I wasn’t sure what kind of muffins to make today, so I looked in my fridge for inspiration. The jar of sour beets caught my attention.
I texted my sister and told her I was thinking about making beet muffins. She texted back, “That sounds kind of gross. But good luck anyway!”
She’s right. It does sound kind of gross. But it’s actually not. Carrots and zucchini work in sweet muffins, and so can beets.
Until today, I was among the masses who had never made a beet-based baked good, and I’d only tasted one once. A friend of mine had planned to make carrot cake for a potluck, but then realized he had no carrots, so he substituted beets in their place. He made the mistake of telling the other potluckers what was in it, so most of them refused to go near it. Their loss was my win, because it meant I got to have seconds – and thirds!
That was years ago, and even though I enjoyed the beet cake, I found myself unable to break the habit of reserving my beets for breakfast (sauteed beets with lemon juice), lunch (beet salad), and dinner (roasted beet pizza).
It was time to take the plunge.
Most of the beet muffin recipes I found online had enough sugar for two cakes and a side of Jell-O. I decided to use a more moderate amount of sweetener, and opted for xylitol – a non-sugar sweetener that occurs naturally in birch trees (though you can use sugar, honey or syrup if that’s your preference). The resulting muffins have a light, moist texture without being overly sweet – and they don’t taste like beets. Some eaters might detect a certain je ne sais quois, but they’re more likely attribute it to the spices than guess at the vegetable inside.
If you don’t have sour beets on hand, use cooked beets with ½ teaspoon salt instead. And if beets scare you – there are always carrots.
- measuring cups and spoons
- 1 or 2 mixing bowls
- electric mixer or blender
- muffin tin with 12 2 ½-inch cups
- cooling rack
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
- ½ cup water, juice or soy milk
- 1 cup fermented beets
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used coconut)
- 1 ⅓ cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup xylitol or sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- ½ Tablespoon salted butter
- ¼ powdered xylitol or erythritol
- 2 teaspoons water
- pinch potato starch (optional)
- Put flax meal, water, beets, applesauce, and vegetable oil in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.
- Add the puree to the bowl and mix with a fork or spatula until blended. Do not overmix.
- Use a spoon to drop the batter into a greased or lined muffin pan, filling each cup at least ¾ full.
- Bake 25 minutes in a 350°F oven. Muffins are ready when inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Set on a rack and cool, then ice if desired.
- In a stainless steel measuring cup, warm butter on your stove’s lowest heat setting until melted.
- Mix in the sweetener and water until smooth — about a minute.
- Remove from heat and let cool to desired consistency. Drizzle on top of muffins. (If you drizzle while the icing is still warm and thin, a bit of it will soak into the top of the muffin. If you drizzle when the icing is a bit thicker, you can create designs like stripes or circles.)
- Store leftover icing in the fridge for up to 1 month.