Sheep Yogurt Buckwheat Quinoa Muffins (gluten free, egg free, potentially dairy free/vegan)

I love sheep's milk yogurt.  The flavor is rich, slightly bitier than cow's milk yogurt but milder than goat's milk, and it has an incredibly creamy, luscious texture, reminiscent of European style yogurts. The natural markets and co-ops in Minneapolis carry a great yogurt by Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, a lovely little sheep's milk dairy in New York State.  While their yogurt is pricy - about $5.50 for a mere 16 oz - it is well worth it for a special treat.  The dairy is organically managed, and the sheep are not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and are allowed to pasture regularly. And that kind of care is evident in the quality of the yogurt!  It is made only with milk and four happy probiotic cultures - no additives, thickeners, stabilizers, sweeteners, or preservatives.  

Sheep's milk is a nutritional powerhouse, far surpassing cow's milk in nutritive density.  The Old Chatham website has a great write up on the benefits of sheep's milk products, but here's a synopsis. An 8 oz serving packs 13 whopping grams of protein with only 10 grams of carbs, 4 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of fat.  Did mention it is a full fat yogurt, the kind with a luscious layer of cream on the top?  Truly the best kind, in my opinion.  But here's the thing: sheep's milk contains stearic acid, a neutral saturated fat that doesn’t affect cholesterol or formation of plaque in the arteries. Sheep's milk is also high in B vitamins, especially B12, and in important minerals like niacin, iron, and zinc, and one serving of their yogurt provides almost 40% of your recommended calcium intake, the highest of any milk. Plus, it is often tolerated by those that don't do well on cow dairy - like me. It is easier to digest and does not encourage the formation of phlegm in quite the same way that cow's milk does.

Take that, cow's milk!!! 

I ate half my container of sheep yogurt this morning with a perfectly ripe pear (divine!).  Since I'm leaving for Florida on Friday, and still have half a container of yogurt to use up, I decided to make yogurt muffins.  Muffins travel and freeze better than an open container of yogurt does.  Besides, I get the itch to bake every few days, and I needed to scratch.  Yeah, I'm trying to pack, and studying for my Chinese final, and also doing a lot of other things tonight, but you can always fit in time to do a little baking and writing, right?  
So, I decided to make a variation of the Wholegrain Buckwheat Yogurt Muffins I made back in January, subbing sheep yogurt for goat yogurt.  I used quinoa flour instead of amaranth, added kasha instead of whole buckwheat groats, and threw in some quinoa flakes for good measure. Instead of flax gel as an egg substitute, I used pureed fruit.  I adjusted the quantities with the intention of making six, plump, beautiful muffins, but ended up with seven; if I'd made them a wee bit smaller, I could have had eight.  But I like a hefty muffin; no puny muffins come out of my kitchen.  And these suckers are, indeed, hefty, but a hefty you can feel good about!  High in protein and fiber, and low on the glycemic index, these muffins make a great breakfast, on the go snack, or accompaniment to a tasty soup or stew.  They are just a little sweet, with a great moist texture, and a definite crumb. 

Want 12 of these little beauties?  Double it, darlin'!  And probably end up with 14!

As a side note, this recipe involves soaking the flours for 12-24 hours in the yogurt before baking.  Why, you ask?  To break down the phytic acid, an anti-nutrient present in grains that interferes with absorption of nutrients and has the potential for irritating the digestive tract.  Soaking and fermenting grains is a practice that has been lost in much of modern cookery, but is an important step in properly preparing grains for optimum digestion.  So, if you've never tried it, here is an easy place to start!  Don't worry - you won't get sick from letting the yogurt sit out on the counter.  In fact, you might be better off for it!  I hope you enjoy, and happy baking.  This is my 100th post on the blog! Thanks for being with me through the first 100, and I look forward the next!


 yield: 6-8 muffins

3/4 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 c quinoa flour
a generous handful dry kasha/Bob's Creamy Buckwheat/coarsely ground buckwheat groats (about 1/3 c)
a generous handful quinoa flakes (about 1/3 c)
1 c sheep's milk yogurt (could substitute kefir, or use soy, rice, or coconut yogurt/kefir if dairyintolerant/vegan)
1/3 c pureed peach, or other fruit puree
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 T agave nectar (or more if you want a sweeter muffin)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp
corn-free baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 T coconut oil, warmed to liquid

The day before...
Mix flours, kasha, quinoa flakes, and yogurt in a large bowl to form a thick, floury yogurty paste.  Perfect.

Loosely cover, and let the dough sit for 12-24 hours on the counter.  
When you are ready to make the muffins...
Preheat oven to 325*, and prepare a muffin tin.

Beat together fruit puree, vanilla, salt, coconut oil, agave in a large bowl.  Gradually add chunks of the yogurt/flour mixture to the liquid.  Toward the end, add baking soda and baking powder, and stir until just evenly incorporated.  Do not overmix!  Spoon into muffin tin, and bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool a 5-10 minutes in muffin tin, then remove and finish cooling on rack...or dive into one warm, like I did!  Yummy...
  • add chopped nuts or seeds
  • add dried or fresh fruit (blueberries would be delicious!)
  • add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, or ginger
  • add grated fresh or minced crystallized ginger
  • add  1 T fresh orange or lemon zest 
  • add a handful of carob or chocolate chips/chunks
  • instead of fruit puree, use pureed leftover cooked vegetable (parsnip, carrot, squash, rutabaga, etc), and make savory muffins (omit agave if desired).  Add dry or fresh herbs, crumbled sheep's cheese, or roasted onion or garlic...