For all they parrot about wanting to help customers make healthy choices, coffee chains clearly don't actually want this. If they did, they wouldn't attach the prefix 'skinny' to lower-calorie choices. I don't know about you, but I can never actually bring myself to utter the words "skinny muffin", "skinny latte" or "skinny double-chocolate mocha" (and I usually think the latter is only likely to merit the response "Yeah, you wish, fatty" from the barista). It just sounds ludicrous in every way, and there's something dreadfully uncool about opting for lower-calorie varieties. It makes me sound like I take myself far too seriously, like I think I'm some A-list celebrity whose fast-paced and pressurised career means she must live entirely off skinny lattes and not a single molecule of fat must pass her lips.
This is clearly not the case. I write a food blog - I am obviously not the girl in the coffee queue clutching a skinny muffin and asking for a skinny latte. However, I do appreciate the inclusion of apparently less fattening muffins at the counters of Starbucks and the like. It's just that I hate the notion of a 'skinny' muffin. No one gets skinny by eating muffins. Unless they are muffins made out of air. There's a reason why a common name for the fat that hangs over one's too-tight trousers is 'muffin top'. Also, most of these so-called skinny muffins are laden with sugar and other weird things to make up for their lack of fat, so their health benefits over the normal variety are debatable. That said, I'd definitely be better off eating one of these than doing what I used to do every Saturday as a teenager: skip lunch and just eat a Starbucks triple chocolate muffin between breakfast and dinner (needless to say, that one is not of the 'skinny' variety). Ohh, those sweet white chocolate chunks in their dark, unctuous blanket of spongy, buttery, cocoa-ridden sugary goodness...
Unfortunately, my metabolism is probably not what it was back then. However, every now and again (and by that I mean daily...or hourly...) I just get a craving for something cakey, slightly sweet, slightly stodgy, and preferably packed with juicy pieces of fruit (look, I've grown up - I now like fruit instead of chocolate in my baked goods!). In the interests of not being enormous, I've come up with these muffins. I call them 'vaguely healthy' (as opposed to last week's 'super healthy' banana bread) because they still have added sugar in them, and they're full of fruit and seeds which, while very good for you, are not exactly calorie-free. (Actually, I was initially going to call them the 'Anti Muffin-top Muffin' but it didn't sound quite right.) However, there's no butter, just a little olive oil and egg white, so they're definitely a slightly more healthy choice than normal muffins, which are made with quite a lot of butter and/or oil. They're also packed with nutritious berries, seeds, bananas, wholemeal flour and oats.
The use of banana keeps them really moist and squidgy in the middle, meaning you're likely to have to eat half of the muffin off its paper case, but I like to think that is rustic and pleasing. They have an interesting nuttiness from the wholemeal flour, oats, seeds and mixed spice, and I generally think they're a lot more fun to eat than a boring, homogenous, mass-produced coffee shop muffin. Particularly when you get a lovely piece of juicy, tart, unburst berry or a chunk of banana that escaped the mashing process. If you have any berries lying around in the freezer (and anyone who has read about my freezer hoarding habit will be entirely unsurprised by the fact that I currently have 5 punnets of redcurrants, two of gooseberries, three of blueberries, two of raspberries and one of blackberries), this is a great way to use them up - you can just add them frozen to the mixture and put it straight in the oven.
If you have the kind of craving that only cake can satisfy, then you're at least better off eating one of these than your average Starbucks muffin, crammed full of preservatives and fat. See these as my contribution to the 'skinny' muffin genre...just don't make me call them that.
Vaguely healthy berry muffins (makes 12):
- 150g wholemeal self-raising flour
- 150g white self-raising flour
- 1 tsp bicarb of soda
- 50g light muscovado sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 4 tbsp mixed seeds (I used linseeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds)
- 50g oats plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling
- 2 medium bananas, as ripe as possible
- 280ml buttermilk or yoghurt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 egg whites
- 200g mixed berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)
- 1-2 tbsp demerara sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases.
Sift the flour and bicarb into a bowl and add the sugar, honey, mixed spice, oats and seeds.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas together and mix with the buttermilk, oil, and egg whites. Pour this into the dry mixture and quickly mix together with a spoon until just combined - don't over mix and don't use an electric beater. Stir in the berries and dollop the mixture into the muffin cases.
Sprinkle the oats and sugar over the top of the mixture then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Very good eaten whilst still warm.