Multiseed Muffins

I was talking to someone about cookbooks recently. In the age of the internet, things have changed as recipes became available by the thousands, or hundreds of thousands, online. Some are good and others don’t quite make the grade. Developing and testing recipes ensures the recipe is a good one, or at least will work. But when recipes are churned out, or posted by who-knows-who, all bets are off.

One thing my favorite cookbooks have in common is that the voice of the author is in there, and even better, they discuss the origin of the recipe, including how the recipe was developed. There’s been a backlash a little about food writing, aka: “get to the recipe,” as some don’t care about process shots, “I don’t need to see a cup of cream,” but those photos are proof positive that the recipe actually was made (which, surprisingly, doesn’t always happen…) So it’s good to keep your scrolling finger in good shape, and keep your cookbook collection well-curated.

I have a trove of beloved baking books that I turn to when I feel like tackling a baking project. One of my favorites is Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery. Nancy once told me that she doesn’t follow traditional formulas (or proportions), which baking boils down to. She just keeps plugging away at a recipe until she gets it to where she likes it, which can take a few tries, or months. I know, because I work the same way. I keep thinking it’d be easier to memorize all those numbers and ratios, but on the other hand, I feel like I’d be reading the entire owner’s manual, rather than just glancing at the quick-start guide and learning the rest on an “as-needed” basis.

Nancy eventually sold the bakery, and a new one, République, opened in its place, which is equally terrific. (And they have a cookbook, Baking at République, that just came out as well.) But her baking book is one I’ve turned to over and over again.

When Nancy founded La Brea bakery, she focused on breads, even though people kept coming in, expecting to find pastries and baked goods, too. It wasn’t until they moved the bread production elsewhere, when it grew too large for the small back kitchen they were using, that they had the space to bake cookies, muffins, cakes, and other treats that they became known for. Even my skeptical (or sage?) grandmother was impressed, and Nancy gave me a paper bag of Bran muffins to bring to her whenever I visited the bakery.

 

At the bakery, these originally went by the name Birdseed Muffins, a name that I like, but some might find it off-putting. In the age of the internet, things we never considered off-putting, sometimes are. So I redubbed them Multiseed Muffins, which sound pretty good to me, too. They were the ones I always chose when I went to the bakery and I was happy to be able to give them a go at home.

These crackly muffins are packed with a multitude of seeds, with millet figuring prominently into the mix, hence the resemblance to bird seed. And when I say “packed,” I mean it. These multiseed muffins as so packed with seeds on the top, on the bottom, and inside, that you’d have to be a birdbrain not to like them.

You’ll find these muffins to be on the decidedly non-sweet side, but you can ramp up the flavor a bit by toggling the honey toward the darker side without upping the sugar. I used wildflower honey, but you could use something as brusque as buckwheat honey, if you like a stronger-flavored honey in the mix. Romain thought they’d be good with molasses in place of the honey, but I think that might be too strong. So if you’re inclined to play around with them, sorghum or golden syrup could be players in the batter.

These muffins came out exactly like I remember them. Moist, crunchy, messy, and delicious. While some muffins hew too close to cake for my taste, these seed-riddled multiseed treats are welcome at breakfast, but aren’t bad for dessert either.

