Whole grains meet their match in these modern muffins, which lend a nod to the classic while updating their flavor profiles and putting nutty alternative flours to work. Growing up, a bakery-fresh muffin was such a treat. I have fond memories of digging into fluffy blueberry muffins larger than I could eat. But the muffin I crave now has bolder flavors and healthier notes, and is worthy of a spot at the trendiest of coffee shops or cafes.
For me, the perfect blueberry muffin doesn’t rely on blueberries alone as its standout ingredient. Instead, it doubles down on nuttiness by incorporating whole-wheat flour into the batter and almond butter into a streusel that is swirled throughout and sprinkled atop. Oat flour lightens up morning glory muffins paired with a creative swap of butternut squash for the usual carrot, which creates an almost butterscotch like finish. Swirls of tahini and chocolate-banana batter prepared with an ancient grain flour, einkorn, transform banana muffins into something much more complex with unexpected savory notes. And last but not least, strawberry muffin batter fueled with honey, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, and spelt flour meets its match with a cream cheese stuffing and has become a fan favorite among my family, who dutifully taste-tested each version of these muffins alongside me.
Once I started baking muffins with whole-grain flours, I knew I couldn’t go back to relying solely on white flour again. Essentially small quick breads, muffins have a slightly denser crumb than cakes, so they can stand up to these heartier flours. While necessary for texture, white flour is more of a blank canvas in terms of flavor, whereas whole-grain flours add respective nutty richness that enhances other ingredients. If you are making the swap in your favorite muffin recipe, start small. Don’t dive in 100% with the alternative flours, but rather remove a quarter of the white flour and experiment from there. It’s just enough to give them modern intrigue without straying too far from what we know—and love—as a muffin.