“Sweet” Milk-Nut Muffins for March Muffin Madness

This recipe is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Gluten-Free Wednesdays, and Cutting Back on Sugar.

Last week, I saw a post that Ari had linked up to the Slightly Indulgent Tuesday roundup (at Amy’s Slightly Sugar and Gluten-Free) from her blog, The Frugally Rich Life. The description was “Sweet Milk—An alternative to even honey or agave.” I immediately checked out Ari’s post. She had written briefly on making “sweet” milk and using it to sweeten baked goods. I had heard the term “sweet” milk used before, but not in this context. Some very old cookbooks I’ve used often referred to regular, whole dairy milk, as sweet milk. That term was used to distinguish it from buttermilk. I’ve also seen sweetened condensed milk referenced as “sweet” milk. However, the “sweet” milk Ari wrote about was made by soaking raisins in milk for a period of time. The milk is then drained off and the raisins are set aside/discarded. The “sweet” milk is then used to sweeten baked goods in lieu of sugar. I was intrigued by this concept to say the least.

One of the recipes I planned to share for these three days of March Muffin Madness was a very basic sweet muffin that I had made previously with black walnuts or pecans. The recipe called for both milk and sugar so I decided to try it using the “sweet” milk only, replacing both the milk and the sugar. The version Ari used called for reconstituted non-fat dry milk. However, I wanted to make the recipe dairy free and bake the muffins the next day, so I soaked my raisins in coconut milk overnight (actually about 20 hours). The “sweet” milk appeared thickened, had a nice ivory color, and actually smelled a bit sweet. After draining, the raisins appeared flat, but still tasted slightly sweet. Once I mixed the ingredients though, it was clear that while the sweet milk might adequately replace the sugar, it could not replace both the sugar and the milk. More liquid was needed to make a good batter. So I added another ½ cup of full fat coconut milk right out of the can. The batter seemed just right then.

Coming out of the oven, these muffins were a lovely, golden brown. (They seem to be actually glowing in these photos!) I broke one open. I took one bite … and then another … and another. I was critiquing as I went. The muffin tasted good, but very simple. I asked Mr. GFE for his opinion, not giving him too much data, just responding “nuts” when he asked “What’s in ‘em?” His appraisal … “They’re good, honey. A little plain tasting maybe, but good.” That was a perfectly acceptable response to me as he had no idea the muffin didn’t contain either sugar or honey. And, really I had to agree with his assessment.

When you first taste these, you are not impressed the way you might be with some muffin recipes (like my ABC Muffins, “Bran” Muffins, or Banana Maple-Nut Muffins, for example). Neither the flavors nor the texture jumps out at you. But, then as you finish one, you realize that you’ve found it very satisfying. In some ways, the low-key sweetness reminds me of tea biscuits. In fact, I love eating one of these while sipping on a cup of tea. Incidentally, I did tell Mr. GFE about the sweet milk method; he was surprised how well it worked.

I wouldn’t say this recipe is top notch yet, but the muffins are good and I think this is a really clever concept. I plan to experiment with it much more. I wanted to go ahead and share it to see if you, my gfe readers, will take this recipe—or the concept—and play around with it and see what you think. A few other important things to add … I read more on the “sweet” milk concept and mine was “short changed” a bit. Some folks say that you have to soak the raisins in the milk for 2 – 3 days to get the maximum sweetness. I will definitely try the longer period next time. Of course, adding some fruit to these muffins would also add sweetness and some moisture. In my notes below, I actually recommend adding a small amount of mashed banana if one is using a thinner milk. 

“Sweet” Milk-Nut Muffins (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free)
(Click here for a printable version of this recipe.)

1 ½ cup gf flour mix*
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup coconut oil, liquefied (or oil of your choice)
1 extra large egg
½ cup “sweet” milk (i.e., raisin-sweetened coconut milk; or other non-dairy or dairy milk—see my notes below)
½ cup coconut milk (full fat; or other non-dairy or dairy milk—see my notes below)
½ – 1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (e.g., pecans, walnuts, black walnuts)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tins.

Mix first three ingredients in large bowl

Make well and add coconut oil, egg, “sweet” milk, coconut milk, and nuts.

Mix until ingredients are moistened and any large chunks of flour mix are broken up.

Fill muffin tins about ¾ full.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Makes one dozen.

*As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t tolerate many of the healthier, gluten-free flours; e.g., sorghum, buckwheat. Therefore, my gluten-free flour mix is 3 parts Asian white rice flour and 2 parts cornstarch. I gently mix three one-lb bags of the Asian white rice flour and two one-lb boxes of cornstarch in a very large bowl and then store the mix in several airtight containers (like large glass jars). No refrigeration is needed. But feel free to use whichever flour mix you use most often for baking. If you’re not gluten free, you may use all-purpose flour.

