Muffin Madness!

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?

Did your parents own a copy of this book? I'll bet they did.

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’.)

Baking supplies in a dark kitchen.

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.

Waiting to be baked.

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.

An ill-lit shot of the finished goods.

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.”)

Looming large on the horizon.

*I wouldn’t argue that these categorizations are mutually exclusive, though they’re not always complementary, either.

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7 responses to “Muffin Madness!

  1. I am totally muffin obsessed. I bake some every Sunday so that we have muffins for breakfast for the week. Here are my current favorites, in case you’re looking for another muffin recipe.

    N.B. The recipe calls for what I think are called “Italian plums” in the States. (Smaller, firmer, ovoid, less juicy.) I think they’d be stellar with berries, if you still have some and can’t get the “right” plums.

    Plum Poppyseed Muffins
    Makes 12 muffins
    Preparation: 20 minutes
    Baking: 20 minutes

    2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
    3/4 c. granulated sugar
    1 tbsp. baking powder
    4 tbsp. ground poppyseeds
    1 tsp. lemon zest, finely grated/minced
    2 eggs
    1 c. yoghurt (250 ml)
    butter and flour for pan [I have a silicon muffin pan, so I don’t bother; also, if you were using muffin papers you wouldn’t need this]
    15 plums, pitted and chopped

    Mix together the first eight ingredients. The batter will be quite thick. Butter and flour muffin tin, unless using silicon or muffin papers. Into the bottom of each muffin cup, spoon about a tablespoon of batter. Plop some plum chunks on top. Cover with more batter, and then carefully smoosh a few pieces of plum (skin-side up is prettiest) on top.

    Bake at 180ºC (about 350ºF) for about 20 minutes, until golden brown on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (FYI, 180ºC is actually 356ºF, so you’ll want to bake them a little longer than 20 minutes.)

  2. These sound awesome! 15 plums is quite a lot, but plums are still plentiful (and cheap) at the farmers markets here. I think I’ll make a batch of these next weekend 🙂

  3. They’re pretty insanely good, yeah, and keep for a week, no problem. (Thanks to the yoghurt and sunflower oil, they don’t really dry out.) And I really think that they’ll be good with other fruits — the muffin has a dense, moist, tender crumb and a really nice subtle-not-boring flavor in and of itself. I’m planning batches with frozen blueberries for the winter.

  4. Mmmm.. I should make muffins. Pete got me a muffin (cupcake?) tin for my birthday. It’s actually what I wanted! (I also got a food processor for XMas two years ago, which some people I know have decide was not a good gift, but I think is a wonderful gift)… I perhaps shall make some muffins some time soon.

  5. Kitchen gadgets make the best gifts, I’d say — I might angle for an ice-cream maker this Christmas 🙂 What kind of muffins are you going to make?

  6. I can justify eating even cupcakes for breakfast, because cupcakes are just muffins with more awesome on top.
    s

  7. See, I don’t _really_ have a problem with eating muffins for breakfast, but in my Childhood Home, muffins for breakfast was a giant no-no. The best breakfasts involve pastries, donuts, cupcakes, or pie. Scratch that: the best _meals_ involve any or all of these things.

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