Saturday, March 6, 2010

Buttermilk Muffin Inspiration

About a week ago I bought a pint of buttermilk and it has been staring at me from the refrigerator shelf ever since. Usually the luxury of having real buttermilk in the house would have inspired me to pour it into a batch of pancake batter or scones as soon as I had a free moment in the morning. Lately, I've been more than a little busy with the arrival of our new book New Haven Cooks, so a whole week went by and the butter milk was still sitting there, waiting.

On Saturday I was up before the sun (thanks to the 1 year old) and felt that wonderful early morning urge to bake. I have some basic recipes I keep scratched on scraps of paper which I use as a jumping point for most of my basic baking. There is a great pancake recipe, an apple oil cake, scones, and a few others. but I felt like making muffins and didn't have a good buttermilk muffin recipe, so i jumped online and found one at:

I often use a baking recipe as a starting point. I like to alter the types of flours to make the recipe a little healthier without sacrificing flavor, so i might use part whole wheat or spelt flour, oats, or dry grains such as millet for a little crunch. I sometimes reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe or change the types of sweeteners used, so some of the sugar might be replaced with honey, agave, or molasses. And then there are the basic additions, fruits (fresh, frozen or dried), nuts, chocolate, almond paste, and spices.

The basic thing to keep in mind when replacing ingredients in a baking recipe is to maintain the balance of dry and wet ingredients, and the ratio of baking soda or powder to the density of the ingredients you are using. for example, if you replace some dry sugar with wet molasses, then you might want to add an extra tablespoon or so of flour. Or, if you are using all whole grain flours, you might want a little more leavening.

This type of experimental baking does take a little practice, but it's fun, healthy, and just by using a little common sense and creativity, you're bound to end up with tasty results in the end.

Here is my completely altered recipe for
Buttermilk Muffins with Molasses, Orange and Currants

1 cup unbleached white flour (I used spelt)
1 1/3 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1/4 cup dry millet
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup agave (or honey or maple syrup)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
zest from one orange
1 egg beaten
3/4 cup butter milk (you can substitute 3/4 cup milk or soy milk plus 1 teaspoon vinegar or 1 tablespooon orange juice)
2/3 cup oil
1/2 cup currants or other dried fruit)

1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease or place muffin papers in one muffin tin (12 muffins).

2. Mix the wet ingredients together, including the zest.

3. Sift the dry ingredients together and stir in the sugar.

4. Mix the wet and dry together and carefully fold in the blueberries.

5. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Here is the original delicious recipe with my substitutions in parenthesis and in green:

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins
from the Joy of Baking with my notes in parentheses

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (replace with: 1 cup white, 1 1/3 cup whole spelt, 1/4 cup dry millet)
3/4 cup granulated white sugar ( replace with: 1/3 cup molasses, 1/4 cup agave or honey, 1/4 cup sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
(add 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger)
Zest of one orange
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup safflower or canola oil (I used a light olive)
1 tsp vanilla extract (did not use vanilla)
2 cups of blueberries (replace with: 1/2 cup dried currants)


  1. Thank you so much for explaining how to make the substitutions from a basic recipe.

  2. hello tagan,

    in your instructions for this recipe, you said "blueberries" (as in the original recipe) rather than "currants," your substitution. i was a little confused at first...!

    always the (meticulous and dedicated) copyeditor,
    anne :- )

  3. Tagan-
    I have recently become addicted to Dorie Greenspan's muffin recipes in 'Baking, From My Kitchen to Yours'-lots of buttermilk possibilities, and opportunities for substitutions; almost everything I've tried comes out great. My most recent favorites are almond meal and quinoa flour-so nutty and delish!