Whole Living Daily

G-Free Friday: Shauna James Ahern's Cardamom Brown Butter Muffins

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The small heat of cardamom. The warmth of ginger and cinnamon. Pears dripping juice. These muffins have all those tastes, along with the molasses hint from teff flour, the nuttiness of almond flour, and the hearty taste of sorghum.

Plus, they're gluten-free!

Gluten-free muffins are not only easy to make, but they might also be better than muffins made with gluten. You know how standard recipes for muffins insist that you stop stirring as soon as the flours are mixed into the liquids? That’s because you need to be careful about over-activating the gluten and thus making the muffins tough.

Without any gluten? No worries.

(We bake by weight in our kitchen and we strongly recommend you do, too for the greatest accuracy. However, if you would like to convert these metric measurements into cups, try this conversion chart: http://www.realfoodmadeeasy.ca/gluten-free-baking/gluten-free-flour-weight-volume-measures/)

Gluten-Free Cardamom Brown Butter Muffins

10 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large D'Anjou pear, grated
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 oz almond flour
3 oz sorghum flour
2 1/4 oz teff flour
2 oz potato starch
1 3/4 oz arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
6 1/2 oz coconut palm sugar
2 large eggs
5 1/4 oz whole-fat plain yogurt
5 1/4 oz buttermilk
3/4 cups toasted walnuts

Prepare to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a muffin pan or line with muffin liners.

Brown the butter. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then bubble, then brown, swirling it around once in awhile. Do not let the butter burn. Turn off the heat.

Add the pear and spices. Add the grated pear, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger to the brown butter. Stir until the ingredients are coated and heated through. Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients. Combine the flours with the potato starch and arrowroot powder in a large bowl. Whisk until fully combined. Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and coconut sugar. Whisk.

Mix the liquids. Whisk the eggs, yogurt, and buttermilk until fully combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula until the ingredients are mostly combined. Add the pear mixture and crumble the walnuts into the muffin batter. Stir until everything is fully combined.

Bake the muffins. Fill the muffin tins 2/3 full with the batter. Bake until the muffins are browned and a knife goes through cleanly, about 25 minutes.

Cool the muffins. Let muffins to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Shauna James Ahern is considered one of the most authoritative sources of gluten-free living. Her popular site, glutenfreegirl, was named one of the best food sites by Gourmet.com, Bon Appetit.com, and The London Times. Her cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Tempting Recipes (Wiley and Sons), co-written with her husband, Daniel Ahern, was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by The New York Times.

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Comments (30)

  • these were the best muffins I have ever eaten in my entire life

  • Love the spices and whole grains in this recipe. Since we have a dairy, egg and almond allergy, will have to make a few adjustments, but looking forward to trying these.

  • Mmmmm! These look sooo yummy! I can't wait to try them.

  • I imagine these muffins would be good with this amount of animal fat! The combination of pear, cardomom, cinnamon, ginger sounds really good - but I would need to modify this recipe to feel good about feeding it to my family.

  • These were not my favorite- I definitely prefer gluteny versions.

    I also found the inconsistency with the weights confusing.

  • These are awfully similar to Cybele Pascal's pear muffins that appeared on this site last October. Those muffins were easy to make and rose higher than these muffins appear to do. This recipe seems awfully finicky ... and really, there is just so much need for gluten-free recipes for pear muffins. Really looking forward to some different gluten-free treats!

  • Thanks, all.

    Melanie, you could easily make these with oil if you are worried about the butter. Of course, you wouldn't have the browned butter taste.

    Lara, the flours are all in ounces. I find — as do many professional pastry chefs — that measurements that translate to under a tablespoon are better measured that way, as most scales don't register that small an amount as accurately as larger amounts.

    Sharon, while I certainly thinks Cybele's recipe looks great, these muffins are pretty different. Hers call for whole oats, rice milk, and xanthan gum. They are clearly meant to a really airy muffin. These emphasize the whole grains and the pear in brown butter. There are plenty of ways to make muffins! And the recipe might look finicky to you, but it's actually easy to prepare. You brown butter, add the spices and pear. Throw together the dry ingredients, the wet ingredients, combine, and add the browned butter pear. It takes less than 15 minutes to make the batter and put them in the oven.

  • Hey there Shauna, you say you're baking by weight but are the measurements for the liquids given in volume or weight? Ounces can be either, as I'm sure you know, and buttermilk and yogurt are both measured in liquid ounces on their containers. Just want to know before I start, to avoid an expensive mistake. And if they are by weight, why? Does a cup of yogurt really vary in weight by brand? And does it matter?

    Also, just curious, why the ounces and not grams as you espouse in other areas of the internet?

  • These are AMAZING! Can't wait to share this recipe with My sisters, we are all gluten free and look around every website for the best recipes. Seriously yum. Thank you Gluten free girl!

  • Could you please correct the typos? I apologize for being so picky but:

    "We bake by weight in our kitchen and we strongly recommend that you do, too for the greatest accuracy."

