Wednesday, January 23, 2013

dark chocolate prune muffins (vegan and wheat free)

Boy, did this post give me a headache. I sieved it repeatedly, hoping to filter out the acrimony and distil its essence into six short paragraphs. Didn't work. Headache notwithstanding, I'm ecstatic, in the wild eyed way only another obsessed foodie could be, or would understand. I didn't make a better wheel, or frying pan. I did hit pay dirt in my happy quest to bring you easy, delicious, healthier and accessible recipes that nourish body and soul, respect your wallet and trouble the conscience a little less, while continuing to showcase the foods I grew up eating and still love. At least, it started out happy.

I want to help you eat well, without discounting nutrition, pleasure or comfort, while avoiding the kind of culinary elitism and politicism and gratuitous foodie glamour that I keep painfully colliding into, when searching for viable alternatives to mainstream diets.

More than a few people out there, seem bent on convincing us that without what they don't seem to realise are rare, unwieldy, and very often expensive ingredients to many of us, we can't eat well, healthier or more conscionably. It's easy to think, if you believe everything you read, that animal rights activists, vegans, vegetarians, gluten abstainees and the well fed are all wealthy enough to not only afford the select and rarefied ingredients they allow into their unsullied digestive systems, but to probably also pay someone to trudge up hill, down dale, and  twice around the organic mulberry bush, to procure them.

The simple, beautiful truth is that healthier, conscionable, more inclusive cooking and shredded bank accounts or annoyingly poncy ingredients are not joined at the hip, and I am intensely, ridiculously gratified to tell you this is the only time you will see here, terms like "cold pressed", "organic", "grass fed", "fleur de sel" or "avocado oil" and their ilk. Am I giving you too much credit if I think you're perfectly capable of deciding whether you want your coffee organic or affordable, without my blatant specification in my recipe? I'm all for kinder animal husbandry, wholesome ingredients, culinary diversity, fair trade, community supported agriculture and local, seasonal produce but I have more immediate, pressing issues to contend with, like procurement challenges, a near total absence of local produce, five mouths to feed daily and a wallet that's sadly not bottomless. My choice then is to personally avoid eating cheaper, sad cows, instead of paying more than I can sustainably afford for grass fed, though my family often eats beef. My point is everyone's entitled to live by their convictions; no one has any right to impose guilt on those who don't subscribe to the same, however noble those convictions.

I need to eat, I want to eat and live, harming as few and helping as many as my circumstances allow. If it's not too much to ask, I'd like to open a magazine or click on a link without being zealously pummelled on the head with the notion that I'm villainously unfeeling because I didn't bother to ensure the slice of steak on my fork was grass fed, the chicken on my plate had more than an A4 sheet sized patch to scratch around in and peck at, before it ended up on my plate, the lettuce in my salad bowl came from the farmer in the dell, three doors left, down the road, and the coffee in my cup is fair trade. These are well intentioned articles about worthy undertakings, but they  leave me cold because they largely ignore individual circumstance. Had the writers taken time to thoroughly research the politics and logistics of our food, or, how it eventually gets on all of our plates, on a global level, they might be surprised to learn of the challenging diversity of situations and often, far less than ideal circumstances around which many, many people form and manage their diets.

Just so you know how sick I am of being preached to for failing to eat local, or choose free range, or lacking the sensitivity to hear the anguished cry of the bay bush I just brutalised by plucking off three leaves for my sayur lodeh, I will very uncharacteristically banish any comment that even remotely reeks of a sermon. I will not be preached to, on my own blog and today, I am just itching to hit "delete".  All questions about the recipe however, will be very happily entertained. Now that my liver is no longer engorged with bile, I can tell you why I still have reason to be ecstatic.

I made a muffin. A proudly pedestrian muffin, with cheap, plebian ingredients, all from the supermarket across the street where I live. A delicious, soft, moist, yielding muffin, with a depth of flavour that completely seduced and overpowered every prejudice and qualm I have ever had about wheat free baking. It squelched damply, when I tore off a chunk, and I almost keeled over from muffin lust. It tasted the way the love child of a Leonidas truffle and an Agen prune might taste, if the gods of deliciousness were smiling down upon it, at the moment of conception. I was almost too overcome to take pictures.

