Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ginger-Peach Oat Bran Muffins

Peaches are in season—hallelujah! And you know how it goes: You get a big mess of ’em, then soon discover that your strategy of “doling out” those precious, special gems isn’t working—you wake up a few mornings later to find they’re getting softer than they ought to.

And this is why people bake with fresh peaches. Otherwise, you would just suck them up raw, like you should’ve done in the first place!

And anyway, it’s time to share with you a new oat bran muffin recipe! Click here to see the ones I’ve posted so far.

Here’s why I’m addicted to oat bran muffins: They’re delicious, compact, and portable. They’re filling without being fattening (that is, they have lots of fiber), but they never make me feel, well, bloated. With all that fiber, it’s good for the, ah, digestion. And then there’s the whole oat-bran/cholesterol thing.

Also, I believe one or two oat bran muffins, plus some good, fresh fruit, makes an excellent breakfast for losing weight (kind of like “Slim Fast,” minus the spooky additives and outrageous price tag). Great for snacking, too.

Ginger-Peach Oat Bran Muffins

As I’ve mentioned before, the basic recipe’s a blank slate that can be taken in all sorts of flavorful directions, and I can make up mixes ahead of time, making a morning’s baking very easy.

Note that the basic recipe doesn’t include the egg yolks, and uses instead only two tablespoons of vegetable oil (or olive or canola—your choice). Additional liquid can be skim milk or 2 percent, or evaporated skim milk, or low-fat yogurt, or fruit juice . . . take your pick.

So, here’s the basic recipe (for convenience, I usually buy a big bag of oat bran at the bulk store, then make up several batches with the dry ingredients, then store in the fridge in zip bags):

(((Preheat oven at 425 degrees F)))

2 1/4 c. oat bran cereal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. brown sugar

To the basic dry ingredients, I add these special flavors for this recipe:

--1/4 or 1/3 cup chopped candied ginger (see below)
--a small pinch of ground cloves (optional)

In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients:

--3 egg whites, or equivalent in egg substitute
--2 tbs. vegetable oil
--3 very ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and mashed, including all their juices

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then stir to combine. If necessary, add additional liquid (yogurt, milk, water, etc.); consistency should be similar to corn muffin batter.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins (use paper muffin cups or spray with Pam). (Makes 1 dozen.)

Bake for about 13 minutes and check; they might need to go for about 15 or 17 minutes total. Don’t overcook them. They’re done when they’re a little golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

About Candied Ginger

Oh, yum! If you haven’t yet “discovered” candied ginger, you’re in for a real treat! For baking, it’s a wonderful “secret weapon.” Baking tends to mellow its intensity and bring out its pure sweetness. I like to add chopped candied ginger to a pumpkin pie. Ooh, I bet it’d be good with cooked sweet potatoes or butternut squash, if you’re taking it in the “brown sugar/cinnamon” direction.

Also, I think it’s delicious as a zippy little snack—sweet and hot, very intense!—or as an addition to a really good cheese platter, just like you might include a few dried apricots or nice big golden raisins. A little goes a long way.

(Okay, now my mouth is watering!)

Where do you get candied ginger? Well, you can often buy little bitty jars of it in the “spices” section of a regular supermarket—for an arm and a leg! Seriously, that’s too dear for general cooking. Like cardamom, candied ginger is something worth going to an international grocery or bulk store for.

You can buy bulk candied ginger at Global Foods in St. Louis, for instance, or at the Dutch Bakery in Tipton. The price might vary widely, from three to five dollars a pound, but this is more or less like the price of dried apricots, so it’s not outrageous (and still better than buying it off a supermarket spice rack). Like raisins, candied ginger keeps well on a shelf, and it’s great to have on hand for any number of purposes, so I encourage you to try it out!

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