Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gray skies and a recipe for muffins

It's past the middle of November, and once again it's another dark, gray, gloomy, and rainy day. This is Maine, and it really should be snowing.

I'm too bleary to write anything more about that subject. It seemed like a good morning to make muffins, in spite of my bleariness (which causes me to usually leave out some essential ingredient). I'm not very good at baking. I am constitutionally unable to follow a recipe precisely. Until recently, I've pretty much restricted my baking to pies, which is merely making a crust and tossing together a filling that looks and smells good enough to bake. No recipe needed!

I've been making muffins for months, and it's pretty much been one disaster after another. Why am I so muffin impaired?!

Nonetheless, here's a recipe that I like so much that I feel compelled to share it. It's not the original. Oh no. That would be too boring! At this point, I've put so much stuff into them that they've become a meal in a muffin, so I dub them. . .

Meal in a Muffin Muffins (with commentary)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl:

1 cup Bob's Red Mill 5-grain cereal (red wheat, rye, barley, oats, triticale, and flaxseed)
1/2 cup thick cut slow cooking oats The only "do not" in the entire recipe: Do not use quick cooking oats!
You can use any proportion of the above for a total of 1 1/2 cups. The original recipe called for regular cut slow cooking oats.
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp red sea salt (that's what I use, but any salt will do)
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
The original recipe called for 1/2 tsp cinnamon and no other spices. Today was the first time I added ginger. In my original post I wrote "all spices are optional except for the cinnamon." Of course they are, but this batch is the best yet. The addition of ginger causes the muffins to taste more spicy than sweet. Leave out the ginger if you will. It's interesting how one quarter of teaspoon of ginger can alter taste perception so much.

Cut 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter into this mixture until it is crumbly.

Mix in:

3/4 cup walnut pieces (or less - I love walnuts!)
1/2 cup raisins
1 large crisp apple, peeled and cut into small pieces

You can make these without apples, with more raisins if you like, or with none. You can substitute currants. The original recipe called for none of this extra deliciousness.

In another bowl, mix together:

2 large eggs
1 cup plain low-fat yoghurt, thinned down some with water (perhaps about 1/10th?)
2 tsps vanilla extract

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Spoon into a buttered muffin tin. I make 7 muffins because I love the big muffin tops, but you can also make 12. Don't forget to butter the tin; these will stick even in a non-stick muffin tin (unless it's never been used). So much for non-stick pans. . .

Cook for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the biggest muffin comes out clean. I cook them for 30 minutes because it makes the tops more crispy.

These can be frozen and defrosted. They microwave well. I lavish them with even more butter for eating, because butter is one of my favorite foods. I'm sure my arteries do not appreciate that.

Image note: Just took a batch out of the oven. That is one ugly photograph. As you can see, the tops merged together to make one big mass. I meant that to happen. In about five minutes, I'll cut them into squares with a knife, and then remove them from the tin. They didn't rise as much as they have done. Wonder what I did wrong this time. . .

In the background is a lonely date nut muffin that I will probably never eat. I followed a recipe that had too much sugar, dates, and molasses in it. I want to figure out how to reproduce the date nut bread bread taste of my childhood memories. Baking memories is not for the faint of heart!


Dick Fischbeck said...

I'm no expert but I think using more baking soda and less baking powder might help. Just a wild guess.

Dick Fischbeck said...

Oops. Wrong about that.

"Both baking powder and baking soda are chemical leavening agents that cause batters to rise when baked. The leavener enlarges the bubbles which are already present in the batter produced through creaming of ingredients. When a recipe contains baking powder and baking soda, the baking powder does most of the leavening. The baking soda is added to neutralize the acids in the recipe plus to add tenderness and some leavening."

Read more:

Julie H. Rose said...

There's nothing wrong with this recipe (and that's from a hypercritical me)!

Thanks for the baking soda/baking powder info. It explains why these hefty muffins do not feel overly dense.