A tasty treat that’s good for you too

I am so amazed how time flies sometimes. Time zips by so quickly that I forget to be responsible. This week I almost became a double murderer due to being neglectful. I didn’t mean to be a killer, but I am. I stopped feeding my vinegar some time during the summer. The vinegar was starting to form a pretty good mother and I figured it was time to let it ferment the rest of the way and then I could harvest some pretty great vinegar and pop the mommy into more wine to start over. Well… out of sight out of mind. This week I thought about the fact that I hadn’t looked at it in a really long time. I took a look and there was this thick disk of vinegar mother floating on the surface (good news) but, to my horror, she was covered in blue mold (bad news). I tried to lift this mess off of the vinegar (which looked fine), but I dropped it back in and the blue mold dispersed into the vinegar. Now I know that John (DrFugawe) will probably chide me for being a wimp… but… I got grossed out, so I tossed the vinegar and the mother. Thus, I am a murderer!

I also forgot about mostly whole wheat Herbert. He was in the fridge, so I thought things were fine. It turns out that I forgot to feed him since mid December. This happened last year, but white flour Herbert seemed…well…more… resilient. Whole wheat Herbert made a layer of black (ew!) hooch. I poured off the offending black liquid and then I thawed him out and fed him, but there was almost no life affirming activity. I have been tending to him round the clock but things don’t look that good. He is definitely on life support. Because I need to keep feeding him, I also needed to find a use for the extra starter. Herbert still looked okay enough for something like waffles, but just not nearly strong enough for bread. I remembered a recipe I bookmarked. Time flies and I realized that I meant to make Kathie’s Chocolate Cherry Sourdough Muffins way back in July when I came across the recipe on YeastSpotting. Now was the time.

I thought I had all of the ingredients but I was out of milk and must have used up my dried cherries during my Christmas cookie bake-a-thon. I stared at the bags in my cupboard and what caught my eye was pure genius. I had a huge bag of unsweetened shredded coconut that I got on the cheap from a local health food store and a bag of raw pecans. I would make a nutty coconut filled muffin instead. I wanted the coconut to be moist and sweet so since I already decided to steal my boyfriend’s rice milk to sub in for the missing milk (I’m a thief as well as a murderer). I thought soaking the coconut shreds in some honey sweetened rice milk would be just the ticket. It worked out well. The coconut softened, sweetened a bit and then flavored the leftover rice milk in the bowl.

The muffins were wonderful. They had great oven spring and a cake like texture. They were both chewy and crunchy from the nuts and coconut, but being low-fat with no refined sugars (I also substituted maple syrup for sugar) they had a mild, clean cocoa flavor. I felt really good after eating one. My boyfriend had to stop himself from eating many, many more muffins than he did.

Thank you Kathie for your recipe. I am submitting my version of it to YeastSpotting.

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

2 tbsp honey

1 cup unsweetened, plain rice milk

1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded dried coconut

½ cup cocoa powder, measured and then sifted

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

¾ cup well fed 100% hydration sourdough starter (mostly whole wheat this time)

½ cup grade B maple syrup

1 egg, beaten

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pecan pieces plus 12 pecan halves for garnish

Olive oil cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, F. Spray two six cup muffin tins with olive oil spray and set aside.

Pour coconut into a medium sized bowl. Whisk together honey and rice milk until the honey is dissolved. Pour rice milk mixture over the coconut. Mix until combined and let stand for at least fifteen minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder and salt.

In another large bowl, combine starter, maple syrup, egg, applesauce and vanilla. Add wet ingredients and coconut mixture to flour mixture and mix until just combined. Gently fold in pecans.

Divide batter between muffin tins. It will fill up the tins, so make sure the batter is pretty evenly divided. Top each muffin with a pecan half. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before serving.


  1. Kathie said,

    January 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Those look awesome! Yum.

