Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flax Muffin Recipe

(imported post from "A Chef in Med School" 7/11/2009)

Flax Muffins

This recipe is a great way to get more flax – and therefore omega-3’s – into your diet. Store extras in the freezer for a quick breakfast on-the-go.

2/3 cup raisins (soaked in ¼ cup boiling water)
1-1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal or nut meal (buy pre-ground or see directions, below)
1/2 cup quick oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of cloves (and/or nutmeg), optional
2 eggs (or egg substitute, see below)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 Tablespoon vinegar mixed with enough
soy or other milk to make 1 cup)
4 tbsp honey
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pour boiling water over raisins in a small dish, cover and set aside. Line muffin tins with muffin cups and spray cups with non-stick spray. Whisk together all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In as separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredient. Drain raisin liquid into wet ingredients. Stir drained raisins into dry ingredients to coat well with flour. Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once, making sure to just mix until just barely moistened (over-mixing makes muffins tough); it is ok to have lumps. Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake at 400F for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Place pan on cooling rack for a couple of minutes. Remove muffins from pan and place directly on cooling rack when the muffins are cool enough to touch with your fingers. Serve with jam and or nut butter.

Checking for Doneness with a Toothpick

To Store: cool muffins completely and then place into a gallon ziplock bag or airtight container. Good for 3-4 days at room temperature or 1-3 months frozen. To thaw, leave at room temperature, or microwave for 30 seconds, or toast in a toaster oven.

Makes approximately 13-14 muffins.

Nutrition Summary -- Per muffing (vegan variation): 131 calories, 3 g total fat, 4 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 4 g of fiber, 9 g sugar, 93mg sodium. Estimated Glycemic Load=12 (medium). (Note: using eggs will add about 30mg each cholesterol and sodium as well as a small amount of saturated fat to each muffin.)

Vegan Variation -- Use one of the options below to replace eggs. Use soymilk + vinegar instead of buttermilk. Use Agave, corn syrup or other liquid sweetener besides honey.

Egg Replacer for 2 eggs --

Option 1 -- Increase flaxseed meal by 2 Tablespoons and add ½ teaspoon baking powder to the dry ingredients. Drain raisin liquid into a measuring cup and add water to the ½ cup mark; mix with other liquid ingredients.

Option 2 -- In a liquid measuring cup, measure 2 tablespoons powdered Egg Replacer. Add raisin liquid. Add water to the ½ cup mark. Mix with other liquid ingredients.

Making Flax or Nut Meal --
Flax meal: Grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder until seeds until seeds turn to a gritty powder. To prevent giving them a coffee taste (or vise versa), either use a grinder dedicated to spices or clean the grinder before and after use by grinding a tablespoon of dried rice and discarding.

Nut meal (or nut butter): Nuts can be ground with just about any grinding implement, the main thing to remember is that you want a coarsely ground flour. If you grind too long, you end up with Nut Butter. Some options for grinding include placing in a ziplock bag and pounding with a rolling pin (or other heavy object), food processor, coffee grinder, mortar & pestle, etc.


  1. As promised, I will try my best to answer your questions either in the comments section of the appropriate post or in a new post. Here is question #1:

    “Hey, doesn't flax seed have a lot of fat in it?”

    Indeed, flaxseed gets 2/3 of its calories from fat – BUT that doesn’t make it bad for you. Confused? There are “good fat” and “bad fats” (I plan to post much more about this in the future). Good fats are required for health, bad fats, clearly, are not needed or good for your health. Fats got a bad rap because they are very calorie dense (9 Calories per gram) compared to carbohydrates and proteins (each have 4 Calories per gram). Years ago, when the big push to lose weight for heart health came into the public sphere, the American Heart Association decided that it was too confusing to teach people about “good” and “bad” fats, so the public was just told to eat as low fat a diet as possible. The years that have followed have brought with them the obesity epidemic as well as many studies to show that “good” fats are required for heart, and general, health. Good fats are not the enemy – too many calories in and too few out is what leads to weight gain. Fats and oils also help you to feel satiated (aka. full) when eating. This might explain why the high carbohydrate, low fat foods that followed this push to demonize all fats lead to people consuming entire packages at a time of SnackWells and other “healthy,” fat-free cookies.

    Good fats generally include plant-derived oils that are not hydrogenated (i.e. chemically altered to make solid fat) and the fats in nuts, seeds and avocados. Oils in fish have also been shown to be good for health because they’re high in a type of fat that nearly all Americans get far too little of – omega-3 fatty acids; however, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in high concentrations in plant foods (flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, hempseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables and many fortified foods). Getting omega-3’s from plant sources nearly eliminates risks associated with eating fish including mercury, parasites, food poisoning from improperly handled fish, devastation to waterways and oceans caused by overfishing, etc. Flaxseed oil is higher in omega-3’s gram per gram than fish oils. For those of you reading this that are already omega-3 savvy, flax has a 4:1 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (Again, more to come on omega-3’s). Additionally, flaxseeds are high in fiber and a good source of protein.

    Finally, just a note to say that the RECIPE is not high in fat because the flaxseed IS the fat in the recipe – there is no other added oil. Each muffin has only 3 grams of good fat and 131 calories. Compare that to 370-500 calories the 14+ grams of fat that you find in any commercially available bran muffin.

    Thanks for your question – I hope this helped to answer it!

  2. Question #2:

    "Does cooking flax damage the omega-3’s?"

