The best weekends start with muffins....and here are mine

We all have our gifts, and here are mine:   I write very good thank you notes.  I grow really beautiful lettuce.    And I can bake any kind of muffin. 

I cracked the muffin code in 1987, when I was a graduate student in theoretical linguistics.    Some time in January, I figured out that I really, really did NOT want to be a linguist when I grew up.   Yet I needed to finish out the academic year at UC Santa Cruz.  So I pondered what unique, life-enriching experiences I could have in my four or five remaining months on California's Central Coast.  And looking around me, I decided that what was truly exceptional about that place at that time was the quality of the muffins.  They had fabulous muffins in Santa Cruz, and I set out to learn how to make them.  I baked muffins every day.  

I found a willing set of taste-testers in my fellow graduate students:   graduate students will eat anything.   I'm pretty sure that a quarter century later, this is still true.

Over the years, the master recipe has changed very little, although I have made hundreds of variations.   These muffins are fast--I can go from muffin concept to loaded oven in 12 minutes and 43 seconds (but who's counting?).  And they are pretty healthy:  these days I make them exclusively with whole-grain flour and canola oil, and I usually load them up with fruit and nuts.   Yes, there's some sugar in there.   But I think you should relax about that.

Here is the Master Muffin Recipe:

2 cups flour (I like white whole wheat or whole-grain pastry flour; but any kind will do)

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup dairy (buttermilk, yogurt, or milk soured with 1 tsp. vinegar)

1/3 cup oil or melted butter

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Whatever else you want to add:   dried fruit, diced fresh fruit, nuts, bananas, pumpkin, chocolate chips

  • Combine the dry ingredients
  • Combine the wet ingredients
  • Gently mix the wet and dry ingredients together until they are just barely combined
  • Fold in whatever fruit, nuts, etc. strike your fancy
  • Spoon batter into greased or lined muffin cups, and bake until done (usually 22-25 minutes)

Thousands of muffins later, here are some suggestions:

  • Dried buttermilk is awesome:  if you use it, then add 4 Tbsp. to the dry ingredients, and use water instead of other dairy in the wet ingredients.
  • Feel free to add other spices to the dry ingredients:  cinnamon is the obvious choice; ground ginger and nutmeg are also lovely, or you could get a little edgy and add cayenne pepper.
  • If you want to add in a fruit or vegetable puree (mashed bananas, a can of pumpkin, grated carrots, grated zucchini), then mix it in with the wet ingredients and decrease the liquid to 3/4 cup.
  • You can swap 1 cup of rolled oats for 1/2 cup of the flour.
  • You can substitute a little lemon or orange juice for some of the liquid.   Be sure to add a little grated peel as well.
  • If you make banana muffins, then increase the salt to 1/2 tsp.   I don't know why it makes those muffins sing, but it does
  • You can use frozen berries straight from the freezer; no need to defrost them first.   But you will need to increase your baking time a little bit.

 

Some of my favorite variations:   chopped plums and walnuts; peaches and pecans; pears, nuts and crystallized ginger; blueberry lemon; oatmeal and mixed berries; cranberry orange; raspberry chocolate chip; banana walnut chocolate chip (with a little extra salt--trust me!); jalapeno cornmeal; and the current household favorite, pumpkin chocolate chip:

 It is October, so today's muffins will be apple cinnamon, maybe with some walnuts.   They will be ready around 9:00.   Bring your own coffee.

 

2 comments

  • Amy Ansolabehere
    Amy Ansolabehere
    Yummy!! Today's Minnesota morning breakfast, fresh from the ladies. Sunny side up eggs and toast. Sunday Minnesota morning breakfast...... MUFFINS!!!!

    Yummy!! Today's Minnesota morning breakfast, fresh from the ladies. Sunny side up eggs and toast. Sunday Minnesota morning breakfast...... MUFFINS!!!!

  • Boinky
    Boinky
    I almost made those today but then remembered that I didn't have anything interesting to put in them. Instead the morning started with French toast and Latkes.

    I almost made those today but then remembered that I didn't have anything interesting to put in them. Instead the morning started with French toast and Latkes.

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