Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Coffee cake muffins--a win from a fail

Yes, I do like to post my fails.  I think it shows people that none of us are perfect and that even the one who's presenting themselves as the awesomest expert on a subject (which is NOT me) can and does mess things up.  But this time, I was able to make a win from a fail. 

First--I've done this before.  I found that using yogurt in baking makes for a moister cake, tea bread, or muffin.  (It also makes for a much better quiche if you're making a crustless quiche in the oven.)

This muffin was a modified version of my mother's fantastic sour cream cake.  It's very modified--to make the cake, you have to cream one stick of softened butter with a cup of sugar, which I did not do here, and yes, you add sour cream.  However, this did turn out well.  Here is what I did:

1) Invite friends over for brunch.

2) Decide you want to make yogurt.  Buy whole milk because your luck in making a  thick yogurt hasn't been the best lately.

3) Attempt to make the yogurt.

4) At the end of the incubation period, unwrap the blankets from your crockpot and lift the lid to see runny, drinkable yogurt. Mutter naughty words under your breath, unless it's just you and the cat, in which case, feel free to use your outside voice.

5) Consider making smoothies for everyone.

6) Realize that you don't have anything sweet to eat (it was going to be homemade yogurt and frozen fruit) and go searching in your freezer for the last bag of shredded zucchini to make zucchini muffins.

7) Realize after looking in your nearly-empty freezer that actually, you already used the last bag. See part two of step four.

8) Decide that you'll try to make a coffee cake muffin instead.  Follow the universal muffin recipe from The Tightwad Gazette and add a cup of the yogurt instead of your usual sour cream (recipe below).

9) WIN.

Okay, here's the recipe:

Mix 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups of flour with 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  Add one cup of runny FAIL yogurt, 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Stir well until everything is blended.  Fill muffin cups only halfway.  Spoon half of a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar to one teaspoon cinnamon mixed with a cup of walnuts onto the batter in the cups.  Cover each cup with the rest of the batter.  Sprinkle the rest of the mix on the tops of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

These are more like mini coffee cakes, so no butter is needed.

For Amy Dacyczyn's universal muffin recipe (expanded):

Grain: Use 2 to 2 1/2 cups of white flour. Or substitute oatmeal, cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, rye flour, or flake cereal for 1 cup of the white flour. Or substitute 1 cup cooked oatmeal, rice, or cornmeal for 1/2 cup of the white flour and decrease liquid to 1/2 cup.

Milk: Use 1 cup. Or substitute buttermilk or sour milk (add a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk). Or substitute fruit juice for part or all of the milk.

Fat: Use 1/4 cup vegetable oil or 4 tablespoons melted butter or margarine. Or substitute crunchy or regular peanut butter for part or all of the fat. The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a "wet addition."

Egg: Use 1 egg. Or substitute 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour and 1 tablespoon of water. If using a cooked grain, separate the egg, add the yolk to the batter, beat the white until stiff, and fold into the batter (Amy later gives a better method for fluffing up batter with cooked grain, which I will give a little later).

Sweetener: Use between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup sugar. Or substitute up to 3/4 cup brown sugar. Or substitute up to 1/2 cup honey or molasses, and decrease milk to 3/4 cup.

Baking Powder: Use 2 teaspoons. If using whole or cooked grains or more than 1 cup of additions, increase to 3 teaspoons. If using buttermilk or sour milk, decrease to 1 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

Salt: Use 1/2 teaspoon, or omit if you have a salt-restricted diet.

The following ingredients are optional. Additions can be used in any combination, up to 1 1/2 cups total. If using more than 1 cup of wet additions, decrease the milk to 1/2 cup.

Dry Additions: Nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut, and so on.

Moist Additions: Blueberries, chopped apple, freshly shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, and so on.

Wet Additions: Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed cooked sweet potato, mashed banana, mashed cooked carrot, and so on. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk.

Spices: Use spices that compliment the additions, such as 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or cloves. Try 2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon peel.

Jellies and Jams: Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 teaspoon jam or jelly and top with 2 more tablespoons batter.

Topping: Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the batter in the tins.

Nonsweet Combinations: Use only 2 tablespoons sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 3 strips fried-and-crumbled bacon, 2 tablespoons grated onion, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Spices could include a teaspoon of parsley and a pinch of marjoram.

To make muffins, combine dry ingredients, and then mix in wet ingredients until just combined; the batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin tin and fill cups two thirds full. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (give or take 5 minutes).

Shorthand version:
2 to 2 1/2 cups grain
1 cup milk
Up to 1/4 cup fat
1 egg
Up to 1/2 cup sweetener
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Up to 1 1/2 cups additions


  1. Looks delicious but I'm low carbing it right now. Torture!!!!!

    1. Ah! I'll bet the yogurt would make for a nice kale smoothie!

  2. Hi Pamela,
    I've been trying to unravel the mystery as to why yogurt making turns out for some people but not others. Can I ask you some questions? Was your milk regular pasteurized, or ultra-pasteurized? What did you use for starter, and how much and was it fairly fresh? Did you use a thermometer and heat the milk to a specific temp? And did you then cool it to a certain temp? Did you incubate the yogurt at about 120 F?

    Sorry about all these questions. I'm just trying ti figure this out. Good save, BTW!

    1. You're supposed to heat the milk to 180 degrees to kill off any competing organisms--I might not have gotten it up that high. I incubated it at 118 degrees. I used regular pasteurized milk, not ultra-pasteurized. I used yogurt I bought that day. And I put it in a preheated slowcooker (now turned off) and wrapped it well with blankets.

    2. Thanks for answering my questions. This is just one of those things that's bugging me. So I ask everyone who makes yogurt, what they're doing and how it turns out. I do know that it's hard to get the milk up to 180 F (by hard, it takes a really long time to do without scorching). I have tried to speed up the heating part by microwaving the milk. But what happens then is the yogurt is thinner, I think because the milk hasn't had as much time, while heating, to evaporate and condense, as it does when I'm heating it on the stove in an open stockpot. Good luck with your next batch.

  3. Very good recoup. You may not consider yourself and "expert" (really...who is?) but this kind of out-of-the-box thinking is what "makes" an expert, IMO.

    HAVE I heard your "outside voice?" Frankly, the thought of it makes me scared and after going off in close range, I'm betting that kitty doesn't come out from under the chair for *hours*!

    1. Ducee thought it was a great show, Steve. She was all, "Silly human, you should eat a mouse."

  4. It's good to hear that sometimes things just don't work out in the kitchen, and that I'm not alone. :) These muffins look yummy. For whatever it's worth, I have also found that you can substitute buttermilk for sour cream or yogurt and you get a tender, moist baked product as a result (I bake a lot w/buttermilk to reduce the overall fat content of my baked goods and still have it taste good!).

  5. Substituting yogurt for sour cream is one of my favorite kitchen tricks. The first time I tried it, I totally messed up flipping the bundt cake out of the pan...presentation was anything but a 10. :p I wouldn't even consider trying to make my own yogurt! I'll have to think about it, but will be prepared for my own epic fail.