And that ingredient list makes me feel like a proud mama. Not a nasty thing on it. Every component, innocent as a new born babe. Hush now! Chocolate is incapable of  evil. We shall talk no more of it. This muffin is for the vegan, the omnivore and everyone in between (my next book title - hands off!), the lactose challenged, the wheat traumatised, the anaemic, the chocoholic, the budget dependant, the muffin maniac, the hedonist, the health seeker and the hedonistic health seeker. An egalitarian among muffins. I'm nominating it for the Nobel Peace Prize, and I'm only half kidding.

Now that I've come down a bit from cloud nine, I need to tell you something important. These wheat free muffins may still be unsuitable for those with severe gluten intolerance. Pure, unadulterated oat grains are free from gliadin, the most distressing component of gluten for those who have intolerance issues. However, most oat products sold today are contaminated either from proximity to gluten rich grains while growing in the fields, or from being processed by machinery that also processes gluten rich grains like wheat, barley, and rye. To ensure your oat products are truly gluten free buy those that are certified. But, as even certified gluten free oats can significantly trouble a small percentage of gluten intolerant individuals, if you have such issues, you need to decide if this recipe will be suitable for you. I've refrained from pronouncing it "gluten free" for the reasons above.

I hope at least some of you will try these, because they are to me, a wonder and a triumph. If like me, you thought it was impossible to bake a tender, moist and delicious wheat free treat that didn't taste grassy, astringent or strident (I've had a few spectacular failures here) from pungent tasting alternative flours and sugars, not blowing my trumpet here but, you need to try this!

The batter smells wonderful; I couldn't stop nibbling at it. Next time I might make raw truffles from it, because with this recipe, "next times" are inevitable. You old hands at gluten free baking, or raw food diets, are probably sniggering at my naivety, but I'll tell you right now, all those times I saw wheat free or raw dessert and baking recipes, I thought, "no way can those taste good!" Well, I ate my words, they were delicious, and I wanted more, but surprise, surprise! Two of them, at eight in the morning, with a cup of black coffee, kept my mind off food way past lunch and well into tea time.

These muffins may not have come hither looks, or the power to make you break your diet, but that's  a moot point, as even 3 of them in succession, will do your soul, your hips and your heart more good than evil. So get your mixing bowl, make and eat them with pleasure then sleep the sleep of the innocent and dream their sweet, untainted chocolate dreams. Hush now! Chocolate is incapable of evil, remember? If in your happy dream, a goblin pops up and tells you three bees got too close and were crushed in the making of your palm sugar, keep calm and carry on, knowing those bees died a happy and delicious death.

dark chocolate prune muffins (vegan and wheat free)

Prep 15 mins                Cook 25 mins               Makes 10 muffins

100 g (1 cup) oat flour
50 g (1/2 cup) flax seed flour
50 g (1/2 cup) soy flour
50 g (1/3 cup) finely grated palm sugar/gula Melaka/jaggery (or molasses sugar or dark brown sugar)
2 tsp cream of tartar, sieved if lumpy
1 tsp baking soda, sieved if lumpy
½ tsp salt
150 g (1 cup) pitted prunes, sliced
150 g (slightly rounded cup) dark semi sweet mini chocolate chips
200 ml (1 cup) low fat unsweetened soy, rice or almond milk (coconut milk is too heavy)
50 ml (1/4 cup) light vegetable oil (sunflower, grapeseed, or canola)
3 tbsp dark molasses (preferably blackstrap molasses)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven at 190 C (375 F) and line a muffin tray with 10 muffin paper cases.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Sifting is recommended for these heavier flours, but not necessary. Add prunes and chocolate  chips and toss until prune slices are thoroughly coated and separate from each other.

Pour in the milk, oil, molasses and vanilla into the flour mixture and mix quickly and lightly with a large spoon, pulling the dry ingredients into the wet and stopping as soon as you have a well mixed batter. Do not mix beyond this or the muffins will be heavy.

Put a generous ice cream scoop of batter into each muffin case and bake for 25 minutes or until a fine skewer comes out clean from centre of each muffin. Check with skewer after 20 minutes. If muffins darken too quickly, reduce temperature to 180 C (350 F) after the first 15 minutes of  baking.

Remove from oven and cool muffins on a rack. Serve warm with coffee, tea or cold milk. If you're anaemic, have them with a glass of orange juice to improve iron absorption.


  1. Oh...these looks so moist and delicious! I have recently started using flaxmeal and love it. Flax seeds are good too. Over here, they aren't exactly cheap but a little goes a long way.

