All year I look forward to December, primarily for the baking. The rest of the month is complete chaos, no matter how prepared I try to be. And let’s be real – this year I am not remotely prepared at all. It’s December 4th and I have exactly one mantle and one bookshelf decorated for Christmas. And the painter is still working in my house. Accordingly, I will be scaling waaaay back this year – but even so, I am way behind. And my kids are starting to hound me.
As much as a love the holiday decorations, though, my favorite part of holiday preparations is the baking. I make a dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies, quick breads, muffins, traditional breads and more. There’s just something so comforting about the sweet smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa and peppermint wafting through the house. And I love having a stash of homemade baked goods – the only kind we eat – on hand for company and to give as gifts.
So, today I am kicking off my December Holiday Baking series, where I will feature a different baking recipe each Tuesday (and some Thursdays. I also have a few of my favorite holiday “breakfasts for a crowd” recipes ready to share with you, although technically they are both baked so they do fit the criteria of this series). Be on the lookout for delicious cookie recipes, muffins, breads and more. You might want to stock up on some whole wheat pastry flour, honey, buttermilk and spices now.
I am just going to go ahead and state right now that these recipes are not particularly healthy. They are better than anything you will buy at the grocery store or most bakeries simply by virtue of being homemade. They won’t contain artificial flavors or preservatives, industrial seed oils or crazy food dyes. But, they are definitely not health foods. These recipes fall squarely in the category of treats; however, in December I think there is plenty of room for treats as part of an otherwise healthy diet.
Today’s White Chocolate Peppermint Muffins taste almost like a dessert – and with crushed peppermint candies and Ghirardelli peppermint crunch chips inside – that’s a fair assessment. However, they also incorporate whole grains, Greek yogurt, applesauce and honey (to keep the amount of sugar lower), so they do qualify as muffins and they even use some of my favorite strategies for making my homemade muffins a little bit healthier. My kids have enjoyed them for breakfast, but they are also terrific as lunchbox snacks and I love one late afternoon with a cup of tea. And if you choose to use them as dessert, then you are ahead of the game because they are definitely healthier than a big piece of cake. (Well, unless it’s this version of my Peppermint Angel Food Cake, that’s a pretty light, and very tasty dessert).
After preheating my oven to 350 degrees, and lining a muffin tin with paper liners (check out how adorable my liners are), I whisked together some white whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Then I melted 1/4 cup of butter (4 tablespoons) and set it aside to cool slightly. I added about 1 cup of milk, 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup applesauce, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract to the bowl and gave it a good mix. When the butter was slightly cooled I added that to the mixture as well and mixed until combined.
The batter is on the thicker side, so don’t be alarmed. Then I stirred in 1 heaping tablespoon of crushed peppermint candies and about 1/2 cup of Ghirardelli peppermint chunks, which are like pieces of white chocolate with peppermint flakes in them. Mmmmm . . . .
I used a 1/2 cup scoop to fill muffin cups not 3/4 full and then sprinkled the tops of the muffins with the remaining crushed peppermint candy, popped the pan in the oven and baked on the bottom rack (so the peppermint candy doesn’t burn) for about 16-18 minutes. I allowed the muffins to cool in the pan for about ten minutes and then removed to a wire rack to cool completely.
My kiddos devoured these for breakfast – even my non-breakfast eaters! (Perhaps it was that whole dessert for breakfast idea). And they have already requested them in their lunch as well.
I think these are perfect for your holiday celebrations, or a Christmas morning brunch.