Wednesday, May 18, 2011

rhubarb streusel muffins

whole wheat rhubarb streusel muffin

Today I’m conquering some frequently unanswered frequently asked questions.* In short, no, my cookbook isn’t done yet. “But Deb,” I’m sure you’re thinking, “How can it not be done yet? Bloggers always finish their books in 6 to 9 months! And didn’t you start it over a year ago?” At first I thought it was because I had grossly, dramatically and almost hilariously (but in that ha-ha-ow kind of way) underestimated the number of hours I’d need to work a week to get it done. Then I blamed the toddler, depriving his elders of much needed sleep, leaving me bleary eyed and ineffective when I was supposed to be drafting my masterpiece. But neither of them are as true of this: It’s the breakfast section. I can’t put it to rest.

rhubarb, diced

It started small and tidy, about 8 recipes. But I kept adding to it. I kept tweaking what was just fine to begin with. It became an obsession. I starting thinking about muffins while pushing swings at the playground, getting wound up about fritattas while lumbering back from yoga and jotting down notes about French toast while in places that were neither French nor toasty. Ostensibly, I handed the breakfast batch into my editor January but Monday still found me still pulling pancakes out of the oven that I couldn’t bear not to include in the lineup. It had to stop. “No more!” I told myself in the same tone I use to keep the toddler from his curious habit of removing things from his dresser and putting them in mine. (“A burp cloth where my pants should be? You shouldn’t have!”) But it didn’t work (never does, really) as even yesterday I found myself making a list of breakfast recipes I’d add to the section if I hadn’t cut myself off.

batter + brown sugar streusel

This is one of them. Last week, on a whim, I decided to make some coffee cake muffins for you. And while none of went uneaten (they included butter and brown sugar, after all) I was just not feeling them. They were too sweet and buttery, a predicament that can only exist during the breakfast meal. They needed seasonal fruit and whole grain flour and real crumbs, not just sweet sandiness. And so I fiddled and landed up something that’s been a delicious pause in a grim, rainy and otherwise bleak week — hearty but not heavy, studded with rhubarb and but not devoid of butter or sugar — it is not, after all, the muffin embodiment of an apology for an extra slice of pizza the night before.

crumb topping
ready to bake

And if you see an uptick in breakfast recipes around here in the next few months, I hope you’ll take it as a good sign, one that I’ve finally moved on from breakfast and into more urgent matters: slaws, layer cakes, seasonal pizzas, very cute meatballs and bourbon, i.e. the other Smitten Kitchen Food Groups.


* The other FUFAQ is “Where should I eat when I come to New York City?” and I’m attempting to address that in a new page that will list some things I’ve found especially tasty around here lately. And to answer your next question: yes, the croissants are that good.

One year ago: Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint
Two years ago: Asparagus Lemon and Goat Cheese Pasta
Three years ago: Mushroom Strudels
Four years ago: Homemade Oreos

Whole Wheat Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

I attempted to strike a balance in this muffin between the cakey confection we sometimes crave with coffee and my insistence that breakfast not be too sweet or rich or guilt-inducing. The result is hefty but not dense, a barely sweet muffin base studded with tart rhubarb and a scattering of brown sugar crumbs, lidded with more brown sugar with a sweet and crunchy on top and… well, gone. They’re all gone. It’s only been one day. We miss them terribly.

Cooking note: I had intended to replace the majority of the flour with white whole wheat flour. I realized when I was editing photos and saw the flour bag in the background of an image that I’d used whole wheat pastry flour instead! So, either will work. If you’re using standard whole wheat flour, for maximum tenderness I might go halvsies with the flour instead — 3/4 cup white, 3/4 cup whole wheat.

1/4 cup (31 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (28 grams) white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon (13 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (38 grams) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg
1/4 cup (50 grams) light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons (38 grams) granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
3/4 cup (177 ml) sour cream
1 cup (approx. 120 grams) white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (see Note)
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced rhubarb, in 1/2-inch pieces (from about 6 to 8 ounces of stalks)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 12 muffin cups.

Make streusel: In a small dish, stir together flours, sugars, spices and salt. Stir in butter until crumbly. Set aside.

Make muffins: Whisk egg in the bottom of a large bowl with both sugars. Whisk in butter, then sour cream. In a separate bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir them into the sour cream mixture, mixing until just combined and still a bit lumpy. Fold in rhubarb and 1/3 (feel free to eyeball this) of the streusel mixture.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with remaining streusel, then use a spoon to gently press the crumbs into the batter so that they adhere. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean. Rest muffins in pan on cooling rack for two minutes, then remove muffins from tin to cool them completely.


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