Saturday, November 14, 2009

Muffins - My Answer to Everything

If you are a member of my select circle of friends, there is a good chance you will eventually receive muffins from me. If you have recently given birth, been hospitalized, been yelled at by your boss or if your husband ran off with a cocktail waitress, I will attempt to cheer your soul with a basket of muffins. Needless to say, I am very popular.

There is not a (normal) creature alive who does not love a good muffin. Even the word muffin is fun to say, delightful to contemplate and ambrosial to ingest. A major reason for this is that a muffin is the perfect butter vehicle. (In my family, we quarter a muffin, put it in a bowl with a great gob of butter, microwave it and eat with a spoon. We call this a "bowlie" for I don't know what reason).

Even though a loving muffin will say to a stick of butter, "You complete me", an exceptional muffin is moist enough to stand alone. And therein lies a possible problem: in the wrong hands, muffins can be dry.

There are a number of contributing factors to a dry muffin. Not enough oil, too many eggs, wrong liquid, and over-mixing. I always make sure that my muffins have the right balance of ingredients and then use a secret weapon: The Streusel Topping.

My streusel topping is made with butter and brown sugar - two ingredients that are already moist and lend their moistness to the muffin resting below. A streusel topping is very easy to make and adds that special finish to your muffins. I use it on practically every type of muffin I make - even if the original recipe does not call for it.

It has been my experience that everybody's favorite muffin is blueberry. Here's why:

Yep. Blueberries. There's just something about that blueberry popping in your mouth while butter drips down your chin that creates an almost sensual morning experience. How many things can you say that about?

I have tested a multitude of ingredient combinations to come up with what I think is the perfect blueberry muffin. My troubled and forlorn friends will testify that I haven't wasted my time.


You will need three bowls for this recipe. Sorry.

In the first bowl, whisk together:

1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 1/3 C. light brown sugar
The zest of one lemon
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. Buttermilk

Second bowl:

2 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix lightly.

Fold in 2 C. blueberries. Gently. You don't want to pop the blueberries - save that for your teeth. Also, popped blueberries create blue batter which is not all that attractive really.

Third bowl:

The streusel topping

3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferably)

Scoop the batter into greased muffin tins. Sprinkle a generous amount of the topping onto each muffin. Push gently into the batter if necessary. Make sure you have a goodly amount of butter on each muffin.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

The smart budding pastry chef will make twice as much topping as called for and freeze it for easy use later. Remember - you can put this topping on almost any muffin and improve the flavor and texture.

These muffins also freeze beautifully. Now - the next time you're at the dollar store, stock up on some small baskets, preferably with a "Little Red Riding Hood" vibe. Also some colorful cloth napkins.

With gorgeous, delicious muffins in the freezer and basket at the ready, you are now prepared to bring joy into the lives of your troubled friends. As a matter of fact, you will begin to actively seek out troubled friends just so you can bring some joy into their humdrum lives with your glorious muffins.

Don't be surprised if you get a completely new reputation in the neighborhood.

Happy Baking!


taxidrivermom said...

OMG...I wish I had know about muffins long ago. This must be where I went wrong. Thank you So much. I shall try them first on the neighbors that refuse to keep their dogs from doing "their business" all over my flower gardens. If that is successful I will try them on my crazy family. From there the possibilities are unlimited....

Seriously..they sound divine. Can't wait to try this recipe.

Susan said...

oh yum! Hey Pastry Chef, I make the most wonderful banana muffins (no nuts - so many are allergic and I don't want anyone to be stuck on the sidelines while the rest of us are cramming muffins drenched in butter down our gullets. The topping has plenty of crunch). Is it appropriate (channeling Carrie Prejean) to contribute a recipe?

Anonymous said...

Wow, can you imagine if Mother Teresa made muffins, too?! That would make her Better Than Oprah. Who is a quitter, anyway.

Lovely, lovely muffins, Muffin Lady! Will contact you as soon as I feel the merest bit of ennui settling in...

Linda said...

Please feel free to post your banana muffin recipe! Being a huge fan of heirloom cooking, I LOVE when people share their favorite recipes! Contact me anyway, OPC. I feel a visit coming on.

Susan said...

how do I post the recipe? Just write it in a comment?