    Well, it depends on whether you mean flaxseed or flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil, while very healthy, is also very unstable and should never be used for cooking. Flaxseeds – whole and ground – tend to be very stable in most types of cooking. I can give you the best Michelle-reasoning for this that I can think of – here goes. The smoke point of fats and oils is the temperature at which the fat or oil begins to break down. At this point, it is no long good for cooking either from a flavor or nutrient perspective. The smoke point is different for different oils (see the post, “Oil & Fat Smoke Point Chart,” for a listing of smoke points for most of the oils you’re likely to come across). The smoke point of flaxseed oil is 225F. When you heat oil in a pan on the stove top, you are heating the oil above this temperature and thus it breaks down. When you are baking, however, the final product does not reach this temperature (unless you overcook it so much that you’d never want to eat it!). Even though baking occurs in an oven much hotter than the 225F, the internal temperature that most breads (this includes general baked goods) are baked to is 190-200F. This is under the smoke point of flax oil, so the oils don’t break down.

    Flaxseed oil and flaxseeds (whole or ground) should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent the oils from going rancid which they tend to do fairly quickly at room temperature.

    To find the smoke points of other oils, please see the chart that I’ve posted at: .

    I hope this answers your question – please let me know!

  3. Question #3:

    “Where does one find Whole Wheat Pastry Flour?” and “How does its glycemic load compare to white flour?”

    First, definitions –

    Whole Wheat Pastry Flour is a whole-grain wheat flour made from low-protein soft-wheat berry; its protein content is around 9%. A low-protein flour is necessary to achieve the texture expected from pastries, cookies, pancakes, cakes, muffins and other quick breads.

    Whole Wheat Flour is whole-grain wheat flour made from hard red wheat berries. It is higher in protein content than pastry flour and similar to bread flour (about 14%). This flour gives a courser texture and “wheatier” taste to baked goods.

    White Whole Wheat Flour is also a whole-grain wheat flour of similar protein content (about 13%) to standard Whole Wheat Flour but is made from hard white spring wheat which yields a lighter colored, milder tasting, finer textured product. The taste is not as noticeable as regular Whole Wheat Flour. It is a good substitute for Whole Wheat Pastry Flour in cookies, pancakes, muffins and quick breads; however, it is not good for pastries or cakes.

    Now, answers –

    I have found whole wheat pastry flour in bulk bins at most health food stores and in the health food and/or baking sections of a variety of chain groceries. Their presence at chain groceries is hit-or-miss, but I’ve found that managers of these markets respond well to requests – particularly if they carry another product from one of the companies that makes a product you want them to carry. Some brands that make these flours are King Arthur Flour, Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mill. Luckily, all chain groceries that I’ve been to have carried something made by at least one of these companies.

    Glycemic load –
    The estimated glycemic load per ounce of unbleached all-purpose flour (about 10% protein content) is 15 (moderate). The estimated glycemic load per ounce of whole-wheat flour is 10 (borderline low).

    The fiber and fat in the muffins will also help to control the effect on blood sugar, however, the following tips will help to further limit the effect on blood sugar:

    Tips to decrease Glycemic Load (aka. the effect of a food to raise your blood sugar):
    - serve muffins with almond, peanut or other nut butter
    - substitute ¼ flour with unflavored protein powder. I often used the Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s store brands of soy protein powder, but any unflavored protein powder of your choice will do the trick. A warning – it is good to get online and read comments about a brand you plan to purchase, if possible, as some taste terrible.

  4. Question #4

    “What are ‘quick oats’ and how do they different from other forms of oats?” and “How does the glycemic load of rolled oats compare to instant?”

    Here are the definitions of the major whole grain oat products in order from least to most processed. The general rule of thumb to go by is that the more processed a grain is, the higher the glycemic index and load. It is difficult to give exact measures of glycemic index/load for these because it differs with preparation. Any of these made into a porridge will have a higher measure than the same form baked into a quick bread which will, in turn, have a higher measure than the raw, uncooked, dried version (i.e. as used in muesli or granola).

    Oat groats: are simply whole oat kernels with only the husk removed; they generally require about 45-60 minutes of cooking.

    Steel-cut oats (aka. Irish oats): are made from oat groats that are toasted and then cut into small pieces; they require about 30 minutes of cooking.

    Rolled oats (aka. old-fashioned oats): are made from oat groats that have been steamed, dried and rolled into flat flakes; they usually require about 5 minutes of cooking.

    Quick oats (aka. quick-cooking oats): are also rolled oats that are cut into smaller pieces to speed cooking time; they usually require about 3 minutes of cooking.

    Instant oats: the most processed of all oats, instant oats are partially cooked, then dried and rolled. They need only to be rehydrated in boiling water. These are the type of oats that come in the ubiquitous packets of instant oatmeal.

    Glycemic load of rolled and quick oats versus instant oats –

    The estimated glycemic load per ounce of unbleached all-purpose flour (about 10% protein content) is 15 (moderate). The estimated glycemic load per ounce of instant oats is about 17 (when made into porridge) and rolled oats are about 13 when made into porridge. Both will have a slightly lower glycemic load as used in this recipe. Quick oats are closer to rolled oats than instant, but if you want to maximize glycemic load lowering in this recipe, choose the rolled versus the quick oats. I have made the muffins with both and they come out great. The only caveat is that the muffins made with rolled oats are better after sitting for awhile and giving the oats a chance to fully hydrate in the muffins.

  5. I have been wanting to make these, and finally did last night. They are really yummy and my daughter likes them too. I might try different variations such as banana nut, apple cinnamon, cranberries, etc. Thank you for the recipe!


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