Shirley’s Notes: “Sweet” milk should be prepared beforehand. Soak ¾ cup to 1 cup of raisins in milk (one cup) at least overnight or for as long as 3 days. Shake, drain, and measure amount needed for recipe. If you want to use another type of milk, dairy or a thinner non-dairy (e.g., rice milk, almond milk) or dairy milk, I’d suggest adding about ¼ cup of fruit puree for added moisture. Mashed bananas would be great in this role. As I said above, they’d also add some sweetness (which is true of other fruits as well). I’d also like to make these with olive oil to see if that adds a hint of richness to the flavor. The nuts used can also affect the sweetness of the recipe. Pecans, for example, offer a bit of their own sweetness.

I’ll be anxious to hear what you think of this sweetening concept. Perhaps some of you have even used “sweet” milk before. Let us know! Tomorrow, March Muffin Madness will wrap up with a classic muffin that could be categorized as either sweet or savory, or both. ;-)

Not just gf, but gfe!

Not just gf, but gfe!

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28 Responses to ““Sweet” Milk-Nut Muffins for March Muffin Madness”

  1. Pam on March 30th, 2010 12:39 pm



    • Shirley on March 30th, 2010 6:16 pm

      Pam–I think they are. After I uploaded those photos and they had such a golden glow and I thought are they really luminescent like that? Why yes they are! I’m eating one now with a cup of tea. Not very sweet, but somehow just right. :-)

      Thanks! xo,

      • Pam on March 31st, 2010 12:48 pm

        Sometimes I like muffins that aren’t so sweet!

        Enjoy Sweetie!…he he!


  2. Iris on March 30th, 2010 6:23 pm

    I love that both your muffins yesterday and today were sugar free! And I missed that post of Ari’s, but that’s such a great idea!

    • Shirley on March 30th, 2010 7:10 pm

      Thanks so much, Iris! Sugar free is definitely something I aspire to … both of these muffins satisfy without making me want several more. :-) It is such a neat idea that Ari shared. Apparently it’s an old-fashioned idea, too. I can’t wait to try it with the raisins soaking for three days. Interestingly enough, I have a raisin cookie recipe that reminds me of the “sweet” milk because the raisins add sweetness in a similar way. I’ll share that as soon as I get the conversion down. It’s a recipe I’ve had for years and just needs tweaking more than usual for gluten free.



  3. Judy on March 31st, 2010 9:51 am

    Great recipe! Thanks for stopping by…..if you want to be in the giveaway become my follower:) Hope to see you soon:)

    • Shirley on March 31st, 2010 9:19 pm

      Thanks, Judy. Something different … I’ll be working with this concept more. I followed, although I’ll admit if an update doesn’t come via email, I’m not good about checking. I just get caught up in everything else going on. I’ll do my best! ;-)


  4. Alta on April 1st, 2010 2:02 pm

    That is a really cool idea. I wonder how it would be if you swapped dates for the raisins. Especially if you chopped them up a bit. Except then I’d DEFINITELY want to munch on the milk-soaked dates. Dates are SO good.

    • Shirley on April 1st, 2010 6:39 pm

      Hi Alta–I thought it was such a neat idea, too. The recipe is by no means perfect yet. I had one of these muffins today and it was pretty dry. I’d like to try it with EVOO next time as the oil. Your date idea is sensational. :-) Yes, dates are fabulous! And, to think I only found that out recently! LOL I believe this idea has been around so long that dates were not widely available at the time. As I understand it, they used to be a specialty item at Christmas for many people. I read the history of dates and shared a link a while back. And, this was also a frugal idea so raisins, in general, are usually less expensive than dates. I don’t know that you’d have to chop them up at all. The raisins are whole. With the dates, you’d remove the pits and the milk would get in them all the way. I think you could soak the dates for a day or two and include them in the recipe, too, if you wanted. Sounds like a plan to me! Please report back if you give it a try, and I’ll certainly post any updates, too.


  5. Tracee on April 2nd, 2010 10:51 am

    I like the sweet milk idea, I’ll have to try it with almond milk sometime. I wonder if prunes would work, they are sweet. Thanks for sharing this idea!

    • Shirley on April 5th, 2010 10:17 am

      Hi Tracee–Welcome to gfe! I think this concept will work with just about any milk and any fruit that will offer enough sweetness to appeal to us. I can’t wait to try the recipe using dates, as Alta suggested. Please let us know if you give it a try. :-)


  6. Alea on April 7th, 2010 1:53 am

    I am excited to try the “sweet milk” method in scones. I will let youknow how they turn out.