    "They are clearly meant to a really airy muffin."

    "3/4 cups toasted walnuts."

    Thanks! Best to you.

  • When you say that gluten-free muffins are better than gluten ones because you don't have to worry about overmixing them, do you mean that that somehow makes the finished muffin better? Or do you just mean that they're a little easier to make? It seems like regular muffin batter that isn't overmixed has every chance of resulting in perfectly good muffins.

  • I finally broke down and bought a scale to make these. They are absolutely delicious and using a scale is every bit as wonderful as you said it would be! I used apple instead of pear and they just came out so delicious my family devoured them!!

  • Shauna, all the professional chefs I know (we even have 3 in the family, 2 of whom are pastry chefs) and all the European recipes I use (which are my mainstays) use weights for all recipe measures, and with good reason. A good quality scale can handle it. I believe that a baking scale is an investment; no sense in wasting $30 on a cheap scale that can't manage a real recipe in its entirety! That definitely defeats the purpose. If you need real baking scale recs, I'd be happy to provide, and you'll be so glad you made the leap!

  • Did I miss something? How many muffins does this recipe make?

  • It's probably worth mentioning that at least 30% of those "best food sites" listed by The [London] Times were long defunct at time of list publication. Hardly a well-researched list.

  • Is there some unwritten rule for commenting on internet blogs regarding asking questions, specifically that you have to ask them in the first 48 hours or they don't get answered? I don't read a lot of blogs and comment on even fewer so I really don't know. I seem to always miss the boat and it's a little frustrating.

  • Hey Karl! Sorry I couldn't answer your question until now. It has been a busy few days around here.

    Yes, you do want to measure the liquids by weight as well. Not only is it the most efficient method, but it also ensures the best results. Yogurts, for example, can really differ in texture. Think the thick Greek yogurt that is so popular right now vs. much thinner homemade yogurt. Weighing the yogurt ensures you'll have the right ratio for the muffins to come out well.

    As far as the ounces go, we first developed this recipe for a contest on Food 52. Their submission field didn't allow for grams! Grams are a bit more precise, of course, but ounces work great for muffins.

  • Louise, certainly you can make great muffins with gluten! That's the original template, right?

    However, beginning bakers in particular can over-mix a muffin and have it come out tough. It's a fine line between just-combined and overmixed. With gluten-free flours, you don't have to worry about over-mixing.

    I also think that some of the gluten-free flours have great flavor, where AP flour has a neutral taste. You can actually build flavor with whole grain flours that happen to be gluten-free. So it's worth a try.

  • Jody, so glad you enjoyed them!

  • Lara, certainly there are great scales out there that will measure the smallest amounts. However, I'm thinking about the typical home cook here. People resist the idea of baking by weight, sometimes violently! Those folks want to keep their teaspoons.

  • Ella, about a dozen.

  • Thank you, Shauna. I am still not convinced that a difference in texture necessarily means there is a difference in weight but it will be interesting to research it, at least. It seems like if you use an equal weight of Greek yogurt to regular yogurt, you will end up with very different amounts of milk solids vs. whey, which might matter in the finished product. If you want to be that precise, that is.

  • By "cardamom" I assume you mean ground cardamom? Or should we use the whole seeds you can pop out of the pods? Cardamom comes in many forms!

    And I assume you peel the pear and ginger?

  • I would be very interested in your recommendation for baking scales. I don't want to waste my money on a product that is not going to do the job. Your opinion would be very much appreciated.

    Thank You,
    Nancy Barnes

  • Nancy, We have the Oxo scale, which costs about $30.
    All you need is a scale that registers ounces and grams and zeroes out. there are many of them!

  • Actually, Shauna isn't 100% correct here. If you are going to spend money on a scale, you not only want it to have a tare function, but you want it to measure both very small amounts (1 gram is a good target) and large amounts (ideally 10 lbs or over), and you want it to measure in at least 1/8-ounce (imperial) and 1-gram (metric) increments. You need to decide if you want a mechanical (lasts longer, but hard to find ones that can do small increments) scale or an electric (shorter lifespan, but may measure in smaller increments). Also, you want something easy to clean (smooth surfaces, with as few nooks and crannies as possible)- not only is a dirty scale's life and functionality hampered/shortened, but if you don't keep an entirely gluten-free household, you risk cross-contamination.

    No sense in buying a scale that leaves you still measuring half your ingredients.

  • Shauna fails to mention that she recommends OXO because they gave her a free scale. If she won't disclose that, someone ought to.

  • I'm not sure where that last comment comes from. We have never received a free scale from Oxo and we would certainly disclose it if we had.

  • por favor mande a receita da farinha sem glúten para mim depois de ver essas delicias ai fiquei morrendo de vontade mas mande em portugues se puder muito obrigada.

  • Gluten free girl Shauna James ahern has haters that are awful. They are at bratfree.com, if you register you see the secret forum called The Island where they talk about her and hating kids. stop the haters. Don't spread hate.

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