Multiseed Muffins
Print Recipe
12 muffins
Adapted from Nancy Silverton's Pastries From the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton I baked these in two muffin pans with 6 indentations in each. Each indentation held about 1/2 cup (125ml). If yours are different sizes, adjust the baking time accordingly. You can either use paper baking cups in a muffin pan or butter a muffin pan and use it without the baking cups. Another option is to use those self-standing muffin papers (foil-lined or small panettonne molds), although I recommend using a combination of paper baking cups and muffin pans, or buttered pans. (Spoiler: The batter is rather heavy and you'll end up with lopsided, although equally delicious, muffins if using the self-standing muffin cups. I didn't try these in the panettone molds, but those are sturdy enough to hold the batter.) You may have a bit of the extra 4-seed topping. If so, you can use it in your next batch of granola or save it for your next batch of these muffins.
For the muffin batter
6 tablespoons (50g) unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (55g) old-fashioned (rolled) oats, not instant
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 cup (55g) millet
1/4 cup (40g) sesame seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 1/2 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (75g) whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
8 tablespoons (115g/4 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (80g) honey, preferably a darker variety, such as wildflower
1 1/3 cups (330ml) buttermilk
4-seed topping
1 1/2 tablespoons (each), sesame seeds, flax seeds, millet, and poppy seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). On one baking sheet, spread the sunflower seeds, oats and wheat germ in separate rows. On another baking sheet, spread the millet, sesame seeds and flax seeds in rows. Toast the contents of both baking sheets in the oven until the seeds are lightly browned, about 6 minutes. (If they start getting too dark on top, give them a gentle stir, while keeping the seeds, oats, and germ in their own lanes.) Cool to room temperature.
2. To the bowl of a food processor, add the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Process until the mixture is pulverized. Add the oats, millet, sesame and flax seeds, and poppy seeds to the bowl of the food processor and pulse a couple more times, just enough to combine everything, but no further.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. (You can also make it in a mixing bowl and use a sturdy spoon or spatula to mix the batter.) Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add one egg and beat in well, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl, so the egg gets fully incorporated. Add the second egg, and mix (and stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl), until the second egg is combined.
4. On low speed, mix in the honey, then the buttermilk. Stop the mixer (I like to do this step by hand, but you can do it in the mixer), gently stir the flour and seed mixture into the butter and eggs in three additions, making sure that you don't overbeat the batter.
5. Line a 12-cup (or two 6-cup) muffin pan(s) with paper baking cups, or butter the indentation. Mix the four seeds in the 4-seed topping together in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the seed mixture into each baking cup.
6. Fill each muffin cup right up to the brim with the muffin batter. You can use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, two soup spoons, or a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip. Level the tops of the muffins with a small spatula or spoon. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the 4-seed mixture over the top of each muffin and bake until the muffins feel just cooked in the center, about 25 minutes.

Storage: The muffins will keep for up to three days at room temperature. They can be frozen for up to two months.


A delicious (and nutritious!) muffin chock-full of crunchy seeds

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28 comments

  • Wendelah
    May 8, 2019 9:20pm

    I’ve made Silverton’s banana muffins, which were too heavy, her chocolate muffins, which were too rich, and her applesauce muffins with dried fruit, which were absolute perfection. All are recipes from the cooking at home book published back when she was still married to Mark Peel. After cooking my way through that book, I was not moved to buy her baking book. And I don’t like seeds at all so I’m going to skip the multiseed muffins. But I might make a little batch of those yummy applesauce muffins… Reply

  • Anna
    May 8, 2019 10:19pm

    I read this and your chocolate-beet cake post from 2011 today, and I don’t think cookbooks are going anywhere soon, no more now than they were 8 years ago, no more than ebooks replaced hardcovers or CDs replaced vinyl. I like having a little extra info about the recipes included. It’s the blogs that can’t decide if they’re food blogs or lifestyle blogs that I spend the most time scrolling past blocks of text, but there are others that I read every single word. Reply

  • Erica
    May 9, 2019 12:39am

    Oh my, David. You always have just what I need before I know I need it! Reply

  • May 9, 2019 8:56am

    I’m always looking for make-ahead breakfast ideas, especially ones that aren’t loaded with sugar. (Was it Michael Pollan who asked “when did breakfast become dessert?”) I sometimes make French-style savory cake, with whole-wheat flour and oatmeal, using grated vegetables like beets, zucchini and carrots to keep them moist and not like concrete. No sugar. In fact, sometimes I put in cheese to increase the protein. I make them in muffin tins for easy portions and freeze them. This recipe is going into the rotation. Reply

    • Kathleen
      May 9, 2019 6:15pm

      This is still way too much sweet for me, with the sugar and honey. Yes, when did breakfast become desert? When a serving of granola almost equals the sugar in a Snickers bar (27 grams in a regular bar). Two of these muffins contain 25 grams of sugar. Sugar is more of a drug than a food, but we are hooked.

