15.6.14

Gluten-Free Plum Chia Muffins


I'm feeling the itch to travel.

Panama was amazing, but the trip just intensified the itch. As soon as I'd passed the fear and uncomfortableness threshold and started embracing a new culture, it was time to come home.

Summer-time also always reminds me of the summer I spent studying in Italy. It's been six years now, which makes me feel old and slightly sad. I'm not sure if there will ever be another time in my life when I'll have the opportunity to live in another country for that long, but I hope so.

Thinking of Italy also makes me think of plums.

One of the best things I've ever eaten was a warm plum that I devoured while walking through a market in Florence, Italy.


On a summer day in Florence, everything stinks.  Or at least, to begin with.  The air is thick and hot and, owing to the fact that many Italians don’t use deodorant, redolent of sour, musty sweat. 
          
Strange smells aside, I loved Florence intensely, the way you love a pair of jeans that makes you feel so comfortable and good about yourself you don’t even care about the holes in the butt.  I could complain about the smells, the summer crowds, the tiny sidewalks, because, after living there for two months, I felt like I had become a citizen of Firenze myself.  Its flaws only made it more real to me, more worthy of my adoration, but I also liked the person I had become there---free and independent, funny and daring.


One especially hot and sunny afternoon after class, I decided to walk home through way of the Mercado Centrale.  Walking home through the market was by no means a short cut.  One could easily get lost in the maze of stalls or held hostage by the sellers themselves, always overly eager to push their merchandise---pashmina scarves in every color, jewelry, glass ornaments, wooden boxes, flowy patterned dresses, and lots and lots of leather.

As I walked, my stomach gave a gentle rumble, and I decided to stop by the covered indoor structure that was the heart of Mercado Centrale, the food area.

The first floor of the food market is piled high with pungent cheeses, freshly baked bread, and olives of every color.   If you wander further you'd find fresh seafood and raw meat, splayed out behind glass shelves and hanging from ropes above.  On this particular day, however, I was craving something sweet, so I headed upstairs to the produce.


The second floor was actually my favorite part of the market.  I loved the rows of perfect peaches, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes.  On that day in the market, I looked over all the fruit, finally deciding on some plums that were small and succulent looking and a deep shade of purply black.  The little old Italian man selling them smiled as I attempted to ask for half a kilogram of the plums in my broken Italian.  He began piling them into a little brown paper bag.  After he’d put in at least 9 plums I held out my hand to stop him.

Va Bene,” I said.  I handed him one euro and some change and went on my way, grasping my bag of precious fruit.

When I stepped out of food area, the sun beat down bright and hot.   I reached into the paper bag and pulled out a plum.  It was soft to the touch, round and perfect.  I took a bite.  The dark skin resisted a little, giving way to the soft, fleshy, wet fruit inside.  It tasted the way one would always want a plum to taste—sweet, tropical, picked at the peak of ripeness, the Italian sun having imparted a beauty and depth to its flavor.  

It was an intense sensory moment, and I walked home so thankful to be exactly where I was,  walking through a crowded market in Florence, Italy, by myself, far away from home, eating a plum.

I ate two more on my walk, not minding one bit as the sweet juice dribbled over my bottom lip and down my chin.


I still like American plums, even though they're not quite as good as their Italian counterparts. 

They're abundant and in season now, and perfect in this stellar muffin recipe from Smitten Kitchen. 

I tweaked a couple things to make these gluten free, and used chia seeds instead of poppy seeds because I'm still obsessed with them

The plums shine brightly in this recipe, followed by a nice depth of flavor from the browned butter. As I note below, you can make a couple substitutions to make these super heart healthy, but I find that a little indulgence goes a long way. Plus they're mostly fruit! You might even have your own plum moment with one of these. . . . 


And I'm feeling especially thankful for my daddy today, who inspired my love of Italy and made my study-abroad trip possible. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! 

Gluten-Free Plum Chia Muffins


Ingredients:
6 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup 2% or whole milk Greek yogurt
1 cup gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 cups chopped plums (I left skins on, but you could peel them if you've got picky eaters on your hands)

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 375. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray, or fill with cupcake liners.

Add butter to a small sauce pan to melt. Let it bubble for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until light brown with little brown flecks in the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and sugars. Gradually add Greek yogurt, then browned butter.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chia seeds.

Gradually stir flour mixture into wet mixture.  Fold in plums. Pour into muffin pan. (Mine made 12 good-sized muffins. You could probably make 14-15 smaller muffins)

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Notes

  • The original recipe calls for 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour. You could also use all all-purpose flour, or 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup almond meal, or some other variation all together, always keeping in mind however, that the texture and baking times may change. 
  • Deb notes that you could replace the butter with olive oil and make these a little heart healthier. 
  • If you wanted to make these refined sugar-free as well, you could try substituting honey for the sugars, but the texture might be different. 

6 comments:

  1. Wow! So jealous that you got study abroad in Italy! I enjoyed walking down memory lane with you and picturing the scenery and the scent of the market. I haven't had plums in a really long time, and I hope that one of these days I will get to taste the apparently superior Italian kind. These muffins sound like a perfect snack! Love the addition of chia seeds. My husband? not a fan. He always complains that they get stuck in between his teeth. I say, who cares ;)

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  2. Awww I'm so jealous of you right now! I've always wanted to travel to Italy (and eat all the plums yeeee!), and yours sounds like a fantastic experience!
    These muffins look so darling and I love how healthy they are. The addition of chia seeds is brilliant! I have to make a batch so soon ;--)

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  3. I have really been wanting to go abroad lately and travel more. Italy sounds wonderful. These muffins look really good - I always enjoy plums, but don't cook/bake with them that often.

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  4. Those plums look so delicious. I just got back from Paris, so I understand the longing for European produce.

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    Replies
    1. Ah, jealous! I've never been to Paris!

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  5. now i feel like I should plan my honeymoon to Italy during plum season just so I can try one of these magic plums! That wouldn't be weird at all, right?

    Also, kind of obsessed with the fact that you put chia in your muffins. GENIUS!

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