I don't often write about muffins or even make them at home because, to be honest, I just don't like most muffins! The typical coffee shop fare tends to have big, domed tops and are often too sweet for my taste. I'm drawn to those dense hippie muffins that are packed with a good bit of whole grain flour and interesting flavors and textures — which is exactly the kind of muffin I'm sharing today.
These holiday-ready gingerbread muffins boast really subtle warm spices and just the right amount of dark sweetness. Let's be honest: these provide a really good excuse to eat gingerbread for breakfast (in case you needed one).
I have a recipe for Whole Grain Gingerbread in my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings, and ever since it was published, I've wanted to turn those flavors into portable muffins or scones for busy mornings. I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked, and I finally landed on a version that is perfect for the season.
This muffin has great molasses flavor, a dark, almost sticky sweetness from the muscovado sugar, and a surprisingly moist, tender crumb. If you're not familiar with muscovado sugar, it's a dark unrefined sugar (looks like a slightly looser brown sugar) with a really great flavor that pairs well with warm spices. If you can't track it down at your local market, swap in a dark brown sugar instead.
These muffins also use 100% whole grain flour: a blend of spelt flour and buckwheat flour, with a little hazelnut meal folded in for flavor. These flours can usually be found at stores with well-stocked bulk bins, like Whole Foods. Now, if you've never made muffins with 100% whole grain flour before, you must go into this knowing one thing: they will be delicious, but they won't have big, poofy domed tops like other muffins. That's a tough thing to achieve with whole grain flour, especially if one of your flours is gluten-free, as is the case with buckwheat.
But while these dark beauties may not win the "Most Towering Muffin Tops of the Year" award, they taste great and feel satisfying and hearty yet not heavy or dense. They're the perfect on-the-go breakfast if you need something easy to take on your way to work, and they freeze really well. When I make a batch, we usually have a few right away, then freeze the rest for future impromptu breakfasts.
Once cool, I like to sprinkle these with just a little powdered sugar; the snowy tops seem festive this time of year, and make these otherwise humble muffins stand out in a crowd.
Whole Grain Gingerbread Muffins
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cups (145 g) spelt flour
3/4 cup (100 g) buckwheat flour
1/4 cup (25 g) hazelnut meal
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Powdered sugar, to top (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed using the paddle attachment (or feel free to use hand beaters) until the sugar is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the molasses and honey.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, hazelnut meal, fresh ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and the ground spices. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and beat on low speed until incorporated with the wet ingredients. Fold in the yogurt and let the batter rest, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.
After resting, spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 of the way full (I push it and fill them almost to the top). Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan and then lightly dust powdered sugar on the tops (optional). Cover and store at room temperature for up to three days (or freeze).
- Feel free to use almond meal instead of hazelnut meal. You can also blitz some hazelnuts or almonds in a food processor until dry and mealy (be careful not to over-process or you'll end up with nut butter!).
- I love the flavor of buckwheat flour here, and spelt flour is such an easy whole grain flour to work with, but if you'd prefer to swap in all-purpose flour at some point, feel free. Whole wheat would work just fine as one of the flours, too.