    1. Oh! They are Biren, they are! I'll admit they look very plain, and not terribly appealing, until you break them open and see the tender, airy and impossibly moist crumb inside. The combination of chocolate and prunes is almost uh...... orgasmic LOL Hubs really enjoyed them and I was very happy they passed his taste test as he doesn't like alternative flours in his beloved sweet treats. Yes, you don't need much flax here in fact, too much will make the batter very gluey and the muffins heavy.

  2. Hi Denise! Going through your recipe post is like reading a story book... But I enjoyed your clever use of words and humour. I have lots to learn from you...

    1. Oh no, no, no! The only thing you can learn from me is how to test your readers' patience and attention span!!! :D I am very loh soh lah, but can't help it. I come from a long and winding line of loh soh people. Thanks for dropping by :)

  3. Ok, to be honest with you, your ingredients this time make me thinking should I spend more money for this little tiny cookies? (without doubt must be delicious) I'm still in the situation between should I save some money or being health "vegan" freak LOL - I try do my best to serve a healthy dish(es) for my family without make my hubby spend more time on the office to make extra money *wink*
    -- today I will try make one of your recipe , Kuih Keria! - I know is not a wise choice since I'm on 3 days green diet (skip one day is not kill me, don't you think ? *wink*

    (don't feel bad, I still love your posting and writing ability)

    1. Hi Fitri - you should only do what you're comfortable with whether it's a life decision or deciding on a recipe. It's the whole point of my post :). Glad you enjoyed it and hope you will like the kueh keria as much as you liked the chocolate date loaf. Happy Thursday!

  4. Denise dear, your vegan muffins sounded absolutely wonderful. Will try it out some time soon and the texture looks really really tempting as well. Very moist instead. thanks for sharing.
    Hope you're having a lovely evening. ((hugs))

  5. The texture on these is incredible and I can see the moisture right through & through. Fabulous. But even more fabulous are your thoughts - you hit on a very important point here - the sitting-on-a-high-horse-one-size-fits-all 'foodie' mentality does not in any way take account individual circumstances and seems to have no middle path.

    I for one hold to doing what I can towards eating healthy (stay away from canned, processed & cook from scratch type of thing) but I refuse to turn into a nutter or set myself down on a pedestal in judgement of every non-grass-fed steak eating person on the planet!

    Well done DENISE & this is why I love you!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    1. Thanks Devaki :) You're always such a sweetheart! These muffins are now my go to treat, when I get an attack of the munchies. You have to try them to believe how good something really healthy can taste. Yes, you get me, you totally get me. And I love you too Devaki!

  6. "I want to help you eat well, without discounting nutrition, pleasure or comfort, while avoiding the kind of culinary elitism and politicism and gratuitous foodie glamour that I keep painfully colliding into, when searching for viable alternatives to mainstream diets."

    Denise I could also quote your entire post. I totally agree! We are sometimes made to feel guilty for not being culinary correct by stuffy and often priviledged holier-than-thou foodies(rolls eyes in air) but we lesser mortals with a budget have to make do with what we have the best we can. I'm just remembering the old days when our mothers and Grandmothers simply whipped up delicious food for us without any of the culinary "awareness" that seems to be a là mode today. But we survived LOL. Yeah I'm old school I guess.

    These muffins look scrumptous and I'll give it a try this weekend but I'll replace the prunes with raisins. We've just come out of a bad snow spell here and these muffins look just the thing to boost the morale.
    I don't like snow btw. I know I know it looks wonderful in movies & in picture postcards but in reality its messy and dangerous. Spoils shoes, the dog & cat won't go out, driving is a nightmare, the heating bill explodes and when the snow melts the streets are muddy & ugly. I don't knock snow lovers of course but its just me folks.
    Thanks for the muffin tip & cheers Denise!

    1. Oh Jean! Don't get me started on the good ole days or you'll see another weepy post next week LOL Just kidding, but thank you for getting the sentiment behind this very long and rather charged post. Two things make me sad - that when I was a kid, we all ate organic, free range and local without even trying. It's just the way things were, the norm. Now you have to be rich to eat that way. The other thing that honestly gave me a shock - there are vegans and animal rights activists who actually think that they should not interact, let alone have relationships with people who eat meat. Wow! I'm kinda speechless about that. Don't know what else to say, except it just made me sad. Anyway, the boxing gloves came off after this post. Being political about my food gives me indigestion ;) From now on, it's just juicy fat calories, lots of chocolate, a prune now and then, sunshine and happiness here....


Please leave a name with your comment. I may not be able to respond to every comment but every recipe related question will be answered.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...