Photo credit: Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post
These better-for-you muffins turn out moist and tender, lightly sweet, fragrant with fall spices, and studded with bits of soft pear and crunchy nuts.
They can be made either with date sugar, a healthful sweetener made of ground dried dates, or regular dark brown sugar. If you are using the latter, increase the flour to 2 cups, reduce the applesauce to 1/2 cup and whisk in the brown sugar with the liquid ingredients.
1/3 cup canola or other neutral-tasting oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup date sugar or packed dark brown sugar (see note)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce (see footnote)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 medium firm, ripe pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush the wells of a 12-muffin pan with oil.
Whisk together the flour, date sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a medium bowl.
Whisk in the 1/3 cup of oil and the eggs in a mixing bowl until well blended, then whisk in the applesauce and vanilla extract. Stir in half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk; once those are incorporated, add the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk, stirring until just incorporated. Gently stir in the pear and the nuts, if using.
Divide the batter evenly among the wells of the muffin pan. Bake (middle rack) for 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Let cool (in the pan) on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them before serving or storing.
* If you are using regular brown sugar increase the flour to 2 cups, reduce the applesauce to 1/2 cup and whisk in the brown sugar with the liquid ingredients.
Makes 12 servings
Per serving: Calories 180; Total Fat 8g; (Sat Fat 1g); Protein 3g; Carb 24g; Fiber 2g; Cholesterol 30mg; Sodium 150mg; Total Sugar 10g