December 7th, 2009

Gingerbread Flax Muffins

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There’s another kind of seasonal eating that’s not so much about being environmentally friendly but about emotional connections. Eating pumpkin in August just doesn’t feel right, ditto for strawberries in December. I like how my senses are tied to the time of year; scent and taste seem to hang onto memory in a very specific way that photographs or recollection can not. Think of the way the first breath of spring air sneaks its way into the crevices of your mind, suddenly awaking all the sleepy springs of years gone by.

And so for 11 months of the year, I am basically building up a lust for gingerbread. One bite and suddenly I’m a little girl just the perfect height for ogling all the beautiful cookies in a Brooklyn bakery case. I’m a teenager cutting out of school with my friends and making snow angels in Central Park instead. I’m in my twenties baking up my first pan of gingerbread, and the kitchen smells so warm and cozy it’s as if I had a fireplace, but in reality my apartment doesn’t even have heat. Our taste buds are as close to a time machine as we’re ever going to get.

All season I sneak gingerbread into pretty much everything; lattes, waffles, cookies of course and these muffins. They are low enough in fat and sugar to be vaguely appropriate as a breakfast, but still sweet enough to feel like a special wintery treat. Note that this is a recipe for only 6 muffins, I do so much baking all month that if I’m baking for myself I do smaller batches. Feel free to double the recipe if you like! If you’re looking for a more healthy tasting muffin, do the whole wheat pastry flour. Flax not only adds a healthy touch, but it also works to bind a leaven the muffins, making them nice and fluffy. If you’re looking for something more traditional tasting, do the all purpose white flour.

Gingerbread Flax Muffins
Makes 6 muffins

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your preferred non-dairy milk)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons ground flax seed

1 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour or all purp flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup light molasses
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

First measure out the milk. Mix the apple cider and ground flax seed directly into the measuring cup and stir vigorously with a fork for about a minute. That helps to bring out the oils of the flax seeds while the vinegar thickens and curdles the milk. Both of those things will help the muffin to rise.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

Make a well in the center and add the milk mixture. Add in the oil, applesauce, molasses, sugar and vanilla. Use a wooden spoon to mix ingredients together until everything is just moistened. Don’t overmix, it’s okay if the batter is a little lumpy, muffins like that.

Fill muffin tins most of the way full. Bake for about 22 minutes, until tops are puffed up and firm and a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

When cool enough to handle, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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