Browsing articles in "Muffins & Quickbreads"
Oct 11, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf

As you may have sensed from my last post, I was a bit lost after discovering that a recipe from my beloved Baked cookbook was less than a complete and total success. I didn’t know where to turn, what to believe in. But I am just way too tired lately to hold grudges. So I got right back on the Baked saddle with a different recipe, and now our relationship is one big love fest all over again. I have this amazing Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf to thank for that.

Hearty and irresistibly moist, this is the quickbread of dreams. Its subtle spice adds the perfect amount of dimension, and well, I don’t think there’s too many things in life that can’t be made better by a good studding of chocolate chips.

One of things that the Baked bakery boys seem to do so well is putting just the right amount of sugar in their recipes. I’ve yet to whip up anything from this book that turns out cloyingly sweet or gives you that feeling like if you take more than a couple bites, your molars will start to ache (including the marshmallows, believe it or not). This approach makes for completely craveworthy baked goods that have you crazily finding ways to incorporate them into your life all day long…until you’re left with crumbs. I suppose it could be considered a downside, that you might make an entire meal out of a dessert item and a side of protein. But I’ll tell you, this morning’s breakfast was a hunk of this pumpkin loaf and a few strips of bacon and I feel awesome.

All questionable dietetic choices aside, with the weather getting chillier and the days getting drearier, you need this recipe in your life. A thick slice of this pumpkin bread with a big mug of tea is early fall coffee break material of the highest order.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Note that the chocolate chips are folded into the wet ingredients here, not at the end, making for a beautifully even smattering of chips throughout the loaf. For the chocolate chips, use whatever makes your skirt fly up–the original recipe calls for semi-sweet chips, but I’ve been on a bittersweet kick lately, and found that I loved them in this recipe. Make it even more breakfast-worthy in the future by forgoing the chips and throwing in some toasted pecans, sunflower seeds and golden raisins. Substitute up to half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour if you wish. Double this recipe and freeze one loaf–you won’t regret it. Or better yet, gift it to a lucky friend–it would be a perfect hostess gift.

Makes 1 9x5x3-inch loaf

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (about half a 15-ounce can)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup room temperature water
3/4 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli 60% cacao)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

In another large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, oil and sugar until well-blended.
Whisk in the eggs and the vanilla until combined, then whisk in the water. Fold the chocolate chips into the wet ingredients.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to overmix the batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, and gently knock the bottom of the pan onto the countertop to even out the batter. Use a spatula to smooth the top.

Bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about 75 to 90 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before inverting the loaf onto the rack to cool completely before serving. The loaf will keep for 3 days or more wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature.

Feb 26, 2008

Blueberry Crumble Muffins

The husband and I have a theory of sorts. It’s called the Skillet Cookie theory, and it goes like this: say you’re enjoying a cheap, moderately satisfying meal at a good old American chain restaurant (despite my love of truly great food, I am not opposed to this on occasion–hello, Chili’s queso dip?!). You’ve had your Monster Burger or Extreme Fajitas or whatever and just want something sweet. So you reach for the sticky dessert menu on the table (which also is bound to have some ridiculous cocktails served in like, galvanized pails or something in colors that just don’t come in nature, ever) and it catches you. The Skillet Cookie. A huge chocolate chip cookie! In a skillet! Two, three servings at least! Ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream–SOLD!! The table is giddy because of the impending Skillet Cookie and drunk with the promise of more commercially made food to add to overly stretched bellies. But it just looked so good on the menu and has every dessert-related thing you can imagine, all in a cast-iron vessel! Who can resist the Skillet Cookie? Communists!

So the SC arrives, and everyone digs in with vigor. One bite, two bites, three bites, goooood. And then…well, then the sugar punch to the palate wears off and you’re left with a cloyingly sweet mess–bland flavors, a badly underdone cookie with soggy edges, cheap ice cream and a chocolate sauce that tastes like it was melted down from an Advent calendar from 1984. Oh, dear. The Skillet Cookie is never as good as you think it’s going to be. Too good to be true. Sigh. One of my oft-recited phrases is, “I love when something tastes just the way you want it to”. The Skillet Cookie will never be that.

And so is the case with so many sweet treats that have more than one element to them. So many layered bars and embellished desserts and coffee cakes with too many things going on end up falling short somehow. So certainly I would never find the perfect blueberry muffin that I’d been craving and dreaming up for days–a sweet-smelling, tender crumb with just a bit of spring, plump berries that didn’t bleed all through the muffin, and a salty-sweet crunchy streusel topping. Equally delicious served warm or at room temperature, with coffee in the morning or vanilla bean ice cream after dinner. I didn’t want a mondo cupcake, but I didn’t want a dense, short scone-like thing. I wanted light, fluffy, but with the integrity to stand up to juicy berries and a crunchy top hat. And by God, I found it. Seriously, these are so good, I really do think God is involved somehow. Please try.

Blueberry Crumble Muffins
Makes 10-12, depending on size

For the muffin:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen–thawed, well-drained and patted dry)

For the streusel:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed, softened but still cool
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set an oven rack to the middle position. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

To make the streusel, using a fork or clean fingertips, mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, butter, and cinnamon until all the ingredients are incorporated, but the mixture is still very pebbly. Set aside.

To make the muffins, whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. In a glass measuring cup or similar, whisk together the vegetable oil, egg and milk. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until blended but don’t overmix. There may be a few small lumps, that’s okay. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and generously sprinkle each muffin with streusel.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops spring back slightly and the topping is set and golden brown. Cool in the tins for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely or serve warm.

