Maple Walnut Muffins

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This week, I baked Yankee Magazine’s Maple Walnut Muffins (recipe at link).

As always, I adapted the recipe to suit my taste and pantry. I replaced the (white) all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour. I reduced the amount of maple syrup, from 3/4 cup down to 1/2 cup. Instead of 1 cup sour cream, I used 1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt and 2/3 cup sour cream. I did not do the optional dip of the finished muffins in maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.

I love how the texture turned out with white whole wheat flour. I think this maybe the first time I’ve done a straight 1 to 1 substitution in a recipe. The muffins didn’t seem overly “wheaty” or heavy. I also found them nicely (lightly) sweet with just the 1/2 cup of maple syrup; I think the full 3/4 cup amount would’ve been cloying.

My one note is that I didn’t find them particularly maple-y though. I don’t believe increasingly the maple syrup to the full amount would’ve made a substantial difference. Maybe the addition of maple extract would help?

I would also like to experiment with reducing the fat a bit. I’ve had good luck substituting unsweetened apple sauce for a portion of the butter in other muffin recipes, and might also try doing a full 1 to 1 substitution of nonfat Greek yogurt for the (full fat) sour cream.

Lastly, I felt the recipe may employ a tad too much baking soda. A tablespoon of leavening (total) for a 12-muffin recipe seems a little bit excessive to me. The muffins did have a touch of that distinctive bitter, slightly metallic baking soda flavor to them. It’s hard to describe but if you’ve ever tasted it, it’s easily detectable forever after.

Not a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination — they just need a little more tweaking!

gourmet’s pumpkin muffins (by way of smitten kitchen)

The boys’ high school is holding a mini college fair today and the parent board sent out a call for baked yummies for the visiting college reps, so I searched for a seasonally appropriate (and easy) muffin recipe.  The obvious choice was pumpkin. I didn’t feel like rolling the dice and risking the scorn of the dried fruit or nut averse, so this recipe totally fit the bill. Just pumpkin puree and spices in the batter and topped with cinnamon sugar… what’s not to love?

Pumpkin Muffins
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Batter:
8.5 oz. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
8.75 oz. sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Cinnamon sugar:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk together. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, 8.75 oz. sugar, salt, baking soda and spice until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Stir together ingredients for the cinnamon-sugar in a small bowl. Divide muffin batter evenly into the muffin liners, then sprinkle tops with the cinnamon sugar.

Ready to go in the oven! I used a scoop to divvy up the batter, but had to make two passes to use up all the batter.  In a perfect world, I’d have more scoops, in varying sizes.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to the rack and cool until warm or room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.

blueberry muffins

The best blueberry muffin recipe yet! This one was from the King Arthur Flour website and is simplicity itself — no spices, no lemon peel, no almond extract, just blueberries. I took the King Arthur Flour folks’ suggestion and used Wyman’s Wild Maine Blueberries instead of the whatever-brand frozen blueberries I normally use when it’s not blueberry season. Wyman’s blueberries are consistently sized (small) and this allows each muffin to have a nice, even distribution of berries. The muffins were moist and tender — so good!

birthday blueberry muffins

My eldest turns 15 today. One birthday several years ago, he decided he would like blueberry muffins for breakfast and the tradition stuck. Occasionally his special day would fall during our vacation week and he’d have a blueberry muffin from a Cape Cod Dunkin Donuts instead of a homemade one, and the years we were home, very often the “homemade” muffins were from a boxed mix.

This year’s birthday muffin recipe is the Our Favorite Blueberry Muffin from the King Arthur Flour site. It’s a little different from many that I’ve looked at — a little almond extract, no lemon zest, and the muffins are topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar. They are very tender and light, and very fitting for a special birthday breakfast. Happy Birthday, L.!

lemon blueberry muffins

Here are the facts about me and blueberry muffins. I’ve never had a store-bought or bakery-made blueberry muffin that I’ve liked. I generally like my own homemade (from scratch) blueberry muffins (made from a variety of recipes). Lastly, my favorite blueberry muffins are from the packaged mixes that contain the little cans of “wild blueberries.”

