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Mad For Muffins

Make that "newer-than-new" because my latest cookbook, Mad for Muffins, has just been published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (look for it in bookstores and online). Here, to whet your appetite are two recipes that show the scope of the book. There are more than 70 recipes in all, each one carefully tested (I've included digital docu-shots for each recipe). If you don't often make muffins, please know that they are the quickest of all the quick-and-easy breads. Far easier than biscuits, far easier than fruit-nut loaves. I hope you'll give them a try.

BROWN BREAD MUFFINS
Makes 1 Dozen
Brown Bread Muffins My mother adored Boston brown bread and the sound forever hung up in my head is the rattle of Rumford Baking Powder tins in which the batter steamed for hours in a giant kettle. Is there any reason, I wondered, why those ingredients can't be mixed zip-quick into a muffin batter that bakes for less than half an hour? None at all.

  • 2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsifted dark rye flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal (not stone-ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup dark seedless raisins or dried currants
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (not fat-free)
  • 1/4 cup molasses (not too dark)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease 12 standard-size muffin pan cups or spritz with non-stick cooking spray or, if you prefer, insert a crinkly muffin liner into each cup. Set pans aside.
  2. Whisk first six ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) together in medium-size mixing bowl. Add raisins, toss well, then make well in center of dry ingredients, and set aside.
  3. Whisk buttermilk, molasses, butter, and egg in small bowl until smooth, pour into well in dry ingredients, and stir only enough to mix. Specks of flour should be visible in batter.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin pans, dividing amount equally -- each muffin pan cup will be approximately 2/3 full though occasionally a bit more or a bit less.
  5. Slide onto middle oven shelf and bake about 20 to 25 minutes until muffins have risen and their tops are gently rounded.
  6. Serve at once with plenty of unsalted butter and, if you like, a favorite jam, jelly, or marmalade.

Blueberry-Ginger Muffins

BLUEBERRY-GINGER MUFFINS
Makes 1 Dozen
When I was a little girl, my father grew blueberries on our lower lawn -- a rarity then in North Carolina. Today, my home state is one of this country's major blueberry producers and I welcome spring when misty boxes of "blues" show up at farmers' markets. Off-season, I make do with frozen blueberries and for baking, dried blueberries. Most supermarkets now routinely carry little packets of these alongside dried cranberries, currants, and raisins.

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried blueberries (see headnote)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (not fat-free)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (not too dark)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar blended with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Cinnamon-Sugar)
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease 12 standard-size muffin pan cups or spritz with non-stick cooking spray or, if you prefer, insert a crinkly muffin liner into each cup. Set pans aside.
  2. Combine first six ingredients (flour through salt) in medium-size mixing bowl, add dried blueberries, toss well, and make well in center of dried ingredients.
  3. Whisk buttermilk, melted butter, molasses, and egg in small bowl until well blended, pour into well in dry ingredients, and stir only enough to combine -- specks of flour should be visible in batter.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin pans, dividing amount equally -- each muffin pan cup will be approximately 2/3 full though occasionally a bit more or a bit less. Then lightly sprinkle top of each muffin with Cinnamon-Sugar, dividing amount evenly.
  5. Slide onto middle oven shelf and bake about 20 to 25 minutes until muffins have risen, their tops are nicely rounded and evenly browned.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature with or without butter. I personally prefer these muffins as is -- no butter.

Variations:
     Cranberry-Ginger Muffins: Prepare as directed substituting dried cranberries for dried blueberries. Makes 1 dozen.
     Raisin-Ginger Muffins: Prepare as directed substituting dark seedless raisins or, if you prefer, dried currants (in truth Zante raisins) for dried blueberries. Makes 1 dozen.


 
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