide evenly amongst the *six* muffin tins, then bake for 14-16 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick. They should be lovely, risen and golden colored.
Are you a muffin people? What sorts of muffins do you go for?