      Taste of France, I’d love your savory cake recipe. Reply

  • Susan
    May 9, 2019 5:15pm

    Hello, this is the first time I have commented although I have SO many of your recipes that I have printed out and keep using. I was NOT a fan of her bread book and won’t go into that. I checked and yes, I do have her Pastry book, and turns out I have made this muffin, the Yam one and the Berry Almond one and called them good. Nice to be reminded of the seeded one. Will repeat! Thank you. Reply

  • Allan
    May 9, 2019 5:16pm

    I agree 1000% with what you say about testing out recipes. I’m hoping a food blog is something in my future but one of my concerns is that you do need to test out recipes many many times and try them out on many many people before you can ensure that they work. That gets expensive and time consuming. I appreciate you saying that in your introductory paragraph. Reply

  • Ella
    May 9, 2019 5:24pm

    I haven’t eaten a muffin in years because they are always too sweet. This look right up my alley! Thank you (chirp chirp) Reply

  • May 9, 2019 5:33pm
    David Lebovitz

    Anna: E-books haven’t been the boon that they thought they’d be. I think people want to cook from books, which are more visceral, although e-books have their place for those who don’t have a lot of space. (Or who move a lot!)

    Allan: Every food blog is different and you can update once a month if that feels better for you, to test and/or develop recipes. It can take some time, but is pretty rewarding.

    Taste of France: I had an intern in San Francisco who was going to cookbook school. She told me the “Health Muffin” recipe they were making in class had 800 calories each (!) Reply

  • Cindy
    May 9, 2019 6:00pm

    This recipe looks lovely. I agree with those who are so tired of the long strings of photos. Three or four are fine even though I don’t like them. But many websites have 7 or 8 of the same thing maybe at different angles. So tiresome. Just give me a good photo of how it should end up and get to the recipe!
    I laughed that someone said a chocolate recipe was too rich…then don’t eat chocolate! That is part of why it is so good. I wonder what they were expecting…Betty Crocker? Reply

  • Margaret Z.
    May 9, 2019 6:46pm

    Hi there. When I saw the muffins I thought they looked like the bread I bake that my family calls bird seed bread. How funny to find they are called bird seed muffins. Looking at the recipe they are very similar, just sweeter and I will need to give them a try. Reply

  • May 9, 2019 7:11pm

    Really appreciate your perspective David – with so many recipes accessible now, what I really look for is the author getting me excited to try their recipe, because they have vetted it and have made it the best it can be. Explaining to me why I should make this one, instead of the many other versions out there, what makes it special, and what is the story behind it, are all so important.
    I’ve been a long-time follower of your blog, but am relatively new (a little over a year) to being a food blogger myself. I always try to relate what makes the recipe worthy of the reader’s time and ingredients, and provide lots of detailed step-by-step photographs. You have been a great example to learn from! Thank you. Key Lime Lexi (Alexis) Reply

  • Linda
    May 9, 2019 10:13pm

    I totally agree David, Nancy is the consummate baker/chef. I have all of her books and can vouch for every recipe I have used. In the 1990’s I made sourdough starter using wild yeast from organic grapes from her La Brea Bakery Bread Book and it took me over a week to get the starter ready and when I finally baked the bread and focaccia, my family ate it all in a few minutes! All of her muffins, the bran, the chocolate banana and this one are superb. Last summer my nephew lived with us and I made some of the chocolate banana muffins for him. He ate them all in one day…teenage boys! Her Mozza Book and Mozza at home have been inspirational, chopped salad, main courses pizza dough, it’s all divine. Her dessert book from way back along with Lindsay Cher’s Chez Panisse Book were my go to dessert recipe inspiration when I was making pastry at a friends restaurant. If you have a moment watch her appearances on the 1997 PBS series Baking with Julia. She is a master. Thanks for sharing her recipes David. Looking forward to your new Book. Reply

