Whole grain baking isn’t sexy. In fact, when I think of whole grain baking, I think of Eugene, Oregon, where I grew up. Specifically, I think of aging hippies dancing around to drum music, doing yoga before it was cool, wearing patchouli oil, and making their own whole wheat bread.
But Good to the Grain, the new cookbook by Kim Boyce, makes whole grain baking sexy. Her recipes make me actually want tosseek out flours that I never thought I would want to buy. Kamut flour. Spelt flour. Teff flour. They sound so Eugene. So hippie. So unsexy. But Sand cookies? Five grain cream waffles? Soft rye pretzels? I want to go to there.
So far, I’ve tried one recipe from the book for whole wheat sweet potato muffins, but there are many more that I want to try. I’m especially intrigued with Boyce’s whole wheat chocolate chip cookies – the whole wheat flour gives the cookies a nutty taste, and she uses bittersweet chocolate to complement the whole wheat flour. Unlike a lot of cook books, these recipes look really new, and unlike anything I’ve encountered before.
These muffins use a one to one ratio of white flour to whole wheat flour, which keeps them from being too dense. The sweet potato keeps them incredibly moist – in fact, I think I should have baked these a bit longer, as the centers sunk down after I took them out of the oven. I liked how the earthy flavor of the whole wheat flour balanced against the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, although I think that they could have used a bit more depth of flavor. I only added a teaspoon of cinnamon, rather than the tablespoon the recipe calls for, since I didn’t want the cinnamon to overpower the other flavors in the muffins. Next time I might try to add maple syrup or molasses, to make them just a touch sweeter and round out the flavors. Also, since I shop at the crappy Safeway, I wasn’t able to get the Medjool dates called for in the original recipe. I substituted golden raisins instead.
In general, though, I loved these muffins – I loved how moist they were, and I loved how they take a nutty flavor from the whole wheat flour, but a lighter, fluffier texture from the white flour. The spices add interest, and bring out the flavor of the sweet potato. Toasted and spread with a little butter, they’d be a great, healthful, and, dare I say it – even sexy – addition to a breakfast spread.
Sweet Potato Muffins
Adapted from Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood
Makes 12 muffins
2 small sweet potatoes (should weigh 3/4 pound total)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup boiling water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet for 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, until soft when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let cool, then peel. Leave whole.
Lower oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit while you make the rest of the batter.
Sift whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Whisk back any pieces of grain that remained in the sifter, along with the kosher salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and yogurt.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy – about three minutes, scraping down sides as needed. Add egg and half of the sweet potatoes and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture on low speed and mix until partly combined. Add buttermilk mixture and mix until combined.
Drain raisins. Scatter over the top of batter and mix until evenly distrubted. Add remaining sweet potatoes and mix until combined.
Scoop batter into muffin tins with an ice cream scoop or spoon – the batter should be slightly mounded above the edge.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm – ideally right after they’re out of the oven.