Monday, March 1, 2010

Muffin Ma'ams

Janet here: The first muffins I remember making were bran muffins when I was a newlywed. New to cooking fulltime for someone besides myself, I embraced cooking and the planning of meals as if it was my job. (It wasn't, or more accurately, it was only one of my jobs.) I read women's magazines voraciously, ripping out recipes and thinking about the next perfect meal.

That marriage ended up being a starter marriage, doomed to flop like a failed souffle. But I brought away from the relationship many invaluable lessons, including a realization of how much I love cooking and in particular cooking for someone else. I never knew how much that meant to me until I lived it daily in that relationship. It was just one of the many lessons I could only have learned in that moment and in that way, so I remain grateful.

My interest in healthy cooking began at this time — becoming a vegetarian was one of the many personal changes I made as a result of that relationship collapse — and so bran muffins became one of my first forays into fiber. I found this recipe in Ellie Krieger's new cookbook, So Easy, a book you'll be hearing more about because it's amazing. I had to adapt it a bit; I used dates instead of figs because I live in a place where figs, apparently, are considered too weird to actually stock in the local grocery store. Pathetic really, but I think the result is still mighty tasty. What's your favorite kind of muffin?

Fig (or Date) Bran Muffins
makes about 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups bran cereal, (I used All-Bran)
1 cup low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup natural applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 cup chopped dried figs, plus 3 whole dried figs thinly sliced

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the cereal and milk. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

Add the applesauce, honey, oil, molasses and egg to the cereal mixture and stir until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the chopped figs (dates). Spoon the batter into the pan and top each muffin with a fig slice. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles. (Who knew?)

Bake for about 20 mnutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool.

Rachel here: Ok, so I find bran muffins oddly satisfying and delicious (I say oddly because ummm...really?...bran and muffin sound like opposites on the yumminess scale, but so it goes) and am currently feeling a little jealous that my mom thought to make them. This is not, however, because I am not gaga for the muffins I made for this post. The other thing about my mom's bran muffins is that they led to her writing a bit about her first marriage, a marriage I have been intrigued by since I first found out about it (I was in 4th grade and I remember making my mom do a mathematical breakdown of the time between her first marriage and her marriage to my dad to prove to me that he was my real dad). I think it's the idea of my mom being a different person, really, that grabs my attention and curiosity. I have so many tangible ideas about her as partnered with my dad that picturing her partnered with this man who I have barely seen a picture of (and who has a VERY unique name, particularly to my 4th grade mind) sort of invites me to conjure my mother as a person in a set of parameters that I can only imagine, a person with different ideas about herself and what she wants. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, other than to say that I got really excited when I started reading about this first marriage and, in the process, realized that I should really explore that more with my mom because it's obviously something that remains sort of fascinating to me 15 or so years after first finding out about it. Like, who was that woman? But anyway, back to my muffins.

These muffins are seriously good. I modified the recipe slightly from the original (in The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox) and suspect that both versions are equally awesome. The only warning that I'll give is that these muffins should probably be made in a setting with more than two mouths to feed, because the number of mouths around will consume these muffins quickly (and two mouths means six muffins a piece and that's just a sort of obscene amount of breakfast sugar, although there is a really good flavor balance between the cake and toppings components). Anyway, these are certainly polar opposites to my mom's bran muffins, but I (we) hope you enjoy them both.

Clementine Coffee Cake Muffins with Almond Streusel
makes 12

1 c. almonds, chopped
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/4 tspn. kosher salt
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
8 T. unsalted butter, very soft (plus extra for greasing the muffin tins if you're not using liners)
Finely grated zest of 3 clementines
1 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c. plus 2 T. sour cream
1/2 tspn. pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tspn. baking powder
1/2 tspn. kosher salt

First, make the streusel. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Chop your almonds and then spread them on a baking sheet to toast, about five minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and 1/4 tspn. kosher salt, mixing well (so that sugar is completely broken up). Stir in the butter. Set aside.

Next, make the muffin batter. Butter or line your muffin tin. Combine the 8 T. butter, clementine zest and granulated sugar, beating until fluffy (about 5 minutes on medium speed with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer). While mixing, add the egg, then the sour cream and the vanilla. In a small bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/2 tspn. of kosher salt. Beating the wet mixture at a low speed, add in the flour mixture until just combined.

Pour the muffin batter into the muffin tin and then top each with a generous amount of the streusel. I pushed mine down a little to really maximize the streusel opportunity. Bake, rotating halfway through, for about 25 minutes (muffins will spring back to your touch). Remove and let stand for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack (this might be the hardest part of the entire recipe because everything smells and looks soooo good at this point). Dig in.

1 comment:

  1. I will have to bake both. I completely enjoyed the stories as well as the recipes. Storytelling recipes, love the idea.