  • claire silvers
    May 9, 2019 11:59pm

    “Brusque buckwheat honey” is perfect. These will be made here tomorrow. Her bran muffin method is amazing. Will be deliberating on which degree of honey strength to use until the last moment. Reply

  • Margaret
    May 10, 2019 6:19am

    Have you tried the new Silpat silicone muffin pans? Reply

  • May 10, 2019 3:26pm

    For Pete’s sake, the love of food and the joy of cooking drives us to write and share our passions. If everyone could create recipes and write we would not need to share. David, I love your words and photos. Photos that lure me in and stamp me with envy of your dining guests. I will have to bake these for my Mom. Reply

  • MR in NJ
    May 11, 2019 2:12am

    David, two questions:

    1. Since the oats, once toasted, will be added separately from the toasted sunflower seeds and wheat germ, you might suggest that the oats occupy one side, not the center, of the first baking sheet (sheets WITH SIDES, as shown but not stated)–adjusting the order of ingredients in the ingredient list accordingly–and be kept clearly separated from the other items on that tray or even toasted on a small separate tray.

    2. Since the butter will be creamed as in a cake, what is the advantage of chilling it, as one would for, say, pie dough made in a food processor? Won’t the chilling simply make this step take longer, especially for the person sans stand mixer who is mixing with a spoon? Sorry if my ignorance is showing.

    This is a perfect example of a recipe that will not work for everyone (especially many children, perhaps), but cries out for the right “audience” who will adore these muffins. I know someone whose “name is on” them (as my late ex-mother-in-law used to say) and I want to make them for him. Thank you. Reply

  • Lyn
    May 14, 2019 4:57pm

    Your blog is usually interesting to read but some people seem to go on and on and on, so I’m one of those who skips to the recipe….
    I do like cookbooks though that give a little history at the beginning of each recipe — short and sweet is my motto :) Reply

  • Sharon Saunders
    May 14, 2019 5:51pm

    I made these yesterday and they’re delicious. I had never used millet in baking before and I love the crunch it brings. Nancy’s recipe for Brioche tarts with creme fraiche and fruit is a long time fave (demo’ed on Julia’s show.) …Not that I’ve made it in years but I have happy taste memories of it. Thank you David Reply

  • Shell
    May 14, 2019 8:20pm

    An Everything Muffin! :-) Reply

  • Richard
    May 15, 2019 10:14am

    The bulk section of rainbow grocery was blissfully quiet tonight here in SF otherwise these would never have come together for me. Measuring out tablespoons at a time of various healthy little things i would otherwise never use can be stressful when faced with an impatient mob of TARE warriors! But this recipe caught my eye when you posted this and these muffins turned out to be lovely. I used buckwheat honey. Reply

  • May 15, 2019 3:57pm
    David Lebovitz

    Richard: Yes, it does take a trip to the bulk bins, but I had the flax seeds, oats, and sesame seeds on hand, so I didn’t have to do too much fillings of bags from the bins. Thanks for letting me know the buckwheat honey was a good option!

    Sharon: I’ve not made that tart but remember seeing her make it on TV, and Julia Child crying when she ate it.

    Lyn: In France, they generally don’t put headnotes in front of recipes, but it’s a good place to give people tips or a head’s up on things to look out for when making the recipe, and answering any questions. Some people don’t like too many photos on blogs although it’s nice to be able to show things like ingredients or technique, however some people do add quite a few ;)

    MR: Not sure why Nancy advises to cream cold butter; perhaps because she doesn’t want the fat to melt when it’s being mixed with the other ingredients, but I can’t say for sure. Reply

  • Alita
    May 16, 2019 2:56pm

    I just made these and they are delicious. Not too sweet at all, visually appealing, and such a fun texture. Thank you for the recipe! I’m a fan of the title bird seed muffins :) Reply

  • Shana
    May 17, 2019 9:26pm

    My daily breakfast seed mix is comprised of flax, chia, oat bran, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and rolled oats, so I will undoubtedly be trying these! Reply

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