When I lived in Houston I saved a recipe from the Houston Chronicle for Treebeard's Fresh Pear Cake. I love pears and I found it interesting that the recipe called for soaking the pears in the oil and sugar for an hour before adding the entire mixture to the dry ingredients. But, unless it's a special occasion, I hardly ever bake cakes...it's too tempting to have a whole cake around the house. I do like to turn cake recipes into cupcakes or muffins (built-in portion control!). This recipe sounded like a perfect candidate for muffins...with a few healthy modifications, of course.
For the first go-round, I reduced the sugar by a quarter, replaced a quarter of the oil with skim milk, and swapped half of the flour for whole wheat pastry flour. They were so good! But not quite "light" enough for an everyday snack or breakfast.
This was last fall when pears were in season. But now that it's spring I had to try cherries! And the organic cherries were on sale today at Whole Foods! Perfect!
This time I reduced the sugar by half and replaced half of the oil with applesauce...killing 2 birds with 1 stone. The applesauce is sweet (filling in for the missing sugar) and moist (filling in for the missing oil). I still used half whole wheat flour (this time I used white whole wheat flour).
I also reduced the nuts from 1 cup to just 1/4 of a cup and sprinkled them on top of the muffins instead of stirring them into the batter. That way you still get the toasty crunch of the nuts, but save calories by using less.
Cherries are a perfect match for almonds, so I used almond extract and sliced almonds (instead of the vanilla extract and walnuts in the pear version).
The result? Delish! So moist and perfectly sweetened; the cherries are juicy and the almonds crunchy. And the best part...they are nutritious enough to enjoy for breakfast on a regular basis. I'm going to freeze some for later this week! And this recipe is endlessly adaptable for different fruit/nut/flavor combinations, so if you don't like cherries feel free to experiment!
Cherry Almond Muffins
4 cups cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon almond extract
3 cups flour (preferably, at least half whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Combing the cherries, sugar, oil, applesauce, and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with 20 - 22 paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add the eggs to the cherry mixture and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (about 10 stirs...don't over mix!).
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (a scant 1/4 cup per muffin...I used a small ice cream scoop). Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top, slightly pressing them into the batter.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins for 5 minutes in the tins, and then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Freeze some in zip-top bags to reheat for later (and so you don't eat them all at once!).
Per serving - 193 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated), 30 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 4 g protein (exchanges: 2 starches, 1 fat)