I have toyed around with the idea of baking with alternative flours for some time now. Not so much because alternative flours are healthier than the good old wheat flour (but hey, all the extra protein and fiber in them are a bonus), but because I wanted to explore how various flour imparted different textures and flavours to baked goods.
The idea came to me when I picked up Love Bake Nourish: Healthier cakes, bakes and puddings full of fruit and flavour by Amber Rose from the library. I did not actually get to test any recipes from the book but reading it introduced me to the types of flour I could bake with instead of wheat, and one of them was spelt.
I personally found spelt quite forgiving to work with. For one, spelt contains gluten, which makes it easier to play with as a substitution for wheat flour in recipes as compared to other alternative flours that have no gluten. It still took me by surprise that the experiment with spelt turned out right on the first try though! The one thing I would do differently next time is not to toast the pecans that are baked on top of the muffins.
Sometimes when experimenting recipes, I would scour my pantry for open packets of ingredients – nuts, dried fruit – and toss them in, cross my fingers and hope for the best. I found some leftover pecans from my Christmas bakes, so I lightly toasted them out of habit to use them in the recipe. My initial thought was to bake them in the muffin. After the muffin batter was mixed and ready for the oven, I thought – hey! maybe some oats would be nice too. That was when I changed my mind and decided maybe sprinkling oats, pecans and raw sugar on top of the muffin would be nice.
And it was, the muffins baked up beautifully – the chopped nuts, oats and sugar created a slightly sweetened crunchy topping that contrasted with the rest of the muffin. Just that baking chopped toasted nuts on top of a muffin was a silly thing. You don’t see the slightly burnt pecan bits because I picked them out… The bigger pecan pieces survived the re-bake just fine though.
The muffins have a nutty undertone because of the spelt, which was complimented by the toasted oats and pecans. They also have a tight crumb, and even though the spelt gave them a lighter texture, eating one was strangely satisfying. I personally love these as breakfast muffins, as they are only lightly sweetened , great for re-toasting and slathered with butter or jam.
Take a look.
Spelt Muffins with Oats and Pecans
– Makes 9 2-1/2 inch muffins
1 cup (125g) flour light spelt flour*
1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour*
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup (50g) butter, cold and cubed
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (90g) castor sugar
1/3 cup (60g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (80ml) whey**
2 eggs (100g)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup (50g) pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (larger pieces are better!)
3 tbsp (18g) rolled oats
1 – 2 tbsp (15 – 30g) raw sugar for sprinkling on top
1. Preheat oven to 175°C / 350°F. Line your muffin pans with cupcake liners.
2. In a bowl, mix together light spelt flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Rub the cubed butter into the flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal. Mix in the caster and brown sugar before setting this aside.
4. In a separate bowl, beat together the whey or buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract until well combined.
5. Combine both parts by adding the whey mixture into the flour mixture. Mix the batter just until you can no longer see any streaks of flour. Divide this into your lined muffin pan.
6. Top each muffin with the oats and pecans, and bake them for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
7. Leave the muffins to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, before removing them from the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.
*I used light spelt flour from Bob’s Red Mill. I have tried this recipe with all 180g light spelt flour and though the muffins baked out fine, they were slightly denser and chewier due to the lower amounts of gluten in the recipe. The addition of the all-purpose flour gave the muffins more structure that resulted in a lighter muffin, which I preferred. You can play around with the ratio of spelt to wheat flour and find a balance that you like!
**I used whey here because I had some leftover from making cottage cheese. You can substitute this with buttermilk or yoghurt.