  2. drfugawe said,

    January 30, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Never heard of anyone who died from moldy vinegar! Yeah, you’re right, Mimi – basically, I don’t fear a blue mold. Purple, yes – Pink, yes – but blue I’d keep. Having said that, I feel much better about yeast molds than about bacteria molds – mostly because I’m not a biologist. But you’re right, I’m pretty accepting about molds, especially the yellow/orange ones that show up in sourdough starter, which I actually think increase the good flavors of the loaf.

    However, those beautiful muffins you just made suggest that there isn’t much wrong with Herbert – I might begin feeding him twice a day for a week, and I’d bet he’ll be better than ever – I’m convinced that a “forced” rest actually gives the strongest fungi a chance to survive and create a new opportunity for the future generations of “super” yeasts!

    Long Live Herbert!

    • Mimi said,

      January 30, 2010 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks for the fungi pep talk!

      I just got grossed out about the flavor such a clear color of blue mold would impart to the vinegar. I guess I should have tried to do surgery on the mother and start over, but the vinegar pot has been a little bone of contention in our household for the past couple of years, so I figured it was time to put that particular experiment to sleep for awhile.

      Herbert is back to normal today. He still looked a little sad this morning when I got up. I left the house for a few hours and came back to a super fizzy fungi pet. All is right with the world now and I can start making bread again, yippee!!

      Although my partner is fungi and bacteriaphobic, he is finally very accepting of the bread, so I am very happy I didn’t have to start over on the bread yeast. I am finally getting serious praise for my baking prowess, he told me these are the best muffins ever!

  3. Andreas said,

    February 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Those muffins look really good. Especially the marbled interior.

    • Mimi said,

      February 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm

      Thanks Andreas,
      That’s because the marbled interior is all pecans and coconut. Yum! (The first batch is nearly gone and I plan to make another batch soon!)

  4. Natashya said,

    February 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Ok, I have killed off a few guys too….
    I get tired or something and end up using up all the sourdough starter from time to time.
    Great that you are making your own vinegar! I have instructions in Wild Fermentations, but haven’t tried it yet.
    Beautiful healthy muffins, I don’t think I have ever had a sourdough muffin before.

    • Mimi said,

      February 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm

      You’ve read Wild Fermentation!?? Woohoo!! I double dare you to make chicha and then blog about it!!

  5. Jeanne said,

    February 3, 2010 at 3:51 am

    Oh wow, you made vinegar! I’m so amazed! This reminds me, my sourdough starter has been neglected for weeks. And now it has black and white mold. I wonder if it can be revived. These muffins look amazing, I’ll have to give them a try when (if?) my starter comes back to life!

    • Mimi said,

      February 3, 2010 at 6:32 am

      Jeanne, check out comment #2 above. I guess you could scrape the mold off and try to revive it. If something bad happens, blame John! lol!!

  6. drfugawe said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:49 am

    There is a school of sourdough thought that says that every so often a baker should just pitch their old starter and make a new one! I’m talking experienced, commercial sourdough bakers – and we already know (OK, we assume) that mold in a sourdough indicates something wrong, and will require a period of healing – so why not just start over – maybe even start over with a tiny remnant of the old, unmoldy batch thrown in?

    I’ve come to believe that sourdough is nowhere near as difficult as folks think – most just don’t give it enough time to get going – so consider starting anew.

  7. Jeanne said,

    February 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Sourdough is definitely a fascinating creature! I’m not ready to pitch mine yet, I guess I’m kinda attached to it. I scraped off all the black and white stuff and the starter looked fine underneath. I took a spoonful of it and started again in a new jar.

    What an interesting point about just starting over every once in a while. Does the sourdough hit a plateau where it loses its vigor? Most of the opinions that I’ve read state that sourdough just gets better with age.

  8. Mimi said,

    February 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    John, Jeanne, Thanks for opening up a conversation! I always wish this would happen… but I guess we never find anything to talk about, lol!!

    Some people come from the school of thought that the sourdough always has to maintain a special ratio of water to flour. Those are the folks who remove a certain amount of starter and either toss it or use it in muffins (they call this cast off) and then they feed their starter the exact ratio they use to keep it perfect.

