Three years ago I was living back in the States (Boston) and working a 3-month internship at America’s Test Kitchen, home of Cook’s Illustrated magazines and cookbooks. As part of “graduation” from the internship program, we did a “muffin project” (I promise there will be no more ” ” in this article….) which involved developing a unique muffin recipe and writing an article about it in the style of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.
I challenged myself to create a muffin sweetened only with fruit – no other added sugars. After much late-night tinkering in the kitchen and bribing friends and family to taste “just one more muffin” (sorry, broke my promise), I came up with a recipe that was not only naturally sweet and chock full of healthy ingredients, but tasted really good as well.
My secret was a combo of fruit juice and raisins heated on the stove and pureed once reduced to a sweet concentrate. Plus I folded chunks of sweet pineapple into the finished batter to ensure an extra burst of sweetness with every bite.
Once the project was complete, I couldn’t even look at another muffin for months. Now three years later I’m rifling through recipes from my ATK days and found this one. The passage of time helped heal my muffin wound and I made this recipe with happy thoughts back to my days in Boston and at ATK….and to what was probably one of the first food recipes I developed.
Pineapple Pecan Muffins (makes 12 large muffins)
Note: If using canned pineapple, buy pineapple slices (a 20 ounce can provides 1 cup of juice). Lemon zest can be substituted for the orange zest. Apple juice or another sweet fruit juice can be substituted for pineapple juice. Though golden raisins are preferred for their lighter color, regular seedless raisins can be substituted; the muffins will be slightly darker in color (I used regular dark raisins for the batch in the photos as I couldn’t find golden raisins at my store in the UK).
1 cup (250 ml) pineapple juice
¾ cup (100 grams) raisins, preferably golden
3 very ripe bananas
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 ¼ cups (85 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ¼ cups (170 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (100 grams) pecans, toasted and chopped coarsely
1 cup (175 grams) small pieces of fresh or canned/tinned pineapple (pieces should be no more than ½-inch or 1.25)
Preheat oven to 375º F (190º C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Combine juice and raisins in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until only a small amount of liquid remains (when you run a spoon along the bottom of the pan, a wake should briefly appear – see pics above). Remove pan from heat and cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer warm mixture to food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl at least once.
In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Whisk in the juice/raisin puree, eggs, butter, oil, vanilla and orange zest until combined. In a large bowl, whisk oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Stir in the pecans. Using rubber spatula, fold banana mixture into flour mixture until just moistened. Gently fold in pineapple until just combined.
Using ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly – they’ll be quite full). Bake until muffins are golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, 15-18 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.