Recently my computer suffered a sudden unexplained and extremely inconvenient demise. As the computer was long past its prime, it was not worth making any attempt to restore the machine and the important piece was the loss of data. With most of my data on a back-up drive, I decided to cut my losses and retrieve what I could from there. This exercise turned into a bit of a trip down memory lane as I sifted through old documents.
Recipes from Another Time
One of the items I came across was a recipe for Chocolate Cranberry Muffins that I had picked up about 20 years ago. I have no idea of the origin of the recipe, but I do recall that I used to make the muffins all the time and thoroughly enjoyed them. It was a recipe that was considered the height of health at the time and made its way round the office photocopy by photocopy. This really dates the recipe, and me, as who photocopies to spread the word anymore!
Since I had not made the muffins for many years, it was a treat to come across the original recipe. Although some of the ingredients are no longer part of my diet, I wanted to share the original and then show how I adapted it to be gluten free and plant-based friendly. The recipe is still delicious in its original format but depending on your preferences, you can pick and choose which variations you want to make.
Original Recipe for Chocolate Cranberry Muffins
- 1 cup spelt flour
- ¼ cup rolled oats
- 1 cup chopped cranberries
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- ¾ cup (120g) mini chocolate chips (optional)
- ½ cup pecans (optional)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tbsp cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 3 tbsp yogurt
- 7 drops orange essential oil
- 3 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mashed banana (3 small)
- Preheat over to 375 °F (190 °C).
- Mix wet ingredients and then add cranberries.
- Mix dry ingredients and then combine with wet ingredients.
- Add to muffin cups and top mixture with a sprinkling of cranberries, pecans and chips, if using.
- Bake for 15 mins for small muffins (about 3 dozen) or 20 to 25 minutes for large (1 dozen) or until golden and crusty.
Variations for Chocolate Cranberry Muffins
Eggs: there are many different ways to replace an egg in baking and each will have a slightly different effect on the finished product. For this recipe, I used chia seeds (1 tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 2.5 tablespoons of water per egg). Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes until glutinous.
Honey: some vegans will only consume honey if it is a produt of “balanced beekeeping” and others will not eat it all. Depending on your preferences, the honey can either be left out completely or replaced with a similar quantity of another sweetener such as maple syrup or brown rice syrup.
Yogurt: there are many plant-based yogurts available and this was replaced by a plain coconut-based yogurt.
Orange oil: as this not a typical kitchen staple, my feeling is that the muffins will survive without this ingredient and for this batch I replaced it with some orange zest which worked well.
Spelt flour: spelt is lower in gluten than most modern flours, however, it is not gluten free. For these muffins, I used the Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 baking flour. However, for other gluten-free options, I also plan on experimenting with a mixture of buckwheat flour, oat flour, almond meal and brown rice flour.
Chocolate chips: I use a dairy free version and these can be made without the chocolate chips if you are concerned about the extra calories. However, if you want to maintain the chocolatey taste without the chips, there is also the option to replace them with about ¼ cup of cacao powder.
While I am all about the “substitutions” in cooking, it is not as simple as that when it comes to baking. All purpose flour gives a good taste, texture and look to baked goods, however, the nutritional value is almost nil except for the vitamins and minerals which are mandatory to add to enrich it. These days it is fairly easy to locate gluten-free flours but the drawback is all-purpose flour can’t be simply replaced by these flours and recipes have to be tweaked to get decent results.
With this recipe, I made about 15 muffins. From what I recall from the original recipe, they did not rise dramatically and so are quite small and dense but, for the most part, they seem to have survived the substitutions. The muffins are great for many occasions such as snacks (with a spoonful of chia jam and/or nut butter), picnics, dessert or even fuel food.
If you make these muffins, I would love to know your experience and if you enjoyed this article, please like and feel free to share.