Thursday, 28 February 2013

Chocolate Muffins - the Sweet potato vs Butternut Squash experiment (with an oil vs spread twist)!

I love my beetroot and chocolate muffins, especially since I started putting quinoa in them to feel that bit more virtuous about eating prodigious amounts of cake.

However, this winter I have been a little frustrated at not being able to always get beetroot and therefore not getting my muffins! It's my fault for not always remembering to buy it at the weekly market, but it's very annoying that even in the height of the beetroot season my local supermarket does not stock this lovely vegetable. It also got me thinking about what I would do when it wasn't in season.

So I decided to have a little experiment and selflessly eat many muffins in the name of deciding on a decent alternative. I also wanted to try using rapeseed oil rather than sunflower spread as on a plant based diet you need to be careful to keep your omega 6's (lots in sunflower oil, less in rapeseed oil) in balance with your omega 3's (easily swamped by omega 6's).

The two most obvious candidates to replace beetroot are butternut squash and sweet potato. Neither fulfill the 'homegrown' ideal but are at least pretty much always available. And once roasted, they are both lovely and sweet and easy to puree. I made a half batch of muffins with each, and in both batches I used an equivalent amount of rapeseed oil to replace the melted sunflower spread.


Both muffins were thoroughly tested by myself, my husband and my 20 month old son. We all agreed (ok, maybe not my boy - his language skills aren't quite at that level yet) that we couldn't detect much difference at all. Husband slightly preferred the sweet potato, and I slightly preferred the butternut squash. All three of us have happily have eaten both. The oil made no detectable difference, the muffins seemed exactly the same in texture.

What about the beetroot comparison...?

Well, this is just me as I have definitely eaten many more of the beetroot muffins than my husband...but I would say that the new versions didn't have quite the same depth of chocolately flavour. The pairing of beetroot with chocolate is a divine one, as the beetroot noticeably enhances the chocolate. Having said that, from the way he has stuffed these new muffins down without hesitation, my boy prefers the new versions. I think the beetroot ones are a little rich for him.

So, final thoughts...?

I would happily eat any of the versions, and confidently give them to other people as they are all lovely chocolate cakes in their own rights. I was really pleased with how successful the oil substitution was.  The best thing though was my boy's reaction. With the healthy oil, the quinoa and the vegetables, these are pretty healthy muffins and great for getting good calories into little tummies! This would also make a great cake choice for a children's party.

I have posted the recipe for both varieties here.

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