Forty Cent Muffins That Taste Like A Million Bucks

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Chocolate-chip, dried cherry muffins.

 

Muffins – quick to make, easy to pack or eat on the go; What’s not to love? Maybe the fact that they’re the biggest cash grab for fast food chains, cafés and groceries. If you buy them in bulk, sure, you may save more money than picking up a fresh one every morning at the local coffee stand. Even if they’re stored in the freezer to prevent staleness, you’re likely still stuck with one batch of a dozen-plus muffins in the same flavour.

What if I told you there’s a way to save money, make it healthy(ish) and not suffer from Flavour Boredom?

Here’s the punchline: They’re cheaper than store-bought muffins, too! Here’s the breakdown:

At date of publication, the cost of a dozen muffins from Metro comes to: $4.99 for a package of six muffins. That’s $10 for a full dozen, and they contain preservatives, additives and some ingredients that may just not be the freshest. Depending on the size of your bulk ingredients purchase, you can make each muffin for as low as 40 cents each, if not less.

Think about it: A ten kilogram bag costs anywhere from $8 to $12 dollars, and if you’re using simple syrup instead of maple syrup, you reduce the cost further.  It only gets expensive once you’ll start adding posh ingredients (and if you’re buying in bulk, you might not even get too shocking a price.)

I promise you that it takes fifteen minutes to assemble, and cooking time is only 20 minutes on my slow oven.

Fast preparation, no appliances and the closest thing to high technology in this recipe may be the Silpat muffin molds.

(If you don’t have a silicon muffin mold, this still works for people using paper cupcake/muffin liners and metal pans.)

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Maple syrup, table syrup* or simple syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (or canola oil, or grape seed oil. Basically, any oil except olive oil or diesel fuel will do.)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts.

First, turn your oven on to 350F if you’re using Silpat/silicone muffin molds. If not, set the oven to 375 for metal pans, but line them with paper cups, first. You’ll want the oven good and hot while mixing the batter. Pour the flour in to a large bowl, and add your baking soda and baking powder. Feeling fancy? Grate some lemon or orange zest into it, but if you don’t have any, don’t worry about it. Stir it all up.

If you have a large measuring cup, pour your water, vanilla, vegetable oil and syrup all in to it. If you don’t have maple syrup, and making simple syrup sounds like wasting time you don’t have, go with table syrup. Pour it all in to the dry mixture and stir. It may seem runny at first, but it thickens with time. Here’s the trick to making really moist whole wheat muffins: Let the batter sit for at least 10 minutes. (If you’re pressed for time, don’t panic. They’ll still turn out fine.)

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Plain whole wheat muffin on the left, and chocolate chip muffin on the right. Other flavours in the cups included dried cherry, cherry-chocolate and blueberry.

 

Here’s where the fun begins. Fill your muffin cups halfway with batter. Then, add a tablespoon of whatever filling you like. You want blueberry muffins? Dump in enough berries to make the batter rise to the 2/3 full mark. (They need room to rise without overflowing.)

Here are some great flavour combos:

  • Chocolate chips and dried cherries
  • Dried cranberries and candied lemon peel
  • Walnuts and dried apricots
  • Blueberries and sliced blanched almonds (who keeps that in their cupboards?)
  • Sliced up fruit or leftover fruit cocktail.

Make two or three cups the same flavour, that way throughout the week, you’ll be guaranteed a change in muffin. If you really don’t have time for diddling around with all the varieties, stirring them individually in to cups, I don’t blame you. Just dump it all into your bowl and stir with your spoon until it’s all incorporated. Use a ladle, and pour your mix into the muffin tins.

Bake it all for 20 minutes but check on them; if they don’t bounce when tapped lightly then put them in the oven for another few minutes.

*Personally, I try to stay away from HGFCS (High Glucose-Fructose Corn Syrup) for numerous reasons, but if you want to try it on this recipe, go ahead, and post your results. We’re aiming for a low-cost and portable breakfast, so if a bottle of pancake syrup works, go for it.

