Archived entries for muffins

Kim Boyce’s Carrot-Spelt Muffins

Most of my experiments with whole-grain baking have consisted of half-heartedly dumping whole wheat flour into a dough recipe. They usually turn out fine, but I’ve never been transported by any of these efforts, and I’ve never felt like the end result was particularly inspiring. And then I received a review copy of Kim Boyce’s Good To The Grain, and I found myself racing around the bulk foods section of our local health food store, thrilled to nab a bag of oat bran and discover a source for amaranth.

Never before have I read such clear descriptions of different grains—their histories, inherent flavors, how they react in baking, what each variety is best for.  And never before have I trusted so fully that these grains could be used with delicious results. I love that the author has developed recipes that emphasize each grain’s strengths—this isn’t health food (just look at how much butter there is), but it’s whole food—baking that really showcases the flavors of these somewhat unfamiliar ingredients.

It helps that the book is gorgeous, too. And that when I debated which recipe to make first, the editor, Luisa Weiss, wrote me to say EVERYTHING was good (”That book is a revelation!” she wrote, and this is a lady I trust on such matters.)

I started simple, with carrot muffins warmed with allspice and topped with buttery streusel. A little more than half of the flour is spelt, an ancient grain that has an innate sweetness. I swore I’d follow the recipe diligently, but ended up without buttermilk, so I substituted cultured goat milk from a local dairy. Either is fine, it turns out, and the scent of these baking is heavenly.

If you need me, I’ll be out buying buckwheat and kamut.

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Baking for Warmth: Mini Apple-Cranberry Muffins

These cold mornings, I find myself wanting something more comforting for breakfast than my standard Special K. Oatmeal does the trick sometimes, but quickly zapping a few mini-muffins from my freezer stash is even better.

Warmed with a hefty shake of cinnamon and a shower of freshly-grated nutmeg, these moist little muffins have lovely pockets of soft-baked apple and bright tart spots of cranberries (Thanksgiving leftovers, thankfully frozen.) With a fair amount of whole-wheat flour they’re just wholesome enough to justify that cake-for-breakfast thing.

They’d be nice with a handful of nuts thrown in, or some chopped up dried apricots. I ran out of eggs this week, but unless you did too, you might even have everything you need in your pantry already. And these are even better if you don’t have to trek outside.

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Keeping Currant: Mini Currant-Kefir Muffins

When I become obsessed with an ingredient, I can’t rest until I’ve found it. Fresh currants, little rosy globes of tart juice, were calling my name. I had to have them.

But having scored the object of my desire, of course, I had to find something to do with it, and that can be tricky. Having never actually tasted a fresh red currant, I imagined that there would be loads of available recipes calling for them. No dice. These glossy jewels make very pretty garnishes, but I couldn’t find an appealing baking recipe that actually incorporated the fresh currants into the dough!

Luckily, I have a bit of a cookbook obsession, too. I recently acquired a discounted copy of Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions in the basement of the Strand. Her “Blue Ribbon Worthy” blueberry muffins seemed to be a classic worth riffing on. Instead of blueberries, I subbed the teeny red currants, perfect to be distributed among the cups of the too-cute-to-let-sit-on-a-shelf mini-muffin tin our friend Adrian gave us as a wedding gift.

The batter sounded a little sweeter than my usual, but I counted on the currants to provide a contrasting tartness, and they came through as promised. When the grocery store didn’t have organic buttermilk, I decided to substitute kefir, a newly-trendy traditional fermented milk that’s a bit like drinkable yogurt. To play up the flavor of the currants, I included a bit of cornmeal with the dry ingredients (though it probably would be good with more) and a little almond extract.

The little muffins puffed up enthusiastically, and they’re cheerful with bright red pops of color. It could be fun to make two batches, one with currants and another with blueberries—maybe for a 4th of July celebration? I bet the currant ones would disappear first, though. They’re fluffy and lemony, a little tangy from the kefir and a bit rich. They’d be delicious smeared with red currant jam—does anyone have a recipe for that? Not sure I’ve had my fill of currants yet, and the season is running out!

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muffins for moving day

Two of our best friends are moving from Manhattan to Astoria this weekend. It’s an overwhelming task, coming home from work late on a Thursday and trying to put an entire apartment into moving boxes, arriving Saturday to find out the couch doesn’t fit in the new place, and somehow setting up a home before going back to the office Monday.

We’re headed over there to help unpack, and I wanted to bring something comforting, so I turned to Smitten Kitchen. Deb’s recipe for Jacked Up Banana Bread struck me as a particularly fall-like recipe with its cinnamon and nutmeg, cloves, and bourbon. These are warming flavors, perfect for a rainy morning breakfast as our friends try out their new morning commute. I increased the bourbon, added walnuts, and substituted cornmeal for some of the flour. They’re not that corny—you could try shifting more toward the cornbread side. I would also cut the sugar a bit more, especially if your bananas are superripe.

Fall Banana Muffins
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Simply Recipes)

Makes 12 muffins

4 small ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup muscovado sugar (light brown sugar would be fine)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal
1/2 cup walnut pieces plus more for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices, baking soda and salt. Add the flour and cornmeal last, mix gently but do not overmix. Add 1/2 cup walnut pieces and fold in gently. Spoon into a lined muffin tray. Sprinkle walnut pieces on top of each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes, allow to cool five minutes in tray before moving to a rack to cool.

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