My daughter, Melanie and I have been discussing sweet potatoes and how much she and I enjoy them – and enjoy cooking and baking with them. On the heels of last week’s simple but exotic Thai Coconut Shrimp Curry with Pumpkin (aka, sweet potato), I thought I’d carry this Thai theme over into today’s muffins. Say what? You never heard of Thai muffins? Well, apparently you’re not alone – my Google search for “sweet potato, coconut, muffins” turned up very little. This always delights me (when it involves a dish I’m trying to create) because as a cook/baker, I hate being late to the game, but I love the challenge of doing something few others have done. Whatever!
The sweet potato is a strictly Southern thing in America (OK, maybe California too, but that’s not really America, right?) because of the long growing season it requires – but when I gardened in Florida, way back when, it was a favorite of mine, because all you did was put the slips (sprouted vine cuttings) into the ground, and walk away for 4-5 months! This is the truth – the sweet potato has no bug pests that can keep up with its rapid growth, and what with the Florida summer rains every day, they’d take care of themselves just fine. I also loved the way you’d know when they were ready to pick – they’d crowd themselves right up and out of the ground! One day you’d look, and there were sweet potatoes poking up all over the place – Quite a sight!
Because of the ease of growing sweet potatoes, I’ve always wondered why they command a premium price in the market? I always thought they were one of my best “per square foot” producers. This wonderment is compounded by the fact that sweet potatoes are often seen at the grocery in canned form at bargain rates! Why is this? Melanie additionally reminds me that the canned sweet potatoes often are very soft, and if you are using them for something like last week’s Thai curry dish, they may dissolve on you – only add them at the last minute and heat briefly. But for making these muffins today, they are simply perfect.
My recipe here is roughly “borrowed” from another blog on the web – I then took soooo much license with it, that I have absolutely no guilt at all – this is MY recipe. Sure, I could have pulled a recipe out of my head to play with, but what I needed was a little inspiration in using both sweet potatoes and coconut milk in a muffin recipe. Frankly, I only got half of what I needed from that source recipe, and because the coconut milk was such a dramatic change, I had to adjust quite a bit of the rest of it – I’m quite sure that the creator of that source recipe would not recognize my recipe as having relation to theirs. There’s only so many ways you can make a muffin, and most of those are faulty anyway!
So, here’s my recipe for Coconut, Sweet Potato Muffins. It’s a nice, and slightly special muffin. Given the addition of dense sweet potato, one would think they may be heavy and wet – not really – but let me throw a few cautions your way, if you make these. First, as with all muffins, only mix your dry ingredients with your wet at the very last minute before you fill the muffin tin – this is because the mixing of any liquid with flour immediately begins gluten development, something you want in a risen bread, but don’t want in a muffin. Gluten in a muffin will make it tough and rubbery – and stirring speeds the process. Second, the kind of flour you use will determine how light or heavy the muffin becomes – essentially, avoid bread flour (high gluten) in favor of softer flours, like cake or pastry flours (low gluten). All Purpose flour is halfway between – it’s OK, but not ideal.
I’ll have to admit that as I ate one of these muffins, I didn’t think, “Thai” – perhaps I should have slipped in a bit of curry. Naa. I did think that perhaps the addition of a half cup of toasted pecans would improve it a bit – and nail down even more the Southern heritage of this muffin. Hope you enjoy this one.
Coconut, Sweet Potato Muffins
1 1/4 cup mashed sweet potato (one 15oz can)
1 cup whole wheat flour (preferably whole wheat pastry flour)
1 cup flour (preferably a soft flour, like cake or pastry, but AP is OK)
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon, lime or orange zest
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
optional: Demerara sugar for sprinkling
optional: ½ cup toasted chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the spices, baking powder and both flours. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat together the melted butter, eggs, coconut milk, brown sugar, zest and vanilla. Stir in the buttermilk, coconut and the sweet potato, then add the dry ingredients. Quickly mix just to combine. Divide evenly into a well greased 12 cup muffin pan. If desired, sprinkle the tops with Demerara (raw) sugar. Bake for 30 minutes – test for doneness with toothpick or skewer – these are moist muffins.
I’ve been trying to eat more simple foods – whole foods, very few ingredients, simple stuff that makes you feel good and takes almost no time or trouble to make – I always feel like this stuff should be the mainstay of my diet for health and convenience reasons. To that end, I recently make baked sweet potatoes topped with goat cheese for dinner – wow, it was so good!! Sweet potatoes are always so yummy, but the goat cheese added just this perfect contrast. Next time, I think a few chopped walnuts on top would add the perfect texture contrast. Add a crunchy salad w/balsamic & olive oil, and this just sounds like the perfect heart healthy, super simple dinner. Yum!! (Though when I have more time, I’m going to definitely try that pumpkin curry recipe – wow that sounds great!!).