If you love or once loved pumpkin bread and muffins but you’re avoiding wheat, gluten, or grain, you’ll love this tasty remake of a classic recipe. I found a few recipes for Paleo Pumpkin Muffins on the PNW Fitness web site. They listed three versions of the muffins, two of which included agave nectar, which I’m not a fan of, and one that called for honey or maple syrup, which I do use in small amounts.
The muffin pictures on their web site looked delicious. However, I noticed that one of them said that the muffin came out very soft and cakey but was improved by cutting it in half and tasting it. I read that as potentially too wet so I decided to add some arrowroot to the recipe even before trying their ratios. I made two test batches a couple of days apart just before Christmas, one with raisins and one without. I also made one batch with half as much honey and a little bit of stevia.
Time for an oil change
The key to turning out great muffins without using non-stick muffin pans is to liberally grease the tins with a semi saturated fat to grease the pan. Don’t even think about using vegetable oils. Why? Here’s and excerpt and answer from The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook (Chapter 5: Fat Primer), written by my co-author, Don Matesz, a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, nutrition professor, blogger, and paleo diet expert based in Phoenix, AZ:
“Polyunsaturated oils are highly susceptible to rancidity from exposure to heat, light, and oxygen. They must be extracted without being heated, then refrigerated in dark bottles to prevent formation of highly toxic, sticky lipid peroxides, which are a lot like plastic. This is why boiled linseed (flaxseed) oil is still used as a varnish. After the boiled oil is applied to wood it reacts with oxygen in the air to produce a thick plastic coat.”
Side note: I can attest to the varnishing power of linseed (flax) oil. In seventh and eight grade I played field hockey. My mom purchased the requisite can of it from the hardware store and I set to work applying several coats of it to my hockey stick. It did a fabulous job of sealing the stick. I also unwittingly varnished several glass baking pans in my early 20s when I cooked and baked with corn, sunflower, and safflower oil as per the macrobiotic recipes I followed. I shudder to see that many people still cook and bake with those unstable oils.
“In the industrial processes used to extract vegetable oils for sale in supermarkets, oils are exposed to enough heat, light, and oxygen to produce peroxides. These give the oils a bad taste and smell so they are bleached and deodorized before being put on the market or used to make synthetic fats (margarine and shortening).
“Even if the oils were to survive industrial processing undamaged, they are typically packaged in clear bottles and stored in brightly lit groceries at room temperature. They are more or less rancid by the time someone takes them home. Then people at home usually store them at room temperature (why not, that’s what they do in the stores), and often use them for cooking. (If you want to see oil turn to plastic, brush a baking pan with safflower oil, then bake it at 350˚ F––you’ll have trouble getting the glue off the pan with any solvent).
“Even if you get cold-pressed oils packaged in dark bottles and keep them refrigerated, as soon as you eat them conditions are correct for converting them to the pesky peroxides. Remember, your innards are always hot (98.6˚ F), and loaded with oxygen. What happens when peroxides get loose in your blood? Damage to arterial tissue and plaque.
“That’s right––unsaturated oils are a large part of the plaque that blocks coronary arteries. Lipid expert Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D., president of the Maryland Nutritionists Association says “The major fatty acids in the cholesterol esters in the atheroma blockages are unsaturated (74 percent of total fatty acids). Proportionally, there are, by far, many more polyunsaturates (41 percent) than saturates (26 percent) in these lesions.”
To learn more about healthy and unhealthy fats and oils and the myths we’ve been force fed by the processed food industries, pick up a copy of our book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook. If you order it from our web site, you’ll receive a sample month of shopping lists to go with the sample weeks of recipes in the book.
Best for baking
I find I get best results with ghee (the Indian version of clarified butter) or palm shortening (look for Spectrum Shortening in natural foods stores or the health food section of Frys or Safeway stores or palm shortening online from Tropical Traditions). It's an ideal fat for replacing butter (if you’re lactose or casein intolerant), margarine (the health food store brands are still hazardous since they’re rich in polyunsaturated oils), conventional shortening (such as Crisco), and polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
Although I like cooking and baking with virgin coconut oil, I find palm shortening is better and keeping baked goods from sticking to pans.
