It is always a trick to make something that children recognize as dessert and adults recognize as healthy. Custard-based desserts are a good bet, but so are these muffins. Oh, I mean “cupcakes.”
The recipe calls for a sourdough starter. If you are new to sourdough baking, you can try the cheater’s method to get used to the process. With this approach you don’t use yeast in the air to raise your dough, you combine equal parts warm water and flour and add about a tablespoon of baker’s yeast for every two cups of flour. Mix thoroughly and let sit until it rises. It will rise in just a few hours in warm weather.
Children just like “good” and don’t really care what the ingredients are. This particular recipe is one of those “tricky ones” as Frederick would say – one whose health value you would never guess given its fine flavor. It takes advantage of sourdough techniques that increase your absorption of minerals from the grain. It includes depression-fighting magnesium in the molasses and can include sucanat as well, a sweetener with more nutrients intact than regular sugar.
Sourdough Gingerbread (or Simply Cinnamon Cupcakes)
This recipe is very forgiving. I used it recently to make 600 mini-muffins for the Fresno BabyFest that was cancelled. In the process I ran out of various ingredients along the way and made many substitutions. All of the muffins were good.
The night or morning before, make about 2 1/2 cups of sourdough starter. (If you are using the cheater’s method I mentioned above use about 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of warm water plus a tablespoon of yeast to make your starter.) It’s ready when it has risen and become bubbly. I use fresh ground spelt flour. The final product does not have the heaviness you associate with a whole grain bread product.
- Preheat oven to 375
- ½ cup melted coconut oil or softened butter (either work well, so does a combination)
- ½ cup sucanat or brown sugar. Sucanat is available in health food stores and has a higher nutrient content. The sugar can be reduced in this recipe by as much as one half.
- ½ cup molasses
- 1 egg
- 1 ½ cups fresh ground spelt flour (all sorts of baking flours would work)
- 1 tsp ginger (optional: a birthday cupcake for a child would be better without)
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tbs hot water
- ¾ lb butter softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup cocoa
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup hot water (approximately)
- ½-1 pound of confectioner’s sugar
Directions: Cream sugar and oil/butter until well blended. Add molasses and egg, beating continuously. Mix together flour, spices, and salt. Add to mixer. Mix well. Mix 2 tbs hot water with soda until soda is dissolved. Add to mixer and mix well. As a final step, gently mix in sourdough starter. Bake in greased muffin pans for about ten minutes. The muffins are done when you poke them with a fork and the fork comes out clean.
Yield: About 20 3-inch muffins
Ginger versus No Ginger
I love the gingerbread recipe, but for children just the cinnamon makes a slightly more appealing cake. The cake also competes less with the chocolate icing.
Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
All birthday cakes need frosting according to my son, so I obliged with butter cream. I used butter from pastured cows that I happened to purchase for $1.29 at a discount store. The butter was a beautiful dark yellow.
To cover those 20 or so muffins, cream butter, eggs, and vanilla until soft and fluffy. Add about ¼ cup of hot water which adds liquid and cooks yolks (raw foodists could adapt here). Add salt, cocoa, and cinnamon and mix well. Finally, add confectioner’s sugar. It will take ½ pound or less to sweeten the frosting but your frosting will be very likely to melt with low sugar content. If the cupcakes are not going to be refrigerated for a while, you probably want to add about one pound of sugar to your frosting.
In Frederick’s preschool they have a little birthday party for each child on his or her birthday. Parents can bring in goodies and they have a nice little birthday ritual. Last year I experimented with a whole wheat pound cake. I used 100% whole wheat and a very tasty glaze. I tasted some cake crumbs and thought they were pretty good but also thought “this ain’t gonna fly at preschool.” Indeed it did not. Most of the cake made it into the trash can.
“This tastes like sand!” I heard a child or two proclaim.
“That’s turbinado sugar!” I wanted to say. But the whole problem is that preschoolers are not all that impressed by ingredients, just outcomes.
These cupcakes are a far better idea.