(Brown) Sugar Plum Muffins

by Gena on August 1, 2011

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When stress comes knocking, there are a number of tried and true things I do to manage it. I exercise. I practice yoga. I take frequent walks. I breathe deeply. I call a friend. I blast Lady Gaga on my iPod. But my favorite thing to do when I’m feeling under the gun is to cook.

No surprise there. What is genuinely surprising is that I, who never liked baking before this year (and in fact used to find it stressful) have come to find that the therapeutic powers of a pair of oven mitts and a whisk are often just as powerful as the relief that comes from cooking a great meal.

In fact, they’re sometimes more so: there’s something intensely calming about the precision of baking. It’s methodical and ceremonious. Quantities are predetermined and knowable; results, if you do what you’re supposed to do, are guaranteed. Compare that to the spontaneous art of cooking, which seems to mimic more closely the unpredictable nature of real life. I love baking for some of the same reasons I love to read metered verse: there’s always room for creative genius to creep in, but the structure and form are indelible, a brief respite from the chaos of everyday existence. (As a more somber side note, it comes as no surprise to me that women with ED histories, who often are drawn to control, love the baking process.)

So anyway, my second chem midterm is tomorrow, and I’m nervous: if our quiz today was any indication of how I’ll perform on the exam, I may be writing another black and blue post tomorrow night. As I attempted to manage the stress of a bunch of deadlines yesterday, I thought I’d pour some of my nerves into a batch of summertime muffins. Sugar plum muffins, to be exact.

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I know what you’re thinking: it’s 105 degrees in the shade in DC, Gena. Why are you giving your recipes Nutcracker-themed titles? Well, because plums are all over the local farmers markets. So why not use them? After all, they’re not so very different from their cousin stone fruits, peaches, and those are practically the lords and masters of the late summer fruit kingdom. Yesterday, as I attacked some evil titration problems, I also set aside four perfectly ripe, deep purple plums, a bag of grainy demerara sugar, and two cups of flour, and these guys were born.

Brown Sugar Plum Muffins (vegan, can be GF)

Yields 10

2 1/2 cups flour of choice (I like to bake with whole wheat pastry flour, but you could also use white flour, or a gluten free mix)
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
2/3 cup + 3 tbsp granulated brown sugar (I like demerara here)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup melted Earth Balance or vegan shortening, or coconut or vegetable oil
2/3 cup applesauce
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 chopped plums (skins on is fine!)

1) Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, 2/3 cup brown sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center.

2) Whisk the vegan butter, shortening, or oil, the applesauce, the almond milk, and the vanilla, and add them to the dry ingredients. Mix till just combined, then fold in the plums. Scoop into muffin liners (or a nonstick tray) and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar.

3) Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 min, or until nice and brown on top. Serve warm, with some raw whipped cream if you like!

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What a scrumptious morning treat. I felt much less stressed after baking them.

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And enjoying one of my own, naturally.

With that, I have a chemistry textbook to attack. Wish me luck at 8 tomorrow!


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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Hadley@HadleyHolistics August 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm

These look amazing!


Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama August 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I find baking theraputic as well. These look fantastic. Good luck on your midterm!


Jen August 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I love stone fruits (and berries too) baked into muffins. Summer yields the juiciest produce. I can’t get enough of it! I’ve been loving blueberries and strawberries as of late, so it’s about time I get my hands on some plums. I might have to give this delicious sounding recipe a go, gluten-free style! I haven’t made any GF baked goods in a while. Now and then, a girl needs a freshly baked muffin! These would be great warmed, cut in half, and spread with coconut oil. Mmmm.


Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles August 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I’ve always been a stress baker, not really a stress cooker. I think baking appeals to my scientific mind. These look amazing, hopefully there will be plums at the market this week and I can make some! But I definitely agree with your statement on ED sufferers and baking. I’ve been down that road. Good luck with the studying, I’ll be sending good vibes in the morning!


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn August 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I am the saaaame way! Such a stress baker.


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn August 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Ahhhhh yum <3 brown sugar reminds me of childhood and snickerdoodles!


Christie August 1, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Good luck on your exam!!


Ali (urbanfruitbat) August 1, 2011 at 9:16 pm

I wish you all the best on your test tomorrow! These look amazing! You know that you will be well fueled for your test, that must bring some solace, no?


Fresh Equation August 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

These sound great! I never thought to use plums when baking. I can’t wait to try this recipe.


Eat Hike Sleep Repeat August 1, 2011 at 10:03 pm

I haven’t eaten plums since I was a kid – and ate a whole large bucket from the neighbour’s tree… Perhaps it is time to try plums again :)
Happy test writing!


Namaste Gurl August 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm

When reading the title of this post on my google reader, I honestly thought you were slowly preparing for the Christmas season :-) It’ll be here before you know it!

Good luck on your chem final- I have no doubt you’ll do GREAT!


Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga August 1, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Gena they look awesome! I am so used to seeing an avo-miso-noochey dressing or an amazing raw-ish meal/salad that I LOVE when the baking bug bites you!

I actually find the GF and vegan baking process both daunting and forgiving at the same time. It’s hard to know if I am going to get it right; but if it looks wrong, there is always more oat flour to be added or agave or a smashed banana or in your case…those perfect plums…that can be added. Too wet or too dry, judge and adjust accordingly, without strict rules. But that’s how I both cook AND bake. Which is why you’ll never see me in pastry school :) Doughs, yeast, bread..that stuff scares me b/c it’s so precise and unforgiving generally!

I love your muffin recipe…truly…looks.amazing.

