The sweet secret behind these spiced-pear muffins
Lately I’ve been playing around with date sugar in my kitchen, and I’ve become increasingly sold on it as an alternative sweetener.
Because date sugar contains the fibre, minerals and antioxidants of the whole fruit, it offers a more healthful alternative. This kind of sugar doesn’t work as a replacement in all granulated-sugar recipes, though. Because it does not dissolve easily, it is not suitable for stirring into drinks or as a caramelising agent, and its subtle yet distinct date flavour won’t work with all dishes.
But I can vouch for the fact that date sugar is delicious when blended into smoothies, as well as in pancakes and waffles, banana bread and oatmeal cookies. And it works wonderfully in these warm spiced-pear muffins. (It acts more like a dry ingredient in recipes than granulated sugar does, so I have found it best to reduce the flour in a typical recipe by 1⁄2 cup for each 3⁄4 cup date sugar used.)
PEAR SPICE MUFFINS
If you substitute regular dark brown sugar for date sugar, increase the flour to 2 cups, reduce the applesauce to 1⁄2 cup and whisk in the brown sugar with the liquid ingredients.
1⁄3 cup canola or other neutral-tasting oil, plus more for the pan
1-1⁄2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3⁄4 cup date sugar or packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder 1⁄4 tsp baking soda 1⁄2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon 1⁄2 tsp ground ginger 1⁄4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup low-fat buttermilk 1 medium firm, ripe pear, peeled, cored and cut into 5mm pieces
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
Preheat the oven to 200C. Lightly brush the wells of a 12-muffin pan with oil.
Whisk together the flour, date sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a medium bowl. Whisk in the third cup of oil and the eggs in a mixing bowl until well blended, then whisk in the applesauce and vanilla extract. Stir in half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk; once those are incorporated, add the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk, stirring until just incorporated. Gently stir in the pear and the nuts, if using.
Divide the batter evenly among the wells of the muffin pan. Bake (middle rack) for 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Let cool (in the pan) on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them before serving or storing. —