Sometimes, Jan eats Alpen cereal for breakfast. For the last week, she has been saying, “I should make muffins with the Alpen one morning.” I finally caught on to what she was really saying which was, “You should make Alpen muffins one morning.” This is that morning.
While I did look at a recipe for using Alpen in muffins, I did not find it quite to my liking. For one thing, if you simply toss dry oats into a muffin mix they do not fully hydrate and cook through in their brief stay in the oven. I also thought that adding yogurt and bananas would completely mask the flavor of the cereal—kind of the point of using muesli in muffins.
The obvious solution to the hydration problem is to pre-soak the muesli. If you plan ahead, you can mix the cereal and milk the night before. If you are preparing from scratch in the morning, you can speed up the process by microwaving the milk and Alpen for one minute and letting the mixture soak and cool down for 15 minutes.
Muffins can be a fairly flexible recipe. Since they are baked in small cups, the muffin batter can be quite wet or rather dry. All that they really need is some flour—to provide some gluten structure—some egg and/or oil—to give them some rich moistness—and a leavening agent—to give them lift and lightness. For this recipe, I was just grabbing things off of the shelves and using the amounts that I thought—from experience—would work.
Karl’s Alpen Mini-muffins
1 cup Alpen cereal, no sugar added
1 cup milk (I used 2% lactose free)
1 cup flour, A.P.
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 Tbs. brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1. Put the cereal and milk into a microwave safe bowl with a lid.
Tip: If you plan ahead, do this the night before and skip the next step.
2. Microwave the cereal for one minute and then set it on the counter to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Preheat your oven to 350º F.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices together.
Tip: I usually run the mix through my sifter 5-6 times to make sure that it is completely blended.
5. Beat the egg, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla together in a small bowl.
Tip: I put the sugar into the wet ingredients for two reasons. Firstly, brown sugar does not sift well. And secondly, I want the sugar to dissolve a bit so that you do not get pockets of sweetness and expanses of blandness.
Note: Many muffin recipes call for large amounts of sugar. My family prefers baked goods that are not too cloying. I am using the Alpen with no added sugar, but muffins should still be at least a little sweet, so two tablespoons is enough. Feel free to add more, if your family has a sweet tooth.
6. When the cereal mixture has cooled sufficiently mix in the egg mixture.
Tip: Do not put the egg into the hot cereal or you will simply end up with scrambled egg in your muffins.
Note: You want the egg mixture completely blended into the cereal mixture now, rather than after you add it to the flour. Once you start mixing the flour in it will start producing gluten. You want some gluten for the structure it provides, but too much will give you a tough chewy muffin.
7. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until there is no white flour showing.
Tip: Do not overwork the batter.
8. Pam a mini-muffin tin.
Tip: You may use a large muffin tin, but I prefer to make mini muffins.
Note: One muffin is usually not enough for breakfast, but two is too much. However, three mini-muffins is just right.
9. Fill the muffin tin and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Tip: This gives the flour time to completely hydrate and do its gluten structure building thing.
10. Put the muffins in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Tip: Extend the time to 30-35 for large muffin tins.
Note: Rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even baking.
11. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool for three minutes and then serve.