    I never do that. I just dump in a quarter cup of water and a quarter cup of flour each day my starter is on the counter (not stored in the fridge). This probably does do odd things to my starter. For instance, if I’ve been feeding it a few days without baking, I build up a lot of starter. For me, I’ve found that using a lot of my starter after it has been treated this way for long periods of time, and starting my feedings from a small amount of starter does help strenghen my starter. I don’t know if this would ever be necessary with the cast off method. My starter has amazing flavor. I think it stems from the abuse. 😀

  9. drfugawe said,

    February 3, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Here’s a good source for more info on this subject: http://www.farine-mc.com/2009/11/meet-baker-gerard-rubaud.html
    Apparently, a re-start of a starter (using only new ingredients) is done to avoid an eventual build up of acid – we all sure know that if we leave a sourdough starter on the counter without feeding it, it will begin to smell like vinegar – I think that’s what bakers like Rubaud are trying to avoid -as he says, his sourdoughs are not sour! But I think there are sourdough bakers -especially in the U.S.- who love the more sour loaves, and frankly, I think letting your starter build some acids also increases the pungency of the flavors.

    It’s been a long time since I put my sourdough in the fridge – I leave it out on the counter, where it’s usually fed daily. But if it has gone 2 days, infrequently even 3 days, without feeding, the result is a yellow or pinkish tone, and a vinegar smell – I have never used it in this “weakened” state for baking, but when I feed it in this state, it immediately springs to vibrant life, and the bread baked with it has a pungent and full flavor. When I bake with a starter which has been fed daily for a week or two on the counter, the result is a sweet, subtle taste that few would identify as sourdough – it is not sour!

    Sourdough is fascinating, is it not?

    • Mimi said,

      February 3, 2010 at 6:53 pm

      It sure is fascinating! That’s why I’m so hooked!!

    • Jeanne said,

      February 4, 2010 at 2:16 am

      I do like a very sour sourdough bread, but Mr. Rubaud’s bread looks absolutely delicious! I keep my sourdough in the fridge since I’m unable to use it during the week, and I try to remember to feed it every weekend. It definitely has a very acidic, sour smell and flavor. I’ll have to experiment with leaving it out on the counter as well. Fascinating stuff!

  10. peabody said,

    February 4, 2010 at 12:44 am

    I love when starter is involved in a muffin.

  11. February 5, 2010 at 8:04 am

    […] Coco-Nutty-Cocoa Sourdough Muffins […]

  12. Graziana said,

    February 6, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Coconut, pecans and cocoa… great combo! I love muffins and I have to try this recipe, thank you!

  13. Joanne said,

    February 7, 2010 at 4:32 am

    These muffins are gorgeous! I am too scared of starter to make it let alone kill it. Although maybe my subconscious fear is that I will kill it. So I just don’t make it. What came first the chicken or the egg?

    Coconut and chocolate make the ultimate delicious combination.

    • Mimi said,

      February 7, 2010 at 6:38 am

      You… would be fascinated with starter. How could you not? You are studying medicine! Starter is yeast and bacteria. What’s not to love? There is no way you would kill it. You would be too in love with it. Report back to me when you have starter….

  14. Madam Chow said,

    February 9, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Those look pretty darn good. Boris, my starter, died last year, so now I’m working with Son of Boris.

  15. Mamatkamal said,

    February 13, 2010 at 7:30 am

    I have absolutely to try this, they look amazing.

  16. February 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Yum! These have my mouth watering. Would love to eat of these goodies with a strong cup of coffee. 🙂

  17. Kelly said,

    March 8, 2010 at 12:52 am

    LOL, my whole wheat starter was too much of a tender foot for my periodic care so I went back to white flour. I’ll try again sometime with a lower hydration, I think that helps longevity. And don’t feel bad about your vinegar, I fished off and threw out a perfectly good thick healthy mother once that had grown in my vinegar bottle because I didn’t know what it was. Won’t do that again! These muffins look great, I have been looking at using my starter in some sweet stuff…

  18. April 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    […] Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins […]

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