Naturally Sweet Almond Muffins with California Figs
1 ¼ cups sliced almonds, toasted
2 1/3 cups (11 2/3 ounces) all purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons five-spice powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups white grape juice
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Figs, stemmed and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin. Pulse ½ cup almonds in food processor until finely ground, about 10 pulses; transfer to large bowl. Whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda, five-spice powder, and salt.
2. In separate bowl, whisk grape juice, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and almond extract together. Using rubber spatula, stir grape juice mixture into flour mixture until combined. Fold in ½ cup almonds and figs.
3. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup almonds. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 18 to 20 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking.
4. Let muffins cool in tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Why This Recipe Works
Almonds, with their natural sweetness and refined flavor, seemed like a perfect starting point for a no-sugar added muffin. To ensure that our muffins were chock-full of almond flavor, we started by stirring 1 ¼ cups of sliced almonds into the batter. Although the almonds added pleasant nuttiness, the lack of sugar meant that the muffins were a little tough and dense. Grinding some of the almonds and whisking them into the flour gave the muffins a more open crumb and slightly lighter, more tender texture. Even though we didn’t want to add sugar, the muffins needed to be sweeter. To avoid muddying the almonds’ delicate flavor, we decided to use no-sugar-added white grape juice, which provided sweetness without imparting a distinct flavor of its own. The muffins were improving, but tasters still wanted a bit more sweetness. California Dried Figs fit the bill, and chopping them ensured they were evenly distributed giving us bursts of sweetness in every bite. Finally, we employed a couple of ultra flavorful ingredients that helped to trick the tongue’s perception of sweetness: five-spice powder and almond extract. Do not use light white grape juice as it contains an artificial sweetener, called sucralose, that can negatively affect the flavor of the muffins.