Featured Ingredient: Palm Sugar
By no means do more natural sweeteners like palm sugar give you a license to spoil a sweet tooth rotten, but they often offer nutritional and sustainability advantages over heavily processed refined sugar and corn syrup.
To make palm sugar, harvesters climb to the top of palm trees to collect the sap from the palm flowers. The collected flower nectars are boiled into thick syrup, then dried and ground to produce a grainy, crumbly sugar. Nutritionally speaking, palm sugar is believed to retain significant amounts of the nutrients found in its source. Unlike the processed to death white granulated stuff that is devoid of any nutrients that may have been in the sugar cane. Palm sugar also has a lower glycemic index, a rating of how fast a food spikes your blood sugar, than more refined sugars.
The fairly neutral flavor of palm sugar works well in almost any recipe such as the rhubarb infused muffins below that normally call for regular sugar. You can use it a as measure for measure replacement.
For this recipe, I used the excellent palm sugar from Navitas Naturals. You can also find it in Asian markets.
You’ll have some compote left over. It’s excellent stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese.
Lemon Muffins Stuffed with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
2 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced
2 cups sliced strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup palm sugar or maple syrup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup palm sugar or sugar of choice
l teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup low-fat milk
¼ cup neutral tasting vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Combine rhubarb, strawberries and lemon in a saucepan and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add palm sugar and cornstarch to fruit mixture, bring to slight boil and cook for 2 minutes until sauce thickens; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together flour, palm sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add milk, oil and lemon zest.
Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture, stirring just until no more dry flour is present. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter into 10 greased muffin cups. (There does not seem to be enough batter to fill all 12 cups). Add a teaspoon (avoid the urge to add more as it will burst out the sides during baking) of rhubarb compote on top of the batter in each cup. Spoon the remaining batter over the compote. Cook for about 22 minutes, or until golden brown.