My son L. is a great connoisseur of blueberry muffins. He loves them so much that they are his chosen birthday breakfast each July. So who better to critique these muffins from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book? L’s verdict — “They’re really good.” Did I mention L. will be 15 next month? He’s a teen of few words. 🙂

I will elaborate — they are tender and moist, and surprisingly very lemony (there’s only zest in the batter, no juice). In fact, the lemon flavor almost overwhelms the blueberries. This won’t be my go-to blueberry muffin recipe, but it’s wonderful for a change of pace (or for the lemon muffin lovers out there).

a learning experience: double chocolate muffins

I’ve always been told that baking is a science and not an art (unlike other culinary endeavors). Proportions and chemistry are to be respected and not messed with. At the same time, some of the best bakers are the ones who push the envelope and experiment and tweak. The key is to remember that for every successful baking experiment, there are a hundred failures.

I recently checked out a handful of baking books from my local library, and once I got over my initial “I have to buy a copy of each of these books” impulse, I resolved that I would select and bake one recipe from each. My first selection was Chocolate Zucchini Muffins from The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll Ever Need: 201 Mouthwatering, Kid-Pleasing Treats by Laurie Goldrich Wolf and Pam Abrams, adapting the recipe as I saw fit. With that, my current streak of making unproblematic baked goods came to a screeching halt.

Here are some of the ways I changed the recipe and what I learned:

(1) The recipe calls for 1 1/2 sticks of butter (or 3/4 cup), which way exceeds my personal “acceptable use of butter in a 12-muffin recipe” policy, so I substituted unsweetened apple sauce for (I thought) a third of the butter. As it turns out, I actually added 4 oz. (1/2 cup) of apple sauce to the 4 oz. (1 stick or 1/2 cup) of butter rather than 2 oz. (1/4 cup), which resulted in an additional 1/4 cup of liquid. This caused problems later down the road (see (4) below).

(2) I also cut a 1/2 cup of the sugar, since I thought a ratio of 2 cups of sugar to 2 1/2 cups of flour was a bit excessive. The finished muffins were perfectly fine in the sweetness department.

(3) I did not squeeze out the shredded zucchini. The recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded zucchini (“about 4 medium zucchini”) ; my 2 cups came from only 1 1/2 medium zucchini. Even though the recipe did not suggest squeezing out the excess liquid, doing so would have compacted the zucchini (likely to the tune of 4 zukes). So I was off on that measurement.

(4) When I filled the muffin pan, I had way too much batter, which completely stymied me at the time. I had enough to fill the cups to almost full, and enough leftover from that to make 6 mini muffins. The reasons why? See (1) and (3) above.

(5) When the recipe says to fill the muffin pan cups about two-thirds full, it’s best to fill them just that full. Not more. If you have too much batter, grab another pan.

(6) I’ve been on a bit of a paper wrapper-free muffin kick and greased the muffin pan lightly. Unfortunately these muffins stuck like, well, something really sticky. In hindsight, this was likely due to the reduction in fat in my version.

(7) My finished muffin tops merged together so I had to cut them apart (ugliness ensued). Furthermore, the muffins stuck to their cups and I had to jimmy them loose (more ugliness) and all of them tore apart to some degree in the progress (an extra helping of ugliness).

(8) It seems the extra liquid in the batter made the crumb finer and more cakelike than muffinlike. This didn’t hurt the taste, but it helped if you closed your eyes when you ate them.

They are actually fine-tasting muffins, just not presentable to anyone you want to impress. Since I made them fully planning to share with friends and coworkers, this was a bit of a blow. Because now I have to eat them all myself.

Many-Mistakes Double-Chocolate Muffins
(with corrections)
adaptation of Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
from The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll Ever Need

301g unbleached all-purpose flour
40g natural cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
113g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 oz. unsweetened apple sauce
3 large eggs
2 cups shredded zucchini, with liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup milk
112g semi-sweet chocolate chips (preferably mini chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin pan with paper muffin wrappers. Whisk together the flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add applesauce and mix until combined; mixture may look curdled — this is fine. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined. Add half the flour mixture, then half the zucchini, followed by half the milk, and repeat with the remainder of each, mixing each until combined before adding the next. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup two-thirds of the way full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the the tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and let rest for 3 minutes before removing muffins from the pan to dry on a cooling rack. Makes 12 muffins.

(You can also make mini muffins with the batter; bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes. Makes approximately 24 mini muffins.)

cranberry-white chocolate muffins

My husband often teases me about how I would rather spend untold amounts of money to use up leftover ingredients than simply discard them. Followers of this blog are aware that last November I overbought fresh cranberries whilst in the throes of autumnal mania and have been chiseling away at them ever since, little by ever so little. This morning I finally used up the last of my formerly fresh, now frozen cranberries. (And there was much rejoicing.)

