Sometimes it’s important to remember to just slow down and enjoy the process. The simple act of preparing food can become a meditative experience as you carefully craft each step, taking in the fragrance and freshness of food made with your own hands. Besides, if you nervously rush through, you’re likely to forget things. I discovered this as I was experimenting with a second batch of these muffins and forgot two of the essential flavor makers, ground cardamom and orange zest.
Some of my favorite foods are those that contain that extra hit from fresh spices or herbs in unique combinations. Just a couple of ingredients can change something from average to really good, and the orange zest and ground cardamom are definitely the game changers in this recipe. While you’re making these muffins, be sure to dip your finger in the mango purée after blending, and breath in the fragrance of the cardamom when you mix it into the flour. Mmmm.
This muffin recipe makes use of coconut pulp leftover from making fresh coconut milk. The pulp is a light and fluffy flour-like substance that remains after straining the milk. For a basic muffin recipe template, I used Mark Bittman’s “Muffins, Infinite Ways” from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and to verify the ideas I had for main ingredients I used The Flavor Bible by Andrew Dornenberg and Karen Page, a great resource for finding complimentary flavors in food. The resulting muffins are loaded with healthy ingredients like coconut milk, whole grain flour and mango, and achieve a wholesome sweetness with medjool dates. They’re a perfect grab and go breakfast, and would also be wonderful as part of a breakfast brunch. Anyway you prefer them, be sure to savor the experience.
Mango Coconut Cardamom Muffins
(recipe adapted from the cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman)
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 large ripe mango (about 1 lb. in size)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped medjool dates
coconut pulp (about 1/2 cup or so of pulp when tightly packed down), leftover from homemade coconut milk
zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
1/2 cup homemade coconut milk (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Using two 12-cup muffin pans (with a 5-ounce capacity in each cup), lightly grease every other cup with neutral-flavored oil, greasing about nine cups in all, six on one pan and three on the other. This will let the muffins rise without crowding each other while baking.
To make coconut milk, use unsweetened dehydrated and shredded coconut. Measure 1 cup of coconut, and dump into high-powered blender. Add 2 cups of hot filtered water to blender. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Line a large strainer with unbleached muslin and place over a deep bowl. Pour the blended coconut mixture into the strainer, and let drain and cool slightly for about 15 minutes. Gather ends of muslin cloth together, with coconut pulp still in it, and gently but firmly squeeze all the remaining liquid from the pulp through the muslin. Put remaining coconut pulp into a separate bowl and use your fingers to fluff it up so it is no longer compressed from the squeezing process. Reserve remaining pulp for later use in the recipe. Set coconut milk aside as well.
Peel mango with a small sharp paring knife, peeling from one end to the other, and removing the thin outer skin only, working in 1/2-inch wide sections until skin is completely removed. Then use the same knife to remove large chunks of mango from around the large oval-shaped seed inside, carefully scraping as much fruit as you can from the seed. Dump fruit and juices into high-powered blender. Add chopped medjool dates, reserved coconut pulp and orange zest to blender. Measure out 1/2 cup of coconut milk (stirring coconut milk well before measuring since the homemade milk will separate as it sits), and add it to the blender. Process on high speed until all ingredients all uniformly puréed. Pour purée into large mixing bowl, add the 3 tablespoons of neutral-flavored oil and the egg, and blend well with a large whisk.
Measure out white whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and ground cardamom, and sift into a separate bowl. Stir to combine.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing carefully but thoroughly until combined. Batter will be thick and slightly fluffy. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of batter to muffin cups using a #12 disher or a 1/4 cup size measuring cup, filling every other pre-greased cup as prepared in directions above.
Put muffins pans together on rack in the middle of the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating each pan 180 degrees halfway through baking time to help ensure even baking. Muffins are done when tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from oven when done and let sit on two cooling racks on the counter for about 15 minutes. Gently twist each muffin from its cup after 15 minutes, and serve warm or place on cooling rack to let cool completely and store in refrigerator.
Makes 9 medium-sized muffins