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We Gave The New York Times' "Healthy" Muffin a Makeover

Earlier this week, The New York Times published a recipe for whole-grain blueberry muffins that, on its surface, seemed relatively healthy--at least certainly much healthier than the average bakery-prepared blueberry muffin. We applaud the whole-grain spin on a classic breakfast staple. But, there's just one thing. It's not exactly "healthy."

The Times makes an excellent point about the muffin, an “Old American Breakfast” staple whose perfect blend of sugar and starch make the best possible companion for morning coffee. As it stands next to the buttery, icing-piped white puffs and tartlets in the commercial bakery pastry case, the fluffy muffin always seems like the obvious choice for the hungry, healthy breakfast browser. There’s usually some sort of fruit which is admirable, but most bakery batters are filled out and made fluffy with white flour, and sweetened with enough sugar to cover 4 glazed donuts – a 400-plus calorie breakfast with over 70g of carbs – most from refined sources like white flour and brown sugar. I also loved Joanne Chang’s point in the original article that these muffins basically end up being “a small cake baked in a muffin tin.” All true.

A good muffin can be a meal, as the NYT article points out, offering their healthy take on the classic blueberry muffin, but we decided to take their “healthy” version and make it even healthier by going all in on whole grains, and using even less sugar for a less-than-250 calorie breakfast that also has more protein and more fiber than the Times makeover. We fold in some reduced-fat sour cream, whose acidity works with the baking soda to make our muffins rise nice and high.

You’ll swoon over the delicate crumb and lofty blueberry-packed muffin-belly, and cherish every morsel of the oat-packed buttery-crisp streusel. A few takeaways from the Times – I’ve never rested my muffin batter, but I’m suddenly curious as to whether or not it may indeed make our fluffy whole-grain muffin even loftier and more tender than it already is… a test we’ll have to try. Orange zest is another bonus in the Times recipe that would make those blueberries pop a little louder. They make a good call on the carrots – maybe tomorrow we’ll sneak some veggies into our version, too.

Photo: Iain Bagwell

Ours: CALORIES 248; FAT 10.8g, SAT 4g, PROTEIN 5g; CARB 32g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 16g (est. added sugars 13g)

Theirs: CALORIES 374; FAT 20.3, SAT 16g, PROTEIN 4g; CARB 47g; FIBER 2.5g; SUGARS 22g (est. added sugars 19g)

Blueberry–Sour Cream Muffins Hands-on: 15 min. Total: 38 min. This recipe is a preview of our upcoming cookbook, Amazing Recipe Makeovers: 200 Classic Dishes at 1/2 the Fat, Calories, Salt, or Sugar, which is available for pre-order now.

Cooking spray 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 tablespoon white whole-wheat flour 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided 9 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 2 cups) 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream 2/3 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup canola oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 large egg 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups. Lightly coat liners with cooking spray.

2. To prepare topping, place oats, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and cinnamon in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle 1 tablespoon melted butter over top; toss with a fork until combined.

3. To prepare muffins, weigh or lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl, stirring with a whisk.

4. Place remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter, sour cream, granulated sugar, oil, vanilla, and egg in a bowl; stir well with a whisk to completely combine. Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture; stir just until combined. Gently stir in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with topping. Bake at 425° for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°; bake an additional 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool muffins in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.

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