Muffin/Quick Bread Archive

Thursday, August 26, 2010

perfect blueberry muffins

blueberry muffins, craggy tops

When blueberries first show up at the market, it feels like sacrilege to bake with them — ditto with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Mother Nature made them perfect! Why drown them in batter, wilt them with heat and then leave them out to dry? What brutes we’d be! But there’s a day in August — I think it might have been yesterday* — when something shifts. The high for the day is in the 60s, you run out to the market and what is this? Did you wish you’d brought your cardigan? How strange! And all of a sudden the prospect of a berry baked into something warm and cozy, that you might eat with your first hot coffee of the season, seems very right.

blueberries
batter

And it is around this time every year that I try to find the best blueberry muffin. I’ve made them with buttermilk and yogurt and cream cheese too, with streusel and dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar; I’ve tucked them into corn muffins and bran muffins too, back to one I got from Cook’s Illustrated eons ago (introduced to me by the lovely Elise), but that’s different from the recipes in the two Cook’s Illustrated cookbooks that I own and also at least three of the five other blueberry muffin recipes on their site (the last two are hidden behind a pay wall put between people already paying and people paying more than people who are paying, not that I’m venting or anything, ahem). It has a high dome and a thick batter that’s really more of a dough (a classically brilliant technique of CI’s to keep berries from sinking) and every time, they’re as pretty as a picture.

blueberry muffins

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

blue cheese scallion drop biscuits

blue cheese scallion drop biscuits

On Monday, I went foraging. Well, urban foraging, that is, at the Greenmarket. I set out to find these mythical local provisions that many of you have assured me now exist in New York City, things like ramps and aspargus and even strawberries and I’m now convinced that someone is playing a mighty joke on me.*

green onions
chopped green onions

But no matter, I found freshly grown scallions and maybe they don’t have the pearly pink skin of fresh rhubarb or the mysterious promise of morels, they might be waved off by fancier people than me as a ubiquitous circa-1970s garnish, but they make me happy. Part herb and part baby onion, recently from the ground they’re amplified, with more green freshness and more bite. I like ‘em raw, I like ‘em cooked, I like them instead of chives (which, amusingly, I found but they looked terrible; foiled again!) as a garnish and I like them especially in my biscuits.

crumbled blue cheese
adding the buttermilk

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Monday, March 15, 2010

irish soda bread scones

soda bread minis

Let’s just get this out of the way from the get-go — don’t let the title fool you. This here is American soda bread. It has raisins. It has caraway seeds. It has butter, eggs and even some sugar. It stales quickly, but not nearly as quickly as the authentic stuff (almost entirely comprised of flour, baking soda and buttermilk) would. Oh, and I made the “bread” into “tiny breads” and I liken them to scones. Look, when I blasphemize a recipe, I like to go all the way, okay?

mixing it up with a fork
gathering to knead the dough

So now that we got what they are not out of the way, let’s talk about what they are: a triumph! Okay, perhaps something less dramatic, but briefly in my kitchen on Sunday morning (before heading out to an afternoon in the apparent floodlands of Central Jersey), it sure felt like it. A month or so ago, I had spied a Irish soda bread scone at Whole Foods that was fairly run of the mill for a scone — dry and uninteresting; “soda bread” really in name only. And I got to remembering how much I like the crackly coarse crust and plush interior of a good Irish soda bread, not to mention that curiously addictive raisin-caraway combo and knew there had to be a way to make these the way I believed they ought to have been at home.

wee soda breads, scones

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ricotta muffins

ricotta filled muffin

These muffins are a labor of love, which is what I think you are supposed to call things that take a bit more work than you’d originally anticipated. I’m not sure if this muffin is to blame, however. You see, we’ve come to expect that muffins, or so-called “quick breads” are indeed speedy to put together so when one takes the smallest amount more time, it may feel like a chore. Especially if you do not do handsprings of joy over the results, which I confess I did not do immediately.

toasted fennel seedsdry ingredients, oil, yogurtbatter, ricotta fillingchopping toasted pecans

But today. Today I woke up and had one of these muffins and while I might be too sleepy, curmudgeonly and also feeling a zillion years too old to literally get my heels over head, I most certainly was on the inside because these are unexpectedly delicious. There’s so much going on, toasted ground fennel seeds scenting a hearty muffin base, a creamy ricotta and tangy sour cream (or crème fraîche, if you’re fancy) center and a hefty lid sprinkled with pecans that have been toasted nearly to the point of caramelization. The muffin itself has the kind of curiously crisp-edged crumb you get when you bake without eggs and while not savory, it’s not sweet either, a relief for people who find the first stroke of the morning to be a bit too early for the day’s first dessert.

ready to bakebaked, overflowed

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

cream biscuits

cream biscuits

There are biscuits and there are biscuits. There are biscuits that you serve with chili, with barbecue or alongside some eggs and grits. And there are biscuits that you bring out in a warmed basket with a cloth napkin draped over them at a dinner party, to sop up a braise or slather with honey-butter. These biscuits are of the latter variety but I suspect they will quickly become your one and only biscuit because if you’re anything like me, you’ll wonder where they’ve been your whole life.

sifting
cream into flour, salt, baking powder

Because they’re so easy, it might feel like you are cheating: Five ingredients. A sifter, a mixing bowl and a puddle of melted butter. (That’s so going to be my first album title, I’ve decided.) Three minutes to assemble and twelve minutes to bake. And they remain the richest, lightest biscuits I’ve ever had, with serious plushness within and the faintest crunch at the edges, which sound as you tear one open as if you’d broken a cookie in half but then turned the volume on that sound way down. Or, uh, a very faint crunch.

biscuit dough

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