Simple, Simple Syrup

Ever come across a recipe that calls for simple syrup or bar syrup? Some cakes use it as a glaze to seal in the cake and prevent the icing from softening the pastry. Cocktails often use simple syrup as a sweetener and/or filler.

Frankly, when it comes to Happy Hour, momma doesn’t have time for that.  Let’s get to Happy Hour, and under five minutes, please.

My cocktails have two qualities: Little to no fillers and they must take less time to assemble than to drink.

Every now and then, I’ll come across a posh looking cocktail and think to myself, “now, wouldn’t Slava and I look great drinking this?”  (Okay, so my cocktails have a third quality: They make great colour-coordinated accessories.) Like I said, I don’t have either the patience nor the time for fiddling.  Let’s make Happy Hour last longer than an hour, and I’m not referring to the aftermath of dishes.

Without further ado, here’s the fastest, easiest recipe for Simple Syrup:  Equal parts granulated sugar and water.

That’s it.

Well, we’ve all seen blogs that feature a vintage, blown glass bottle stoppered with an antique cork to store your syrup…but this isn’t that blog.

Here’s the breakdown:

That’s all there is to it, folks. 1/2 cup warm water, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

 

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar (the stuff health nuts beat you over the head with a rolled up newspaper, should you publicly confess to buying or -gasp- eating.)
  1. Pour the water into a mason jar.  They have tight fitting lids, and fit easily into the door of most refrigerators.
  2. Add the water and stir.  If you’re super lazy, and don’t want to bother with rinsing the spoon, just put the lid on the jar and shake. Just stir until you can’t see individual gritty grains at the bottom.
  3. Put it in the fridge, and affect a smarmy tone about how you “never buy store bought bar supplies,” or how you’re “always prepared for cocktail emergencies.”

In a pinch, you can heat it until it turns golden and pour it over pancakes.

Once the syrup looks clear and doesn’t have cloudy sediment on the bottom, you’ve successfully made your simple syrup.

 

No, This Is Not Another Lifestyle Blog.

Ever bought a three dollar muffin and thought to yourself, “I could make this stuff at home for a fraction of the price?”  Did you ever roll your eyes at those earnest ‘It’s-so-easy-to-retire-at-thirty ‘ articles, or cringed at posh lifestyle blogs that used ‘artisanal’ or ‘vintage’ every other word?

This is not that blog.

I hope to update once a week, and feature real-life food, and ways to save money on your groceries, entertainment and maybe even your wardrobe.  Maybe.  I’m not a lifestyle guru, a fashion stylist nor a “homemaking maven,” whatever that is.

I’m your pal.  The one who knows that sometimes, you get tired and overfill the tub, flooding the floors below. The time you would have spent in making a gourmet, Parisian-style picnic contained in an antique wicker basket for your lunch was shortchanged into mopping everything in sight, then passing out cold in your work clothes on the sofa. Upon waking, you had a weird crick in your neck from sleeping in a pretzel pose all night.  You toddle slowly, like a baby Quasimodo, through your morning routine.  You barely had enough time to pick clothes off the floor,  cram yourself into clean clothes, and try to make it to the bus on time, much less make an Instagram-worthy lunch.  All this leads to you buying limp and unexciting salads from the deli at work the next day.

Could happen to anyone.

I’m the blogger who’ll stagger to the coffee machine in mismatched pyjamas, and stare into space for five minutes as her toast burns.   I don’t have cute stories about pets (allergies) so I borrow my neighbour’s cat.  That’s right, I’m a second-hand Crazy Cat Lady.  I do, however, have some great ways to make your lunch un-boring.  I promise not to use the word “artisanal” and I don’t carry my lunch in a handmade vintage pannier from France.  But your lunches will be affordable, and will likely taste better than any mouldering leftovers at the grocery store.