When I was young, my mother owned a copy of “Mostly Muffins.” Perhaps your mother (or dad) did, too: it seems to have been a staple in kitchens in the early 1990s — in my neck of the woods, at least. I was fascinated by this book: by the alliterative title, the book’s square shape, that picture of a basket piled high with perfectly formed muffins. Never mind that I don’t have one single memory of my mom ever baking from this book; never mind that we rarely ate muffins. “Mostly Muffins” was a central part of my childhood kitchenscape, occupying the same shelf as the Joy of Cooking, The Victory Garden Cookbook, and recipe binders filled to overflowing, yellowed and dog-eared pages curling over the edges.”Mostly Muffins” conjures tangential images of the kitchen’s faux-Southwestern patterned wallpaper, of the citrus-fruit-themed needlework pieces my mom hung above the cordless phone. The cordless phone! God, cordless phones: Where Are They Now?
I owe a lot to “Mostly Muffins,” primarily its ability to shuttle me back to a more innocent time, but also my present-day love of muffins. I mentioned that we rarely ate muffins when I was a child; I think this dietary absence owes to the muffin’s dubious categorical status. Similar to a sweetbread, it’s too sugary to be a proper breakfast food (or it was in my household), but it wasn’t quite decadent enough to be a showcase dessert. The muffin’s in-betweenness left it in the dust of healthier breakfast fare and fattier desserts. “Mostly Muffins” mostly stayed on the shelf, except when my sis and I flipped through it to look at the pictures.
Working against my family’s innate prejudice, I’m making an effort to incorporate muffins into my dietary life. While I enjoy them (and enjoy baking them), I’m not a fan of having a dozen muffins around the house. Despite my best efforts — that is, even if I eat muffins for snack and dessert every day — half of the muffs usually get stale and are dumped in the compost bin. I could freeze some, sure, but freezing compromises the texture and taste of the muffins.
(Note: The only things I’m really OK with storing in the freezer are meats, some berries, some breads, cookies, and Things That Are Meant To Be Frozen, like ice cream sandwiches and frozen pizzas. You can disagree with me on this, but it has been my experience that freezing alters the taste and texture of many foods in an undesirable way — not to mention that it’s better to eat food fresh. Not to mention, too, that a cluttered freezer reflects a cluttered interior life. Just sayin’.)
Knowing this, I only bake muffins when I’ll have a larger audience for them. My audience, in this case, includes my housemates and Hook’s coworkers. And myself, of course.
This summer, I bought a megabox (5 lbs.) of berries at an insanely good price. I froze most of them; I still have a few cups in the freezer. My nutso berry buying spree prompted me to find a reliable Blueberry Muffin recipe: one that’s quick, relatively healthy, and can be enjoyed by the health-conscious and muffin lovers alike.* For my past several batches of muffins, I’ve used this recipe found on Simple Daily Recipes.
Not only is the recipe super simple, but the muffins aren’t overly sweet (and are therefore suitable for breakfast!). I do add about a teaspoon of vanilla and a few liberal shakes of cinnamon to my batter — as written, the recipe doesn’t call for any spices, and the cinnamon notably enhances the flavor. With my next batch, I may add some ground ginger (just a smidge!) to see how that alters the flavor.
Meanwhile, if you have a favorite blueberry muffin recipe, please share it! I’d like to test a few versions to see how they stack up to my current fave. (Note: And feel free, too, to share any other muffin recipes you love: I have a latent goal of writing a muffin-centric cookbook with a cutesy title and a bounteous feast of muffins featured on the cover. Some say “copyright infringement,” others say “recreating a childhood dream.”)
*I wouldn’t argue that these categorizations are mutually exclusive, though they’re not always complementary, either.