As we were making these, disaster struck. Our faithful camera self-destructed, so you won’t see how these carrot muffins turned out, but you will see most of the steps, so you can scratch ’em out yourself.
We decided to make these for our fellow Monday night volunteers, mainly because they sounded healthy. After all, it’s like eating carrots, right? Of course not; it’s more like eating cake with some carrot pieces, but, that’s okay, too (we were going to go with chocolate muffins, but changed our minds at the last minute).
This recipe comes from Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel, and we found the recipe over at NPR:the salt, which also has a few other great-sounding things to try. Check it out.
We will note that we changed the instructions just slightly. Basically, we have you make the streusel topping first; that way, you can switch to making the muffin batter immediately after — no need to stop and wash out the mixer bowl. We also reduce the amount of streusel to just about the amount you need. The original recipe made for about three times too much streusel topping.
Note that most ingredients are listed in grams; we suggest that you use those if you have a scale. It may seem to be more trouble at first, but, once you start using a scale to bake, you’ll never go back. It’s faster, cleaner, and more consistent.
Now, we know that some people don’t keep vanilla beans on hand all the time. If that’s you, we’d suggest leaving the vanilla out of the streusel, but using 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract in the batter. Of course, it should be 100% real vanilla extract. Naturally, for the eggs, go natural. That means eggs from free-ranging hens. Check at your farmers’ market, or even check on craigslist; we’re sure that you’ll find some.
Procedure in detail:
Toast wheat germ. Place the wheat germ in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and start stirring. Don’t stop stirring, or the wheat germ will burn. Continue toasting and stirring the wheat germ until it takes on a light nutty brown color and smells toasty, about 7 to 8 minutes. Immediately remove from the pan (we just dump in into the mixer bowl, because that’s where it’s going anyway) to stop the toasting or you might find your wheat germ burnt.
Combine dry ingredients. Since we want the oats to look like oats in the streusel, we use a stand mixer. Place the wheat germ, flour, oats, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until the brown sugar is broken up and everything is well combined, about a minute.
Add vanilla. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the streusel mixture. Since the seeds are sticky, we scraped the seeds onto a knife, then scraped them onto the paddle attachment. Once you get stared, you’ll know what works for you. Once added, mix until the vanilla scrapings are well distributed, about a minute.
Add butter. Toss in the chunks of butter and run the mixer on low until no large pieces remain. It should take 1 to 2 minutes, depending on how cold your butter is.
Refrigerate. Transfer the streusel to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
For the muffins:
Whisk dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Since this is really the only time the dry ingredients are mixed, give it a thorough whisking. When in doubt, whisk it a bit more.
Mix oil and sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the oil and sugar for about a minute. If you just made the steusel topping, there’s really no need to clean the bowl and paddle before you do this; that’s why we made the streusel first, even though we use it last. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add vanilla. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the sugar mixture and mix on low until well distributed.
Add eggs. Drop in the eggs and mix just until combined, about a minute. Don’t over-mix; it’s okay if the mixture looks broken or separated. Scrape down the bowl.
Add flour. Scoop in about half the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined, about 15 seconds. Repeat with the remaining flour. If you’re worried about flour spewing out when you turn on the mixer, you can either carefully pulse the mixer to get it started, or give the mixture a quick stir to get the mixing started.
Stir in carrots. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the carrot shreds. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl in case some of the dry ingredients are lurking there.
Refrigerate. Okay, from here on out, there are two possibilities: making mini muffins or making regular-sized muffins. Each has slightly different instructions. For the mini muffins, we strongly recommend transferring the batter to a disposable piping bag; it’s much easier to fill those little cups by piping than with a spoon. Once the batter is in the bag, we fold up the top and clip it closed. For regular-sized muffins, transfer the batter to an air-tight container. In either case, refrigerate the batter overnight.
Preheat oven. Again, different instructions for mini muffins versus regular-sized muffins. If you’re making mini muffins, preheat the oven to 350°F. If you’re making regular-sized muffins, preheat the oven to 425°F. Place muffin papers in your muffin tins.
Fill muffin cups. Fill each cup to about 1/4 inch from the top of the muffin paper.
Sprinkle with struesel. Take the streusel from the refrigerator — you should work with it while it’s cold — and scoop a generous amount on top of each muffin, pressing it lightly into the batter. For the mini muffins, use about 3/4 teaspoon of the streusel, and, for regular-sized muffins, use about 2-3 teaspoons.
Bake. For the mini muffins, simply bake for about 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. For regular muffins, the oven starts out much hotter, so place the muffins in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 325°F. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool. Transfer to a rack and cool completely, or at least as long as you can wait before trying one.
Eating carrot muffins sure sounds like a healthy choice. We won’t say it is by any means, but we will say these little muffins are some of the best we’ve ever had. We also heard the same from some of our fellow volunteers. It might seem as if these are hard to make, with all the precise measurements, but, really, they’re not; they go together quickly and easily. Plus, you refrigerate the batter overnight, so you can bake fresh muffins in the morning. Perfect! Five stars.