One of my favorite ways to welcome the day is with freshly baked goods. The only problem is that my brain usually still has morning breath and there are many neurons shooting as a in a drunken sponge. In other words, freshly baked croissants or pain au chocolate are not my usual breakfast fare, unless breakfast is at 2 in the afternoon and involves a trip to Granville Island’s La Baguette et l'Echalote or some other equally exquisite bakery.
Luckily, I like muffins and for the most part, muffins like me back. They can be made from scratch and ready to eat within 30 minutes. They’re simple enough to make that they can be prepared with your sleep-crusted eyes still half-closed. There are endless variations to them and are a great way to utilize the local fruits of the season. They can be made sweet or savory and are a great way of experiment with flavours
If you make a couple of batches, you can pop the extras into a Ziploc freezer bag and into the freezer. A quick whirl through the nukebox is all you need to reheat.
Here’s my basic Fast & Dirty muffin recipe:
Preheat over to 425F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tray.
In one bowl mix and let sit while you put together the rest of the muffin batter:
1 cup liquid – milk, buttermilk, soy milk, yogurt, juice, coffee, tea
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
½ cup rolled grains – oats, spelt, wheat
In a larger bowl mix together:
2 cups flour – I prefer organic red fife whole wheat, spelt, kamut
½ to ¾ cup sweetener – I use Level Ground’s organic cane sugar, maple syrup, honey –
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1-2 cups of muffin stuff & seasoning - I’ll come back to this later.
Dump the wet stuff into the dry stuff. Mix with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix until the flour is just incorporated. Overmixing will lead to a tough muffin. That’s not the same thing is a tough cookie. (I know, I’m such a dork).
The batter will be thick. Spoon about ½ of batter into each muffin cup. There should be enough to fill up 12 muffin cups.
Stick the pan into the middle of the oven. Close the door and turn the heat down to 400F. Bake for 13-15 mins. Test with a toothpick to make sure it’s baked through. Remove from oven, place on rack to cool for a few minutes. Remove from pan and continue cooling on rack or eat.
Now onto the ‘muffin stuff’. This is where you get to experiment with flavours. Fruits and nuts are an obvious option. You can also add in grated zucchinis and carrots or pureed pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yams. Throw in some chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, seeds for something extra. For something super-fancy, fill up the muffin tips halfway and add a teaspoon of jam or jelly or fromage frais in the middle and top it off with more muffin batter. Adjust the amount of sweetener according to the sweetness of these additions. So when you add in some really sweet like ripe bananas and chocolate chip or if you’re using a sweet juice like apple juice as your liquid, just add ½ cup of sugar. If you’re using something tart and naturally not so sweet like fresh cranberries or rhubarb, bump up the sugar to ¾ of a cup. I prefer my muffins not so sweet. If they’re not sweet enough just have them with a dollop of jam or a drizzle of honey.
Coffee and strong tea can be used as your main liquid. I would suggest that you also use a thickener like mashed bananas, pumpkin puree or applesauce along with it. Imagine chai tea applesauce muffins. Mmmmmm. Anther way to use coffee in muffins is to add a couple of tablespoons of finely ground coffee right into the batter. Espresso chocolate chip muffins will certainly get me perked up fast!
Or you can go savoury route and throw in some cheese and cooked smoked bacon or pancetta. Roasted pepper and a dollop of pesto is another savory option. I love olive, feta and sundried tomato muffins. Of course, skip the sugar and bump your salt up if needed to 1 teaspoon.
Here are my cranberry-apple-pear muffins before baking. I used milk as my main liquid and a total of 2 cups of fruit. I also added 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. I also popped in a few tablespoons of flax seeds for texture
I also made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins a few days ago. For that I used milk for my liquid, 1 ½ cups of pureed pumpkins, ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips. I also added 1 ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg and a few tablespoons of flax seeds.
There are countless combinations from the classics of banana walnut to funky combinations like kiwi fruit, peach and green cardamon or an earl grey tea and pear muffin or smoked salmon, capers and artichoke heart muffin. Basically think of fruit flavours that work well in a smoothie or pie. For savoury combinations, think of combinations that are good stuffed into an omelette or thrown into a pasta dish.
BTW, most of the batter combinations can be made the night before so all you have to do is scoop and bake in the morning!