Good luck on your test!! :)


Courtney August 1, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Good luck tomorrow, Gena!!! At least you have the reactions involved in baking down ;)


Ela August 2, 2011 at 12:14 am

I’m wishing you luck now _and_ at 8 tomorrow!

I love that you’re getting more into baking: it’s cool to read about. Since I don’t have a regular oven (only a small toaster oven), I find it slightly more unpredictable, especially if baking gf/vegan: however, when baking for my omni family (which is 99.9% of the baking I do at this point, which may change with my new ‘pleasure challenge,’ it can be pleasingly ‘controllable.’


Marianne August 2, 2011 at 1:53 am

Baking is definitely something I turn to when I need to de-stress or procrastinate from school. Plus I find baking is one of the things I can create and share with others, and that they are the most open to trying. Everyone seems to love a homemade baked treat, healthy or indulgent.

Those muffins look great – I bet they would be tasty made with the apricots I currently have in my kitchen.

Good luck on your exam!


Claire August 2, 2011 at 3:55 am

Looks delicious, Gena – I find baking (and cooking) so relaxing too. Good luck on your midterm!!!!


allison August 2, 2011 at 4:30 am

These sound delightful!! Haha that was seriously the word that i thought of when i read the title:)

I just bought a few plums so this sounds like a delicious way to break in my new oven:)


Casey August 2, 2011 at 4:47 am

Good luck Gena! Plums are definitely not my favourite fruit but these sound lovely.
Glad you found a brief respite amongst the chaos.
Blasting music and dancing around my house or getting outside always works best for me.


IngaG August 2, 2011 at 5:54 am

Good luck on the midterm!

So many people, including me, could learn from your way of dealing with stress…


VeggieGirl August 2, 2011 at 5:54 am

Baking/cooking are stress-relievers for me too. Loving the muffins! They also remind me of my favorite song/dance from The Nutcracker :D



Hannah August 2, 2011 at 6:31 am

You know, your other justification could have been that you’re clever enough to know that not all of your readers reside in the Northern Hemisphere, and therefore you were doing your bit for those of us currently in Nutcracker-appropriate weather :)

Good luck you clever lass you! Remember that, whatever happens, there’ll always be glorious poetry to lose yourself in afterwards – and not just the baking kind :)


Karen August 2, 2011 at 6:41 am

Once again, you amaze me with your ability to thrive (creatively) under pressure! These muffins look simply delightful!

All the best to you on your exam this morning, Gena!!


Kelly August 2, 2011 at 10:39 am

“…there’s something intensely calming about the precision of baking. It’s methodical and ceremonious. Quantities are predetermined and knowable; results, if you do what you’re supposed to do, are guaranteed. [...] I love baking for some of the same reasons I love to read metered verse: there’s always room for creative genius to creep in, but the structure and form are indelible, a brief respite from the chaos of everyday existence.”

Yes, that, EXACTLY! (And the somber addendum, too.) Good luck tomorrow at 8 — I’ll cross my fingers for you from Colorado.


Shelley @ MileHighHealthy August 2, 2011 at 11:05 am

I completely agree with you on the therapeutic properties of baking. While my husband was deployed in Afghanistan for 6 months this year, I began to get into baking. I had never even tried it before but I quickly fell in love. It was something I could lose myself in and it acted as a good catharsis for me. It doesn’t hurt to always have fresh baked vegan goodness in the house either! Good luck with your midterm.


Christine (The Raw Project) August 2, 2011 at 11:12 am

Playing in the kitchen is great stress relief for me too. These muffuns look amazing, especially with cinnamon and applesauce, yum. Thanks! And good luck!


melissa (fitnessnyc) August 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

These look awesome! You’ve found your inner baker!


Janie August 3, 2011 at 7:39 am

Hello, I’ve just put a round up of plum recipes on my blog as I’m ‘suffering’ with a glut at tho mo and I’ve included your pic with a link back to you here. I hope you don’t mind, but please holler if you’d like me to change it. All the best janie x


Marlena Torres August 3, 2011 at 8:50 am

You’re so right about baking, and metered verse. :)

I bake for my husband every week. I love it. I’m currently working on a brownie recipe that I have yet to perfect…but they’re getting close.

I loved reading this. It’s so cool that you’re starting to love baking as well as cooking. I’ve loved baking since I was very, very young and always will!



Kate (Peacocks & Moonshine) August 4, 2011 at 2:33 am

Just the name alone makes me want to get into the kitchen and start baking!
I have a wheat allergy and finding gluten free flour in Italy is tough, but I will be back in the states soon. Coming from a family of chefs, my one creative (and non competitive) outlet in the kitchen was baking. It was through baking that I learned to love the kitchen, build my kitchen confidence and spark my passion for cooking. Hope you’re staying cool in that heat :)


Sam (Quantum Vegan) August 14, 2011 at 4:29 am

What pretty muffins. :) I hear you on the control involved in baking and following precise recipes. I find that cooking puts me “in charge” of food rather than the other way around, and there’s little more comforting (or exciting!) to me than spending quality time in the kitchen.


Em September 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I LOVE these muffins. I used coconut oil – one thing to keep in mind is not to mix in almond milk straight from the fridge or your oil will harden! It was funny (and a quick warming fixed it).

Just a tip :)
xo Em


Outdoorgrrl October 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I only had small Italian plums, so I used six instead of the four called for in the recipe. I also subbed Sucanat for the brown sugar. They took about 21 minutes to cook. The end result is delicious! Moist and very flavorful :-)


Gena October 12, 2011 at 6:56 am

I’m so glad!


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