Want to make these muffins now? Click here to find the blueberry bran muffins recipe.
Finally, something baked on the blog! I know, I know, it’s been quite a while. I think the last thing I baked were those little rhubarb biscuits back in June. June, people! It feels good to be back to my usual “baking all week long” schedule. Oh, how I missed preheating my oven to 350ºF. Still, even though I haven’t been baking, I’m pretty pleased that I now have a whole shelf that is overflowing with jars and jars of homemade preserves. Totally worth the baking break when I look at all the jam jars up there. To get back into baking mode, I thought I’d test out one of the cookbooks that Raincoast Books sent me. So, for the past week or so, I’ve been baking my way through Joanne Chang’s latest book entitled “Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar” (available on Amazon and Amazon Canada) because I
am was a baker that firmly believed that every gram of granulated white sugar was absolutely necessary and that not even a teaspoon of it could be spared. I think a lot of bakers would agree. I went into this review with a little skepticism, and I wouldn’t necessarily have believed any of it if it weren’t for Joanne Chang’s name on the cover (remember I tried out her recipe for coffee cake from her first Flour bakery cookbook). She’s good and I trust her.
The book is divided into five chapters around the various ways of reducing or eliminating white sugar from baked goods. So, the book opens with a chapter about drastically reducing the white sugar because that is the first thing I think most people try to do when they are trying to bake a little “healthier.” Then follows a chapter about using chocolate instead of sugar to sweeten chocolate baked goods without adding any sugar (because chocolate has some added sugar to begin with, so why add more?) . There’s a chapter about sweetening with honey instead of white sugar, and another about using maple syrup and molasses. The book closes on the topic of “Fruit is Sweet”, a concept that has been explored by others, but I don’t think to the extent that Chang has.
To test this book, I chose to make three of the recipes: one recipe from the first chapter about reducing the white sugar (these blueberry bran muffins with only 1/3 cup sugar in 12 muffins!), one recipe from the chapter using fruit instead of sugar to sweeten baked goods (pecan-date shortbread cookies sweetened with, you guessed it, dates), and a final recipe that is sweetened with honey (fresh peach ricotta tart with 4 tablespoons of honey total for a 10-inch tart). When you look at the quantity of sugar and sweet in most recipes (including mine), and then you look at the recipes in this book, it honestly seems like the recipes in this cookbook can’t work or that they shouldn’t work. I expected that the results wouldn’t be good and that the baked goods would taste bland or under-sweetened. Right? Because granulated sugar plays so many important rolls from preserving and adding moisture to baked goods, keeping them from drying out. Sugar lightens the crumb and allows you to incorporate more air into batters. Sugar brings out the flavour of food. See, clearly I’m a big fan of sugary baked goods with good reason.
All three recipes I tried were big hits. I didn’t miss the sugar (and neither did my family and friends), and I’d honestly make everything again. Overall, I noted that I had to bake the shortbread a little extra than the recommended time to dry them out a little more, and for the blueberry bran muffins, next time I might try using a half cup less of blueberries just because a couple of the muffins seemed overwhelmed with blueberries (and consequently a little harder to get out of the pan). For the peach tart, I was blown away by the all-butter crust recipe made in a stand mixer instead of by hand or in a food processor, but I wish there was an extra step in the blind-baking towards the end, without the beans, to better dry out the bottom of the crust. I love that the book has measurements in cups and grams, especially that Chang fills her cup of flour differently than I do: when I weigh out a cup of flour, it’s about 125 grams, but when Chang reports her flour measurements, 1 cup is 140 grams, which is a tablespoon-or-so more, and that could make a difference in some of the recipes. By the way, Chang’s conversion of cups of flour to grams is the same as America’s Test Kitchen uses. My only complaint about the book is in the “Fruit is Sweet” chapter, while I appreciate opting for a supposedly more “natural” source of sweetness, like dates, I don’t think we should kid ourselves here: using fruit juice concentrate isn’t ideal either and it is full of sugar, even if it’s not added sugar. Still, I think this book is a big step in the right direction, and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned, and of course, more books from Joanne Chang.
You can get your hands on Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar on Amazon and Amazon Canada, and you can also try to win a copy in this giveaway!
Raincoast Books wants to send one of you (with a mailing address in Canada or the US) a copy of Joanne Chang’s awesome book Baking With Less Sugar!
To enter this giveaway:
- Leave me a comment below telling me if you usually cut the sugar in your baking recipes, or do you substitute honey or maple syrup for the granulated sugar? Does cutting or swapping out the sugar tend to work for you? I want to know what your experience has been!
- For an added bonus, tweet about the giveaway to your followers: ” There’s a #bakingwithlesssugar giveaway on @ktchnhealssoul! Enter here:http://bit.ly/KHSBakingLessSugarGA” and don’t forget to leave me a link to your tweet in a separate comment below!
Contest is now closed.
Contest closes on Monday, August 24th, 2015, at 11:59 PM. Winner will be chosen at random via random.org.
Blueberry bran muffins recipe
Blueberry bran muffins
Low sugar blueberry bran muffins are perfect for breakfasts and snacks. These blueberry muffins are loaded with blueberries and not too sweet.
- 245 grams all-purpose flour 1 3/4 cups
- 60 grams wheat bran 1 cup
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 70 grams sugar 1/3 cup
- 115 grams unsalted butter 1/2 cup, melted and at room temperature
- 120 grams whole milk 1/2 cup, at room temperature
- 180 grams crème fraîche 3/4 cup, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 375 grams blueberries 2 1/2 cups, fresh or frozen)
Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup muffin tin, coat with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, wheat bran, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche and vanilla until well-combined. Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the dry ingredients and fold gently, using a rubber spatula, just until the ingredients are combined. Gently fold in the blueberries until the fruit is distributed well. The batter may seem lumpy, but don’t try to smooth it out.
Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop a heaping 2/3 cup batter into each prepared cup of the muffin tin, filling the cups to the brim (almost overflowing) and making sure the cups are evenly filled. You might think you have too much batter, but you can fill these to overflowing and then you will get nice tops on your muffins. (If you prefer smaller muffins, spoon about 1/2 cup batter into each cup and decrease the baking time to 25 to 35 minutes. You will get up to 18 smaller muffins.)
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the muffins are entirely golden brown on top and they spring back lightly when you press them in the centre. There’s a lot of fruit in these muffins, so make sure you bake them enough so the insides of the muffins don’t get soggy. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, and then remove them from the pan.
Raincoast Books offered me one copy of this book, plus the opportunity to host a giveaway. As always, please know that I wouldn’t work with a sponsor nor recommend a product if it wasn’t worth it. I tested three recipes from the book before coming to the conclusion that this book is awesome.