FRUITY OAT BULLDOGS
Not really a typical muffin—not at all a cupcake—neither a scone nor a brownie. In my effort to create a delicious, honestly healthy, and easy-to-make gluten-free breakfast or brunch treat, this little creation sprung from the oven and found its way onto my dish. It was yummy and because of its stubby, compact nature, it reminded me of a little bulldog. Though it’s a strange name for a muffin-like goody, bulldog it is! Aside from the awesome flavor and delightfully dense texture, these treats are a snap to assemble–a bowl and a processor does the job and cleanup is almost instant!
Loaded with spices, made without flour, and sweetened only with dates, these unique muffin-like cakes have many additional guilt-free features: no added fats like margarine or oil, plenty of soluble fiber from old-fashioned rolled oats, and crunchy, chopped hazelnuts or almonds to help lower cholesterol. One recipe will make two lucky people on your gift list the recipients of a half-dozen Bulldogs each. To spread the joy even further, follow the suggestion below to create four dozen adorable little mini muffins and package them in small gift boxes tied with holiday ribbons.
If you decide to make the bulldogs ahead of the holidays and want to freeze them for your own family, put them into heavy-duty ziplock bags and tuck them into the freezer for up to three months. To warm them for breakfast or brunch, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Take the bulldogs right from the freezer, put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and warm for 17 to 20 minutes.
Releasing the Perfect Muffin
I’ve made many a muffin that either sticks to the metal muffin tins or doesn’t come out clean from the parchment baking cups. But I’ve found perfection in silicone baking pans–and they don’t even need to be oiled. They come in several shapes for other baking needs like loaf pans and cake pans. The secret is adjusting the baking times to the silicone pans and allowing the muffins to cool completely before removing them from the pan.
FRUITY OAT BULLDOGS
Yield: 1 dozen
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup almonds or hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, snipped in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup mashed bananas
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon mild vinegar (rice, cider, or distilled vinegar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon caramel extract
1 1/4 cups vanilla or regular soymilk
12 whole almonds
12 dates, cut in half
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line 2 six-section muffin tins with baking cups. Alternatively, use an ungreased, 12-section silicone muffin pan. Place the muffin pans on a large rimmed baking sheet for easy handling.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, cloves, and salt and mix well.
- Put the almonds in a heavy-duty plastic bag and use a hammer or a 1-pound can to chop them coarsely. Add the chopped almonds to the bowl.
- Create a coarse date puree by putting the dates into the food processor. With the machine running, drizzle in the water. Pulse and process until the dates are coarsely pureed.
- Add the mashed bananas, vinegar, vanilla extract, and caramel extract to the date puree. With the machine running, slowly pour in the soymilk and process briefly, just until the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Fill the muffin pans using the entire batter. They will be slightly overfull.
- To garnish, poke 1 almond into the center of each muffin and push 2 date halves into each muffin next to the almond. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from the pans.
The date puree measures 1 cup.
For a touch more spice, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
Turn your one-dozen muffins into four dozen of the cutest little mini muffins you’ve ever seen by baking them in mini muffin pans. Baked in metal mini pans, the muffins will be done in about 12 to 16 minutes. The silicone mini muffin pans make slightly larger minis and will bake in about 15 to 18 minutes.
To prepare well ahead of the holidays, put the baked mini muffins on metal or plastic dishes or trays and put them, uncovered, into the freezer. When completely frozen, transfer the muffins to a heavy-duty plastic bag and seal tightly. Defrost the muffins before packaging them for gift giving.