    Once we change our expectations for sweet, a lot of items are more enjoyable!

    • Shirley on April 7th, 2010 5:42 pm

      Hi Alea–I think that the less overt sweetness of “sweet milk” would be great for scones. :-) If you are doing dairy-free, too, be sure to get in enough moisture. That was my only disappointment with this muffin recipe; it just needed more moisture. I definitely think I’ll add some mashed banana next time to achieve a moist muffin. I love the less sweet because one doesn’t want another muffin right afterwards … that craving for sweetness just isn’t there—love that factor or (lack thereof)! ;-)


  7. WendyGK on April 7th, 2010 8:56 am

    When I saw ‘sweet milk’ it reminded me of an old-fashioned term in my grandmother’s recipes. I’d never have guessed it was milk sweetened with raisins. What a clever idea. Those muffins sure are photogenic.

    • Shirley on April 7th, 2010 6:01 pm

      Exactly, Wendy! I had seen “sweet milk” used that way, too … just to reference regular milk vs buttermilk. I’m so intrigued by this concept and can’t wait to try it more. It will have to cool down here some first though. I’m trying to avoid turning on the AC, so not sure I’ll be baking until it cools off again. (I did plan to bake some goodies before I leave on my trip in the morning though … bummer.)

      Thanks re: the photos! You know people would think I doctored those photos, but I didn’t. In fact, I would have liked to have toned them down a bit. The color is such a golden brown that they look like they are glowing! ;-)


  8. JoAnn on April 7th, 2010 11:12 am

    Intriguing idea! I don’t like muffins that are too sweet, and yours sound just sweet enough. Lovely pictures!

    • Shirley on April 7th, 2010 6:15 pm

      Hi there, JoAnn–Welcome to gfe! :-) I’m glad you liked the idea. I’m so happy I happened to catch it on Ari’s site. The sweetness is fine for me and I didn’t even soak the raisins the maximum amount of time. I’ll be playing around with this concept more for sure. ;-) Thanks for your kind words on the photos. They aren’t doctored … the muffins really do have that amazing golden glow about them!


  9. Linda on April 7th, 2010 8:51 pm

    Very interesting, Shirley. I’ve never heard of sweet milk. I wonder if it could be made with dates instead of raisins. I have some that need to be used. The muffins sound good to me. Thanks for participating in the muffin challenge!

    • Shirley on April 7th, 2010 10:11 pm

      Hi Linda–I think dates would work. This is a very old concept and I suspect raisins were readily available. As I understand it, dates were only available at Christmas years ago. Of course, I’d pit them first so the milk could easily get into all the nooks and crannies. I’d also add a bit more moisture to these muffins … maybe 1/4 cup of bananas or other fruit puree. (That is just a change I decided after I posted the recipe; it has nothing to do with using dates vs raisins.) I was tempted to add all my muffin recipes there ;-) , but figured folks could find them from that one post. Need to go back now and check out all the other entries. :-) I’m looking forward to your next challenge!


  10. Sharon on April 11th, 2010 8:48 am

    Fabulous concept! I am walking to the kitchen to start soaking the raisins now! Can’t wait to report back how they work for us!

    • Shirley on April 11th, 2010 8:53 am

      Hi Sharon–Looks like you are new here at gfe–welcome! :-) Can’t wait to hear what you think of this method for sweetening and how you use it. If I were going to make these muffins again, I’d soak mine for the 2 – 3 days and add more moisture in some form–mashed banana, slightly more oil and/or different oil (a combo of olive and coconut works well in most recipes), etc.


  11. Ari@ The Frugally Rich Life on May 13th, 2010 6:26 pm

    Wow! Shirley! Great job! Thanks for the mention! :) These look great! I will have to try them! :) Look forward to more sweet milk adventures from you and me and everyone! :)

    • Shirley on May 13th, 2010 11:48 pm

      Hi Ari–Thanks so much! As I was saying on FB earlier, I have loved this sweet milk concept. It’s great seeing so many of our blogging buddies use it, too. More sugar-free recipes for us to try! :-)


  12. KathyinMD on January 30th, 2011 9:32 pm

    mmm tasty! I just used vanilla almond milk (plenty sweet enough). Great coconut flavor!

    • Shirley on January 30th, 2011 9:49 pm

      Hi Kathy–Oh, I’m so glad they came out so well for you! Vanilla almond milk is a great choice to use. :-) Thanks so much for the lovely feedback!


  13. Jackie Vetter on April 24th, 2011 5:28 pm

    I have a problem with grains overall, so I’m going to try making these with just some kind of nut flour. I’ve been looking for a good “plain” muffin to have with soups. So, I’ll let you know. I like the sweet milk idea.


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