Blueberry muffins, hot from the oven, made with fresh blueberries
For me, blueberry muffins are a seasonal delight. I only use fresh blueberries, so I eagerly await the first blueberries of the season. This is a sunny summer treat. 🙂 I have for some time wondered how I could veganize my favorite recipe and still have a muffin as awesome as I’m used to. I’ve tried a lot of vegan baking recipes, and if they are something that traditionally have eggs in them, the recipes — no matter how well known the cookbook author is, or how many rave reviews the book got — well, they all, invariably turned out flat and godawful. (Vegan scones — which I’ve done here on the blog — are a different matter because they aren’t something that usually has egg, and substituting soy milk for dairy milk is perfectly fine.)
Before tackling this conversion I did some research on leavening. Because a lot of the problems vegan recipes have can be traced back to the lack of rising. A few ah-ha moments later and I was ready to make awesome vegan blueberry muffins! There are a few basic things you need to understand and then maybe you’ll brave converting your favorite muffins, too! The ingredients absolutely, must be at room temperature. You see this noted in cookbooks on baking all the time, but unless I’m baking a cake, I never did it. (Why I made the exception for cakes, I don’t know. Some weird cooking quirk of mine.) Why is the temperature important? The baking powder is activated by heat. If you start with a fairly cool mixture and there’s no eggs to give it any extra “oof”, then the baking powder may not be able to overcome the coolness enough, especially if you’re not baking it in a really hot oven. Yeah, it’s the heat thing again. Higher temperatures make the baking powder go “boom” and lots of instant heat makes it act fast before it loses its potency in the mixture (or something like that). So, preheat that oven! Also, I changed the oven temperature and cooking time to be a much hotter oven and a much shorter cooking time. Again, to give the baking powder as much help as I could. Muffins are acidic and that works well with modern baking powders; that’s part of what makes it “go”. Keep that in mind when you’re veganizing your recipes. The other big thing is air bubbles. I just whipped the hell out of the margarine (I used Smart Balance Original) and sugar. Mixtures need microbubbles because that’s what expands when the baking powder does its thing. On the other hand, muffins shouldn’t be mixed much once you start adding flour because then gluten starts forming and it screws up the muffin’s texture. Because vegan muffins don’t have eggs, mixing the whole mess like mad when you add the flour will only make the texture problem worse.
So, to recap: everything at room temperature, preheat oven, beat things well before you get to the stage of adding the flour, mix minimally once you add flour, pop it into a really hot oven. I hope all the above will help you troubleshoot vegan recipes and create your own.
Minor Rant: By the way, these muffins will not have that nuclear mushroom cloud type of muffin top. They will have a nice rounded dome like normal muffins should. If you make muffins and they are spilling over the edge when baked and look like a mushroom, then you are doing something wrong. Prior to gigantic deformed muffins coming in plastic packages, a good well-formed muffin had a nice domed top, with no edges going over the edge of the cups. Muffins that were so big that the tops spilled over the edges were considered to be muffins made by neophyte bakers who didn’t know what they were doing and over-filled the cups. Then some corporation decided to market gigantic deformed mushroom shaped muffins as if they were a Gift From God, and suddenly everyone thinks that muffins are supposed to have gigantic tops that can’t be contained in the muffin cup. I’ve been making muffins for decades, all types of muffins, and if you fill the muffin cups according to the directions on any recipe created prior to the corporate we-must-have-mushroom-shaped-muffins fad you’ll get muffins that have a nice raised dome rising up from the edge of the cup, but not spilling over it. It’s sort of shocking how quickly, and almost totally, corporations have managed to change people’s entire idea of what a muffin looks like. Suddenly people think that ol’ fashioned traditional muffins don’t look right because they’re not deformed! [shakes head]
This makes 18 muffins. I use 2 muffin pans: one dozen, plus a half dozen.
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 flax eggs (see below)
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup soy milk
3 cups organic all purpose flour
1 pint fresh blueberries
Let all ingredients get to room temperature. If you don’t, your muffins may end up flat (ish).
Make flax eggs: Grind flax seed in coffee grinder or use flax meal. I’ve made flax eggs using flax seeds and also using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Flax Meal. Though the ground flax looks different depending on whether I ground it myself or used the pre-ground meal, I didn’t notice any discernible difference in the result. Mix 2 Tbls flax power with 6 Tbls water in a small bowl. Stir, then let set for at least 15 minutes. Stir again before adding to mixture.
Preheat oven 425.
Prepare muffin tins by greasing the cups, putting in paper liners, or putting in silicone liner cups. (I use silicone liners.)
Beat together softened margarine and sugar on medium speed. Do this for a couple of minutes, stopping to gently scrape down the sides of the bowl at least twice. The mixture should be light with a soft almost fluffy texture. This is an important step and shouldn’t be hurried because you’re whipping in tiny air bubbles which will help the muffins rise and give it a good texture.
Beat in 2 flax eggs, also on medium speed until mixture is smooth and creamy.
Add baking powder, salt, and vanilla. If you want to add nutmeg here you can, but the flavor is much better with the nutmeg on top.
Mix in 1/4 cup of smashed berries and juice.
Gently mix in 1 cup flour, then a splash of milk, alternating flour and milk until you’ve added it all. You should do this quickly, mixing as little as possible. Like all muffin recipes, mix just enough for it to come together a bit, otherwise you’ll have a tough muffin. Lumps are fine. Gently fold in the rest of the blueberries.
Divide batter evenly between 18 muffin cups. Sprinkle liberally with nutmeg.
Bake 18-21 mins (your mileage may vary) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool long enough that you can handle them and eat them without damaging yourself. Pour a nice cup of tea and enjoy! 🙂