Stud(ded with good stuff) Muffins

Don’t like carrots; never have. Not since the very first school lunch I ever had, back at Academy Elementary School in Glastonbury, Connecticut in 1959. I still remember the basement lunchroom, institutional-green walls, brown linoleum, the folding tables with attached benches, and the overwhelming smell of cooked… something.

That day, I’d bravely forsaken my red plaid lunchbox filled with comfort food—a Gulden’s mustard sandwich, cookie, and apple—for School Lunch. Egged on by my older brother, Mike, I’d stood in the lunch line, and watched apprehensively as the Lunch Ladies, in their blue nylon dresses and hairnets, plopped food onto thick plastic plates. Hamburger bun: that’s a good start. Sloppy Joe filling on top—well, OK, I can live with that. Next: a square of red Jell-O in its own separate dish. Good; red’s my favorite color. Finally: a big scoop of… cooked carrots.

EWWWWWWWWWWWW! THAT’S what I’d been smelling. I looked balefully at Mike.

“Mikey, you didn’t tell me I’d have to eat carrots!”

Mike and his 3rd-grade buddies snickered, enjoying my horror. But I could see Mike was uncomfortable, having to laugh at his little sister in order to be one of the guys. He gave me a quick “have courage” glance, and went to sit at the older kids’ table. Leaving me with a steaming mound of smelly, overcooked carrots, and murder in my heart.

I don’t remember quite what happened to the carrots that day. Lunchroom monitors (the REALLY big kids, the 5th graders) used to walk around and threaten us with severe punishment if we didn’t clean our plates. I think I finally pushed some of the carrots onto the tray, hiding them under the plate; and covered the rest with a crumpled napkin.

I know I didn’t eat them. And I never took school lunch again.

To this day, I don’t like cooked carrots. Unless they’re disguised in carrot cake, or in these moist, fruit- and nut-filled Carrot Muffins.

Oh, by the way, Mike—the Sloppy Joe was really good; I forgive you.

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The muffin on the right was my first attempt with the recipe I developed. This is why I work in the “test kitchen.” It’s considered a very lucky day when any of us test bakers nail a recipe the very first time we try it. With this one, after assessing the damage—good flavor, very unimpressive rise—I cut back on the carrots and water. And that was all it took to yield the high-rising, better-looking muffin on the left.

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OK, let’s get started. First, chop your carrots. You’ll need 2 medium-to-large carrots. A mini-processor will make quick work of them. They should be very finely chopped, but not puréed.

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This is one of those super-simple muffin recipes where you combine the  dry ingredients, combine the wet ingredients, mix the two together, and scoop into the muffin pan. Here are the dry ingredients, ready to be whisked together: flour, sugar (granulated and brown), baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, raisins, and walnuts. Stir them together thoroughly.

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Whisk the  eggs, water, and vegetable oil, and add to the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine.

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Stir in the carrots at the end.

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The carrots will thin the batter a bit, making it the perfect consistency.

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Scoop into paper-lined muffin cups. If you grease the paper cups, they won’t stick to the muffins. You can also forego the cups, and simply grease the metal pan itself.

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Bake. Nice rise!

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Cool by tilting the muffins in the cups. This is where the papers come in handy, as you can easily tilt the muffins fresh out of the oven, rather than having to wait till they’re less fragile. And why do it this way? Because it’s really key to allow the steam to escape from underneath the muffins, lest they get soggy bottoms. Since they’re really hot right out of the oven, it’s tricky to pick each muffin up and get it onto a cooling rack without a lot of “ow ow ow.” Thus this interim step.

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Now, is that one good-looking muffin, or what?! And you’ll feel so noble, too, getting some of that healthy beta-carotene into your family’s diet. These are particularly good with ginger spread.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Golden Nugget Carrot Muffins.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Woodshack Bakery, Klamath Falls, OR: carrot-apple muffin, $1.00 ea.

Clinton Street Baking Company, New York, NY: carrot-apple bran muffin, $2.50 ea.

Bake at home: Golden Nugget Carrot Muffins with raisins and walnuts, 27¢ ea.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. jb

    I made these muffins last night using half the amount of sugar the recipes calls (1/4 cup granulated and 1/8 cup brown) so my muffins came out a bit dry. I think I also overbaked them a bit as well. But when using less sugar in a recipe, what adjustments can I make so that my muffins aren’t so dry? Thanks in advance for your help!

    Hi – Sugar definitely helps with moistness… Try this: Use 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup applesauce, and 1/4 cup water, see how that works. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  2. Carmen

    Hi, I tried this muffins,and they taste really great. I have just one question:the oven should be on ventilated or static heat? Thank you in advance for your replay.

    No need for convection, we used a conventional oven for these. Frank from KAF.

    Reply
  3. larry

    This sounds like a great recipe, but I’m curious if PARSNIPS could be used in place of carrots. They’re my favorite winter root veggie.

    I don’t know why not, Larry – I believe parsnips would soften up as nicely as carrots. Great idea, by the way… PJH

    Reply
  4. Lynn

    My daughter and I made these today and we loved them. They were really easy to make and really good too. We used 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour and the rest regular flour. It worked great. They are moist and very flavorful. They are also light and fluffy. I hope to post about making these on my blog later this week. Thanks for the great, healthy recipe.

    Good deal, Lynn – glad they worked out well for youand your daughter. I’ll look forward to your post – PJH

    Reply
  5. Kris

    These are hands down the best muffins I have ever eaten and so easy to prepare. My muffins didn’t have the nice rounded tops yours did, but I made adjustments for the altitude here in Colorado and didn’t guess quite right. My bad. I will definitely be making these again. Thanks!

    No “bad,” Kris – all good. Have you checked out our tips for high-altitude baking? Practice makes perfect (and the practice is pretty tasty, too). 🙂 PJH

    Reply
  6. Carrie

    What about grating the carrots instead of chopping them in the food processor?

    These look great, my 5 year old daughter will love making them with me this afternoon.

    Carrie, that would be fine – just be sure they’re grated coarsely, not puréed. Have fun this afternoon- PJH

    Reply
  7. Sue

    My lunchroom in Iowa in the 1960’s fits the description of your lunchroom almost to a “t”! Including the cooked carrots. I’m totally with you on the cooked carrot issue. I like them raw, I like them in most baked goods, but I do not like them cooked, and I’ve tried them many ways!

    Your muffins look wonderful, and with all that good stuff in them it seems that they’d have a lot of nutrients too.

    I haven’t done the nutrition info. on them, Sue, but at least they’ve got vitamin A and beta-carotene, for sure. PJH

    Reply
  8. Morgan

    These look great- can’t wait to try the recipe.

    I just bought my first paper liners (for baking sweet breads,etc.,. )for the holidays. Is there anywhere on your site where I can find recipes specific for those paper molds?These are great for any item you bake in your muffin pans: muffins, cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, etc. Have fun. Frank from KAF.

    Thanks-

    Morgan

    Reply

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