Oct 13, 2007

Apple Coffeecake Muffins

October has, inadvertently, officially become Apple Month here on “Piece of Cake”. There’s a couple more apple recipes coming your way, and then I will start to scale back, I promise. But when you’re working your way through a pile of gorgeous autumnal orbs, it’s impossible to not get inspired, okay? It’s just been too perfect–peeling, coring and quartering in my favorite new dove gray sweater, cinnamon and nutmeg flying everywhere. Sipping on an enormous mug of something warm while the goods are baking. And that toasty mug is what inspired me to tinker with this next recipe. I wanted THE apple muffin go along with it. Big, soft, fragrant, lightly spiced. And, of course, the pleasant surprise of a brightly flavored, al dente apple chunk here and there. Sturdy enough to be eaten with one hand, with an inspirational teacup in the other.

All too often, apple muffin recipes create lumpy, rubbery or dry results. So I decided to start with a recipe that is a phenomenal muffin all on its own, and then add my own fruit to the recipe. This Coffeecake Muffin is usually intended to be relatively subtle in flavor, with just brown sugar and cinnamon for interest. The genius of the recipe is in the space where the delicious pebbly streusel meets the just-right density of the finished muffin. But spiced apple chunks tucked into the center take it to the next level, keeping the interior delightfully moist and playing beautifully with the tender chew of the muffin and the salty-sweet crunch of the streusel.

This recipe may seem a bit confusing at first, because one moment you’re making the streusel, then it’s on to what seems to be the batter, but no! Take some of that mixture out and add it to what you thought was the finished streusel, then get back to the batter, adding some of the streusel...oh, man. But don’t worry. Just read the recipe carefully before you begin to wrap your brain around the process, and then it will come together in a snap.

Apple Coffeecake Muffins

Makes 12

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt plus an extra pinch
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set an oven rack to the middle position. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or use paper liners.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of the butter with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of salt on low speed until combined. Drop the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter pieces evenly over the flour mixture and mix again until the butter is about the size of oats. Remove 1/2 cup of the of the flour-butter mixture and mix it into the reserved brown sugar mixture to make the streusel. Now divide the streusel: 3/4 cup of streusel for the muffin batter, and the remaining will be for topping the muffins. Add the baking powder and baking soda to the remaining flour mixture in the mixer bowl and stir to combine.

Whisk together the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Turn the mixer on medium speed and pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just moistened. Fold in the 3/4 cup of streusel until distributed evenly throughout the batter.

Divide the batter into the muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full. Toss the apples with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon and press several pieces into the center of each muffin cup. Top the muffins equally with the streusel mixture. Bake for about 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let the muffins cool in the tin for 2 minutes, and then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool for five more minutes. Serve warm and watch them disappear.

Aug 1, 2007

Nutmeg Doughnut Muffins

Who wouldn’t love a muffin that tastes like a doughnut? Who doesn’t love dessert masquerading as breakfast? Communists, that’s who.

The Nutmeg Doughnut Muffin, after it’s done blowing your mind, will become one of those great recipes to have on hand whenever you find yourself having to provide something breakfast-y, but you really don’t want to be the loser serving a store-bought coffee cake or somesuch (brunch, wedding/baby shower, tea party–hey, why don’t people have more of those, anyway??). Fresh nutmeg, snowy powdered sugar (or a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon) and a tender but significant crumb give these muffins their shockingly doughnut-like flavor without being fried.

This is the kind of thing that makes people think you are fantastically genius and innovative in the kitchen. And then they all try and rip you off by asking for the recipe. The Nutmeg Doughnut Muffin is a double-edged sword that way, and in other ways, too. In addition, it tastes like a muffin–AND A DOUGHNUT. And if we’re getting nerdily specific, well….it’s not technically a muffin. It’s really a cupcake.

By culinary definition, the difference between a muffin and a cupcake is all in the mixing method. Muffins are made by stirring together–usually by hand–sifted dry ingredients (flour, baking powder/soda, salt, dry spices) and the combined liquid ingredients (eggs, oil/melted butter, sugar–yes sugar counts as a liquid with the Muffin Method) in one step. Cakes of the “cup” variety are often made with the Creaming Method, where the recipe preparation begins by creaming butter and sugar together–such is the case with this alleged Nutmeg Doughnut “Muffin”. But whatever–bottom line, it just feels so much better to tell yourself you’re eating a “muffin” at 10:00 a.m. . I am quite the enabler, aren’t I? Bwahahaha.

Nutmeg Doughnut “Muffins”

Adapted from Orangette and Kathleen Stewart

Makes 12

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (if you’re using, um, not freshly grated, just add a smidge more)
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs

For the big finish:
4 – 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ – 2 cups powdered sugar OR 1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a standard-size muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg, no need to sift. Whisk thoroughly and set aside.

Combine the milk and the buttermilk in a measuring cup, and set this aside, too.

Start by creaming the butter in a standing mixer at medium speed with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, until soft and creamy. Add the sugar in a steady stream and continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture increases in volume and gets pale, like frosting. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until they are just combined.

With a wooden spoon, mix ¼ of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add 1/3 of the milk mixture. Continue to add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth and well combined, but don’t overmix. Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin tin. A standard ice cream scoop is genius for this task. Bake until they are just turning golden, are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-32 minutes.

When the alleged “muffins” are cool enough to handle, Get the melted butter ready, and pour the powdered sugar into a big food storage bag (less mess than using a bowl). Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the entire outside of each with melted butter, and then immediately roll it in the powdered sugar.

Like most baked goods, these are best on the day that they’re made, but thanks to their protective sugar coating, they are still really good on the second day. If you want to make them ahead, this batter keeps well–covered and chilled, of course, for up to three days.


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