Wednesday, February 22, 2012

double coconut muffins

I hadn’t meant to disappear on you, and what’s worse, I have a terrible excuse: I took a nap. In the same week that I conquered my cooking Mount Everest — a lasagna I’d only dreamed about for the better part of six years, one that still took me many tries in the kitchen to get right and more than a week just to write — I was going back and forth with my publisher over the page designs for my cookbook, and (no doubt) giving some poor book designer some gray hairs. One day, I’ll remind my editor about that time I said that I didn’t care how the book looked, “just make it pretty!” and she’ll snort coffee out her nose. It will probably be a while. Nevertheless, the day after I posted the lasagna recipe, we finally found something that made everyone happy and now they’re designing the remaining hundreds of pages and that night, I think I slept a million hours. I did the same thing the next night and on the third night, when I yawned at 9 p.m. and said I was thinking about calling it a night my husband — who is the one who typically has a bottomless capacity for sleep and I’m the one who pops up at 7:30 even when it’s my turn to sleep in — looked at me like I had two heads. I… just had a lot of catching up to do.

coconut oil
really thick batter (yours won't be)

We’re also officially in the part of the year I affectionately call The Dregs of Winter. It’s not spring yet, in fact, it will at least a month before anything tasty or green emerges from the earth and another month after that before they will be good enough to eat. It’s not actually snowy and pretty enough out there to bliss out in a New York Winter Wonderland; in fact, it’s just cold and a little dull. Typically, the way I get through the blahs of winter is not to sleep through them but to begin plotting an escape. I start pining for someplace tropical, please, where the deep blue ocean meets the bright blue sky at a horizon so far away, it’s almost unfathomable to this city dweller, whose current vista is little more than the building across the street. And so I think about it, think long and hard about it, a book open on my lap, my fingers wrapped around a frosty, fruity cocktail with an umbrella and then I fly home a few days later, my usual ghost-like complexion faintly less so and my brain cleared of thoughts that don’t include “Is it time to reapply?” and “Are we too old to go on the water slide that leads to a swim-up bar?” You know, weighty matters.

batter in, when you don't have papers

double coconut muffins
double coconut muffins

Alas, this daydream of a trip is still two very long weeks away, so I sublimated my wanderlust, as I always do, in baked goods. I cannot will warm weather here or myself to warm weather sooner but I can make a breakfast muffin with the suggestion of a place with no winter. I still stuck to my muffin rules — muffins are breakfast food, not just cake, though I have yet to convince this guy — so it includes a good helping of whole wheat flour, lots of good yogurt. And then I supplied the coconut two ways, one with shredded coconut and the other with a relatively new-to-me ingredient, coconut oil. Coconut oil is wonderful, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that. Besides having a lightness to it that comes from fats that are solid at room temperature (think: shortening, but with a heavenly flavor), it imbues each crumb with a dreamy whiff of coconut. The resulting muffin is dense but light and impossibly moist and will, I hope, be an effective temporary stand-in for the warm weather to come.

unwrapped

One year ago: White and Dark-Hearted Brownies, Green Bean Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Fried Almonds and Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil
Two years ago: Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Glaze, Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart
Three years ago: Alex’s Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage, Toasted Coconut Shortbread, Devil’s Chicken Thighs + Braised Leeks and Red Kidney Bean Curry
Four years ago: Best Chocolate Pudding, Pasta Puttanesca + Broken Artichoke Hearts Salad
Five years ago: Sour Cream Bran Muffins, Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues and Dill and Cottage Cheese Bread + A Whole Bunch of Breadmaking Tips

Double Coconut Muffins

Although these are a fine muffin, fragrant with coconut and filled with a dense, moist crumb as written below, the potential for adaptation is almost endless. First, you could make them triple coconut muffins (and dairy free) by using coconut milk instead of yogurt, but I do like the texture that the tangy yogurt imparts and these muffins have no lack of coconut flavor. You could make mango-coconut muffins by adding a cup or so of diced mango chunks to the batter; pina colada muffins would use the same volume of pineapple chunks. You could replace the yogurt with mashed banana or banana puree to make a banana-coconut muffin and if you’re into that whole lime-in-the-coconut thing, you could add a teaspoon of lime zest. Chocolate chips? (1 cup), Macadamia nuts? (1/2 to 3/4 cup, toasted and chopped)… Really, I’m just getting started.

If your yogurt and egg are not at room temperature, they will re-solidify the coconut oil, which is fine for baking but makes the batter quite thick and difficult to stir, like a cookie batter. (Uh, see my photos above.) But, it all works out. It’s much easier, however, if you let the ingredients warm up.

Yield: 10 standard muffins, though this seems off to me and I suspect that some of you will tell me you made a dozen (as I’d expected to).

1/2 cup (110 grams) virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (230 grams) full fat Greek-style yogurt, at room temperature is best
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature is best
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (90 grams) sweetened shredded coconut, divided

Preheat oven to 375°F. Either grease 10 muffin cups with butter or coconut oil, or line them with papers.

[Oh, you’re out of paper liners too? Cut parchment paper into 5-inch squares and form them into your empty muffin cups, pressing any creases flat. They won’t stay put until you fill them with batter, and you should make sure you push that batter down so it gets into the corners, but otherwise, they should work as well as the real deal.]

In a small saucepan, warm your coconut oil just until it melts. It should still be on the cool side.

In a medium bowl, whisk together your flours, baking powder and salt. Stir 1/2 cup shredded coconut. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, coconut oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups then sprinkle the top with remaining 1/4 cup coconut, about 1 to 2 teaspoons on each.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out batter-free, about 20 minutes. Transfer muffins to a rack and let cool.

Do ahead: Usually, muffins are best on day one but I just had one of these on day three and found them almost as moist and tender as day one. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


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