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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weekend breakfast: the frugal muffin

(text only version here )

Carrot and spice muffins (left),
rhubarb, orange zest muffins with crumb topping (right)
Women's magazines fill their pages with new cake, cookie, and muffin recipes every month. But the truth is, at least for muffins, you really only need one recipe.

I have a basic recipe that I use for all muffins. I change it up by the extras and toppings I add.

This recipe is not complicated, just a few basic "rules "to follow.

A muffin needs 3 components, IMO. The basic batter, additions (these are what make it more than just a hunk of bread), and the toppings.

Component 1: The basic muffin batter

2 cups flour, whole grain, white or mixed (I like half and half white/wheat)
1/4-1/2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 vegetable oil
1 cup or so of milk (this will vary with the type of flour I use, or if I add pureed fruit or veggies)

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients. 
In a large (2 cup or more) measuring cup, beat egg with a fork, mix in oil (if you've beaten the egg in the measuring cup - an egg being 1/4 cup - then you can just add oil to the 1/2 cup mark).  Add milk. 

dry ingredients, with well in center for liquids 

In the well of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquids. Quickly toss all ingredients together.  You want the liquids and dry ingredients to be mixed, but not smooth.  A little unmixed flour in the batter is a good thing, lumps are a good thing. It will finish blending itself as you scoop it into the tins.

batter is mostly mixed, but you can see a little flour here and there

Scoop into greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Add toppings, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-22 minutes. (I use the toothpick test for doneness.) Glaze or butter, if desired. Makes 12-15 muffins.

Component 2: Additions

The "rules" to remember about additions--

--If it's basically a wet item (purees, juices, extracts) add to the liquids.
--If it's a mostly (or all) dry ingredient (chopped, grated, whole fruits, nuts, spices, cheese, meat) add to the dry ingredients
--If adding a pureed fruit or vegetable, as part of the liquid, add extra milk -- increase the milk by about 1/4 cup
--If adding a grated or chopped fruit or vegetable, increase the flour by 1 Tablespoon.
--The greater amount of sugar, the faster the surface of muffin will brown.  And conversely, if using less sugar, muffins may look more pale.

What kind to make today?  The rhubarb sure looks good! Rhubarb it is! 

Additions/alterations to make your muffins interesting

pureed wet additions to replace part of the milk, add to liquids, plus add an extra 1/4 cup milk ( puree + milk = 1 cup + 1/4 cup extra milk):
  • 3/4 cup applesauce, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas, or carrot puree (don't forget to increase milk by 1/4 cup)
juice substitution replacing part of milk (juice + milk = 1 cup), add to liquids
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
semi-wet additions (grated, diced fruit or vegetables), plus don't forget to add 1 Tablespoon flour to dry ingredients, fold in with the dry:
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup small dices apples or rhubarb
  • 3/4 cups grated zucchini or carrots
  • 1/2 cup cranberries, chopped in food processor
dry additions (no changes to liquid or flour), add to flour/sugar mixture
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts/seeds
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins, chopped dates, chopped dried fruit of any variety
substitutions with the flour
  • substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the white
  • substitute 1/2 cup bran for 1/2 cup flour
dry flavorings, add to dry ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
wet flavorings, add to liquids:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, or maple extract extract
to make savory muffins
  • reduce sugar to 2 Tablespoons
  • add 1/2 cup bacon bits or ham
  • add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • add 1/4 cup frozen, chopped spinach or other greens, thawed and liquid drained out
  • pinch red pepper flakes

Flavor combinations that I like
  • zucchini, nutmeg, citrus zest, orange or lemon juice, with lemon glaze
  • lemon zest, poppy seeds, lemon juice, plus maybe a little extra sugar (2 T.)
  • apples, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla extract, nuts, with crumb topping
  • rhubarb, orange zest, with crumb topping
  • carrots, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, cinnamon/sugar topping
  • pumpkin puree, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nuts, with maple glaze
  • cranberry, orange zest, nutmeg, vanilla, sprinkled with sugar
  • bran, vanilla, raisins, with homey glaze
  • mashed bananas, nuts,vanilla extract and nut topping

Component 3 of the basic muffin transformation: the topping

crumb topping sprinkled on tops just before baking

toppings before baking
  • sugar
  • cinnamon and sugar
  • crumb topping: 1/3 cup flour, 2 Tablespoons sugar, pinch salt, 2 Tablespoon soft butter, blend all together, and add just enough water (I think about 1 teaspoon) to form crumbs. I do this in the same mixing bowl that I mixed the batter in, mashing the butter into the sugar/flour with the back of the spoon.
  • chopped nuts
toppings for after baking
  • powdered sugar glaze: to 1/3 cup powdered sugar, add enough milk, lemon juice, orange juice to form a glaze, can also add maple extract or vanilla extract
  • honey glaze, just honey, good on bran muffins
  • butter spread on each muffin top as it comes out of the oven, for a soft crust and buttery flavor

When the muffins are cool I pack them up in a large ziploc bag and freeze. They make a quick grab-and-go breakfast, or nice addition to soup or salad for lunch or dinner.

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