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The other day I baked vegan oatmeal muffins and encountered what I call "The Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie"-phenomenon.
During development, I offered the muffins to friends and my husband. No one had food allergies, so I didn't tell them what kind of muffins I'd baked. Since vegan gluten-free baked goods can have an unpleasantly wet, dense texture, I wanted to see if they could immediately tell that these were vegan. They couldn't.
What they did detect surprised me, "Oh! Apple muffins!" This wouldn't have been surprising if the muffins contained apple. But they didn't. In any form.
During early testing, I tried dry oatmeal in the recipe, which made for unpleasant bits of dry, chewy oatmeal in the muffins. Then I tried cooking the oatmeal before adding it to the batter, but my tasters mistook the small lumps for apple pieces. When I told them the muffins were apple-less, I got a few, "Are you sure?" responses.
Mock-apple detection aside, the non-scientific taste test was a success. No one guessed the muffins were made without milk and eggs. To achieve the light texture, the recipe uses a generous amount of baking powder (one tablespoon) and a flour blend (sorghum, brown rice, flax meal, and tapioca starch) that absorbs liquid without becoming dry.
Yet I wasn't about to let the apple comments go. Since many baked goods, gluten-free or not, are high in fat and calories, this seemed like a good chance to make a low-fat gluten-free muffin. To do this, I reduced the oil from five tablespoons to two and added a half cup of applesauce to the batter. Now the apple-tasting muffins actually contained apple!
The first batch was a bit more damp but hadn't reached the dreaded, "Is that still raw?" state that I dislike in vegan baked goods. Reducing the amount of dairy-free milk solved the problem. Now the muffins are vegan, allergen-free, gluten-free, and low-fat! And they taste great.
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