I’ve long been a big fan of the flavor (and color) combination of cranberries and white chocolate and have made cookies and scones on many occasions featuring these two ingredients. While pondering what to do with my remaining cranberries I had a flash of inspiration — why not give them the cranberry and white chocolate treatment?!

I started with the recipe for Big Beautiful Muffins in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. Like many other recipes from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated, the instructions suggested many different ways to adapt the recipe to suit my fancy, so I felt comfortable playing around a bit. I added 3/4 cup of chopped cranberries (still frozen) and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips to the batter. Those amounts seemed appropriate when compared to the other variations, but in the end, I felt the muffins could’ve used more of both, perhaps a cup of each instead. The recipe makes a dozen and are big as advertised, perhaps a bit too big for a standard muffin pan. The muffin tops fused to each other and required a bit of pulling apart when I removed them from the pan. This resulted in jagged edges — not all that pretty. The good news is the muffins were tender (I didn’t overmix — yay!). An additional note: I substituted 2 ounces of unsweetened applesauce for 2 ounces of the 4 ounces of melted butter, and didn’t miss the fat in the finished product at all.

Next up… getting rid of those chopped dates from last December!

zucchini-cranberry muffins

I’m still trying to get through my frozen cranberries from last fall. Who knew it would be so tough? It seems like a lot of recipes call for dried cranberries, and those that don’t are of the cranberry-orange flavor pairing. And I’ve exhausted the cranberry-orange canon.

I found this recipe by way of The Food Librarian’s wonderful blog. It’s originally from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I’m not ordinarily a Martha fan. I don’t want to go into it; I’ve never met the woman so it wouldn’t be nice for me to expound on my feelings about her in a public setting. But the idea of a cranberry muffin recipe that called for fresh or frozen cranberries and no orange sucked me in. I substituted 2 ounces of unsweetened applesauce for half of the vegetable oil, but I otherwise made it as written. They are lightly sweet and making them without wrappers makes the outsides have a little crunchy chewiness to them — yum! I felt they could use a little more cinnamon though — I’ll double the amount next time and maybe substitute in a little whole wheat flour, because… I still have more cranberries in the freezer!

coffee cake muffins

Above is the picture of a half-eaten coffee cake muffin. I’d like to tell you that I purposefully photographed a cross-section of the muffin because I wanted to show the cool layer of streusel but the truth is I forgot to take a picture before I took a bite out of it. I could’ve unpapered a second muffin so I could photograph an intact muffin, but if I did that, then I’d have to eat it, and if you had any idea how much butter was in one of these babies you’d understand why that wasn’t advisable.

My boys (the young ones and the one that’s a bit older) are going skiing tomorrow and I spent the day baking up goodies for them to take along for the ride. I baked C.’s signature chocolate chip muffins and whipped up some coffee cake muffins for the chocolate-chip-muffin-weary. I love coffee cake, but I’m especially fond of muffins (see the Irish Soda Bread Muffins post), and while I would never buy coffee cake muffins (primarily because of their fat content), I am more than happy to clog my arteries with the homemade version. I found this recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. I think I should’ve baked them sans paper wrappers as instructed, because when I removed the finished muffins from the pan, I was left with pools of melted butter where the muffins had been. The streusel also stuck a bit to the paper, but not badly. So I’m going to have pack the guys some wet wipes, but ooh, are they good…

irish soda bread muffins

There’s something so much more appealing to me about muffins over their larger quick bread loaf cousins. Quick breads seem to dry out when they’re sliced, the slices don’t transport well and the serving size is inexact (my slices seem to exceed the recommended limit) and I would like to continuing baking while wearing my current clothing size. And maybe there’s just something about individually sized baked goods. Anyway, I was thinking about how it’s the time of year for Irish soda bread again when I saw the Baker’s Banter post on Irish Soda Bread Muffins. Perfect!

I adapted the recipe somewhat based on what I had at the ready in my kitchen. I substituted the same weight of 100% whole wheat flour for the white-whole wheat, even though I know that the whole wheat is slightly heavier than the white-whole wheat. I compensated for this by adding an additional tablespoon of milk to the batter. I also substituted dried cranberries for the currants/raisins, making it a truly Irish-American creation. The result was a slightly sweet, moist and tender muffin — perhaps a bit sweeter than I would’ve liked, but chockfull of cranberries. I wish now that I had added a bit more caraway seed (I love caraway) — the recipe suggested a possible range of 1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons. I think it could’ve definitely used the additional teaspoon. All in all, this one is a definite keeper. Éire go Brách!