Brown Sugar and Spice Muffins

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Good morning! It’s another snow day and day off work today, making it the perfect excuse to spend time experimenting in the kitchen. I can’t deny the beauty a new snowfall brings; the frosted branches and leaves glazed with snow makes it seem like a winter wonderland. Everyone is sick of the snow, me included, but the latest snowfall seems even more picturesque than usual. We’re talking the back of postcard pictures here. Even so, I am ready for warm weather! I’m not looking forward to being in school half the summer… but I’m sure there are some cute 4th of July activities I can find. Kidding! I hope…

Ok, enough about that. Let’s get to the good stuff. As I was thinking about what to make this morning, I came across this recipe for Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins from a blog titled the Happy Housewife. I’ve never read this blog before this morning, but this recipe sounded yummy so I thought I would try adapting it to make it a little healthier. Which leads me to my first piece of advice: don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. It’s perfectly ok, even encouraged, to substitute different ingredients based on your dietary or taste preferences, or let’s be honest, what you have in your pantry at the moment! Just be careful not to change so many ingredients that you have a completely new recipe and it doesn’t work anymore (Of course I’m not speaking from experience here, why do you ask?)

Here’s what I came up with! My ingredients:

  • Flour (I used 1 cup of whole wheat, and 3/4 cup of oatmeal flour)
  • Sugar (substituted brown rice syrup)
  • Baking powder
  • Flax egg (instead of a regular egg)
  • Almond Milk
  • Applesauce (in place of the oil)
  • Brown sugar and cinnamon for the top

I first combined the dry ingredients together, before adding in the liquids. Whenever I bake, I use these colorful bowls from Kitchen Aid. The bright colors scream summer, automatically making cooking more fun.

3-26-14 016In place of white sugar, I used brown rice syrup. I’m not actually sure what the nutritional difference is between different types of sugar, but that’s a blog post for another day! I frequently substitute organic sugar when baking- such as Sugar from the Raw, but we were out of that in addition to maple syrup, so I turned to brown rice syrup instead. 3-26-14 019

Time to add our liquid ingredients! Let’s talk about this flax egg situation. In case you’ve never heard of a flax egg, it is simply an easy (and healthier) substitute for a regular egg. Just take 1 tbsp. of flax and combine it with 3 tbsp. of water. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to thicken, and then you’re good to go!! I love using these small Pampered Chef glass bowls when baking, and try to use them as much as possible- I always feel like I am on a cooking show when I measure things out in these bowls ahead of time!

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I also added almond milk instead of regular milk, and applesauce instead of oil. When I was reading the original recipe, the directions said to pour in the butter and then top with brown sugar and cinnamon. Naturally I at first thought the recipe said to pour in the butter, not batter… well, this will be a healthy recipe!

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I also decided to use muffins papers instead of spraying PAM so the muffins wouldn’t stick. Such a small change, but this way you’re not adding in unnecessary calories! Ok, I’m sure you would have been adding in such a minute number of calories from the PAM that it’s irrelevant… but hey, small changes add up to bigger results, right?

(Really, I just wanted to use these adorable polka-dot muffin papers.)

Time to bake these bad boys! Divide the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups.

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The original recipe said to fill the cups 1/2 full with batter, top with brown sugar and cinnamon, then another layer of batter. I thought just sprinkling a little brown sugar and cinnamon on the top would be another simple way to make these healthier, so I filled each one about 3/4 of the way full before topping them with a small bit of brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

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When you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean, and the tops are lightly browned, they are done. I thought these looked delicious and couldn’t wait to try one!! When I tried one, I thought they were okay, but nothing amazing… they didn’t have much of a flavor and really just didn’t do a whole lot for me. They also seemed pretty dense, and not very moist like a muffin should be. If I was going for a presentation round in a baking competition here, we’re talking first place. If I was going for a taste round, I think it’s safe to say these muffins wouldn’t have come away with any awards.

With the rest of the snow day ahead of me, what else was I going to do but try again?? I had barely washed the dishes from my first attempt when out came the mixing bowls and measuring cups for round two! I spent a little time looking up other recipes and websites online, trying to figure out how to make the muffins more moist and not so dense. Time for a quick brainstorming sesh.

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I also brainstormed some additional ingredients I could add to give the muffins more taste and flavor. As Stacy says from What Not to Wear, “Why be just toast when you could be mocha almond fudge?” In other words, kick things up a notch! I decided to add in vanilla extract, nutmeg, and cinnamon (because I’m secretly addicted). Now I’m in the mood to watch “What Not to Wear!” But stay focused, let’s get back to the good stuff.

Let’s talk about the changes I made the second time. First, I mixed up the types of flour I used a little bit. The first time around, I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and 3/4 cup of oat flour. After reading information online, I found that it is best to balance out those types of flour with a little white flour to keep things moist. I instead added 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of oat flour, and 1/2 cup of white flour. I am so used to cooking with wheat flour all the time now, that anything made with white flour (cookies, pizza dough, etc) doesn’t even taste good to me anymore! But just a little thrown in won’t make a huge difference in terms of taste. I also changed the sweeter that I chose to use. The first time, I used brown rice syrup. Thinking back on this, that may not have been the best choice because the recipe called for a dry sweetener (regular sugar) and I added a liquid one, so that will definitely throw off the consistency of a recipe. I went with organic coconut palm sugar this time. I was hesitant to use it the first time because I didn’t want the muffins to have a strong coconut flavor, but I’m glad I tried this because I couldn’t taste it at all! In lots of recipes I found, they called for both baking powder and baking soda. My original recipe only called for baking powder, but instead of adding in 2 teaspoons, I added 1 teaspoon of each! I didn’t know exactly what that would do, or it if would really alter the recipe in any way… living life on the edge over here. When you are experimenting like this, don’t be afraid to make a mess! Clearly I wasn’t =)

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Since my goal was to make the muffins more moist, I added more liquid this time. I increased the almond milk to 1 cup, or a little more. Last but not least, I added more flavor to the batter! 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg, and 1 tsp. of vanilla and cinnamon each gave the muffins much more flavor. I filled the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full with batter again, topping each one with a mixture of uncooked oatmeal, brown sugar, and cinnamon. I cooked these ones at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, and they turned out much better!

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Let them cool for a few minutes and enjoy! Warm, moist, and melt-in-your-mouth. Every bite, every time! Serve with a cup of coffee or fresh fruit on the side. I also think these would be delicious sliced in half with some peanut butter spread in the middle.

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My apologies for the slightly dirty placement… that must be food blogging, level 2! Stay tuned, we’ll get there. My recipe follows!


Brown Sugar and Spice Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes


  • 1 3/4 cups of flour (Again, I used 1 cup of whole wheat, 1/4 cup oat flour, and 1/2 cup white, but feel free to adjust this based on your preference)
  • 1/3 cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp. ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tsbp. water)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup applesauce



1. Since the flax egg needs to sit for a few minutes to thicken, let’s do that first! In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp. water. Let the mixture sit for several minutes, stirring it once more to mix everything up before combining with the other ingredients.

2. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon) in a medium-sized bowl.

3. Add in the vanilla, egg, milk, and applesauce to the flour mixture. Be careful not to over mix here as that can also make your baked goods more dense. Mix until everything is just combined, and divide the batter evenly between 12 muffin cups. I used muffin papers, but if you don’t have any on hand, I would recommend spraying your pan before so the muffins don’t stick.

4. In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp. of brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tbsp. oatmeal. Sprinkle a little on the top of each muffin before baking. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees, or until lightly browned.

5. Cool for several minutes (or really, as long as you can wait!) and enjoy!


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