And now for the recipe you've been waiting for
I made this recipe a third time using leftover mashed sweet potato. You can use a red garnet or jewel yam, a creamy white sweet potato, or beauregard sweet potato. They all belong to the same botanical family and are all sweet potatoes. The muffins taste great served at room temp or warmed in a toaster oven. Try them plain or with a spread of real, preferably pasture-raised butter, virgin coconut oil, or raw coconut butter.
Shopping for nut flour
Nut flours vary widely in quality and degree of milling. If you pulverize raw nuts in a Vita Mix or food processor, you’ll end up with a relatively coarse meal that will produce inconsistent and sometimes undesirable results in baked goods.
Picking the best brand of almond flour
Elana Amsterdam, author of The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, recommends against the Bob’s Red Mill brand almond flour (you can read about the recipes I tried from her book here). She also recommends against almond flour made from whole raw, unblanched almonds. Unblanched almonds have a more coarse texture and their bitter skins can add an unpleasant aftertaste; it also includes anti nutrients that can interfere with digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in the nuts.
Look for blanched almond flour
I think blanched almond flour has a better flavor and texture and the blanching process can help make it easier to digest the nut flour and assimilate more of the nutrients from it. Buying blanched almond flour in 5-pound bags online you will get a better price per pound than you would if you purchased it in 1- or 2-pound bags in natural foods stores or supermarkets. Nuts on Line is one of Elana’s favorite brands and one I’ve experimented with. I like about the freshness, flavor, and the fine consistency.
Nut flours need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, something few natural foods stores have the shelf space to do. That means you may get rancid flour if you buy it in a store. However, if you buy from a company that grinds it fresh and keeps it stored in a cool or cold place, you will get a product that retains all the goodness and flavor you’re after.
Go Nuts On Line
Nuts On Line doesn’t use any chemicalories treatments in the process of transforming almonds into almond flour. The only process that occurs, other than milling, is a hot water bath used in the blanching process to remove the skins from the almonds. Besides almond flour, they also sell cashew flour, hazelnut flour, peanut flour, coconut flour, and a large assortment of other gluten free flours. They also sell a huge assortment of nuts, dried fruits, teas, coffees, chocolate, leavening and thickening agents, and other cooking and baking essentials. They offer prompt delivery. I’ve been happy with the products I’ve ordered from them. I've used it to make a handful of recipes from Elana's book, The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook. I plan to experiment with their cashew flour next.
Paleo Pumpkin Muffins
Prep: 20 minutes Cooking: 25 minutes Yield: 8 muffins
Blogger and Caveman Food Master Elizabeth created this recipe that I found on the PNW Fitness web site. Use maple syrup in the recipe if you prefer less sweetness; use honey if you want it more sweet.
1½ cup – almond flour (613 calories); I used Nuts On Line Blanched Almond Flour
1/3 cup arrowroot; this was my addition; tapioca starch might work (152 calories)
1 teaspoon – non aluminum baking powder
1 teaspoon – baking soda
1½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice (5 calories)
1/8 teaspoon – salt; I used finely ground Redmond Real Salt
1/2 cup raisins, optional; this was my substitution for chopped cranberries (246 calories)
3 large – whole eggs (215 calories)
3/4 cup – canned pumpkin; I used mashed, baked butternut squash (60 calories)
1/4 to 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey depending upon your sweet tooth (208 to 240 calories)
- Liberally grease 8 muffin tins with ghee, palm shortening, or virgin coconut oil. If you have empty muffin tins you will need to fill them half way up the sides with water to prevent warping during baking. Be careful when removing the pan from the oven to avoid getting burned by the hot water!
- Combine the almond flour, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, spice, sea salt, and optional raisins in a medium bowl. Whisk the eggs in another bowl or the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender. Add the pumpkin or squash and maple syrup or honey. Mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Pour mix into the 6 tins.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes on the middle rack in the oven until muffins pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow muffins to cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides and invert over a cooling rack. When cool, cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 days or refrigerate for longer storage. They also freeze well.My note: To moisten and bring back that fresh made taste, you can wrap a muffin in a white cotton or linen towel. Place it on a steamer basket or rack over boiling water, cover the pot, and steam for 3 minutes, then serve.
Calories for entire recipe: 1499 Calories per muffin: 187
Note: Maple syrup has a lower carb and calorie count per tablespoon compared to honey.