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Mesquite flour muffins w/raisins and chocolate

July 14, 2013

Several weeks ago I came across mesquite flour at my local specialty supermarket.  It piqued my interest since I didn’t know anything about its qualities. As a kid growing up in south Texas, I chewed on the pods of the tree for a sweet snack.  The sticks or branches were used as toy guns or building materials to make miniature teepees or shelter for our toy figures.  I finally was able to experiment a little with mesquite flour this weekend.  When I opened the plastic bag the flour came in, I was surprised at how distinct and assertive the nutty,  sweet aroma was.  It’s a flavor that reminds me of caramel or molasses.  Its aroma also reminds me of sweet Mexican coconut bars.  I tried it first in flour tortillas by substituting 1/4 of the amount of all-purpose flour with an equal amount of mesquite flour.  They tasted fine, not something I would come back to often, but good nevertheless.  I cut the tortillas into wedges, lightly fried them in oil, then dredged them in a sugar and cinnamon mixture.  I liked it used in a sweet situation.  (Try that with regular flour tortillas for a quick and easy sweet snack).   I found after a little “research” that a very common way to use mesquite flour is in cookie batter. That does seem like a good route to go and I may come back to that idea, but I wanted to try it out in more of a quick bread style. Muffins would be an easy way to acquaint myself with mesquite flour. I decided to use chocolate and raisins, two items used in Mexican sweets and two things I have also enjoyed immensely since childhood.  I’ll put them together in a morsel of goodness!

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Mesquite flour is made by drying and grinding the pods of the tree.  It is rich in protein and fiber and also highly nutritious with iron and calcium, making it a very healthy gluten-free flour.  There is a lot of very interesting information to share about mesquite.  Perhaps I’ll follow up with a post about mesquite trees soon.

The muffins were very delicious,  tender,  moist,  not too sweet,  and unique tasting.  The photos don’t do justice to the rich moistness inside.

The ratio of flour, buttermilk, sugar, and leavening is adapted from “Chocolate Chip Muffins,” a recipe in the Williams-Sonoma book “Muffins” by Beth Hensberger.  I really liked the tender moist texture it gave the muffins.

 

This recipe will make about 2 dozen mini-muffins.

 

The streusel-

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar, white sugar, or a combination

1 1/2  to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 pinches salt

1/2 cup ( 4 oz. butter) chilled cut into about 8 pieces

In a mixing bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until coarse crumbs form. Work in the butter with your hands until the streusel holds shape when pressed together.  Chill in the refrigerator while you make the muffin batter or until ready to use.

 

The muffins-

2 eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup mesquite flour

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 1/4 cups golden raisins (you may also use dark raisins or dried cherries)

 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put the eggs in a bowl and lightly beat to smooth out. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat to incorporate everything evenly.  In another  bowl,  stir together the all-purpose flour,  mesquite flour,  sugar,  baking powder,  baking soda,  and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk mixture.  Mix everything well until it is all moistened. Do not overbeat, use a light hand. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and raisins.

Lightly oil or butter your muffin molds and fill them to rim with the batter. Top with a thin layer of streusel.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your muffins. They should be springy to the touch.  Careful not to burn your finger on the streusel.  A toothpick will come out free of batter when inserted into a muffin.   Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool about 5 minutes before unmolding the muffins.

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Now that I’m familiar with the flavor of mesquite flour,  I won’t be so daunted in using it with other baked goods like quick breads or cookies.

More than any other post,  I feel like I’ve done an incomplete job in conveying the experience of making these muffins.  Learning about mesquite trees gave me a greater respect and awareness for them.  They are able to thrive and adapt in dry adverse conditions. The craggy nature of their bark and the infinitely numerous graceful shapes of their trunks and branches make them seem older than their age.  The leaves remind me of the solemn willow trees.  I’ve lived around them my whole life and didn’t realize how important they have been to the native peoples who respectfully acquired food or medicine from all parts of the tree.

Mesquite trees provide shade,  grace and beauty to the nearby park.

Mesquite trees provide shade, grace and beauty to the nearby park.

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