Muffins are one of the first things I ever learned to bake, and I've made many a muffin in my time. When I was a child, Mom and I were always baking a batch for Girl Scout meetings and school bake sales. In my first job out of college, my sister and I worked at a bed-and-breakfast, where we made muffins with breakfast several times a week. Later, as a newlywed, I made muffins for my husband, John, to take to his job. (We've been married almost 17 years, and John still hopes that every blueberry that crosses our threshold will end up encased in a buttermilk muffin.)
And like lots of kids, my brother and sister and I always wanted to make Mom a special breakfast for Mother's Day. You guessed it: muffins. I will spare you the culinary horrors we thrust upon my good-natured mother over the years. Let's just say that, as we got older, the muffins got better.
Now that I've mastered the art of making muffins, I feel compelled to pass it on so you might make some homemade muffins for your mom or grandmom this Mother's Day. But however you decide to celebrate, be sure to tell Mom you love her.
Here are a few tips to help make your muffins perfect:
Get some new baking powder and baking soda - these get stale and don't do as good a job puffing up your baked goods when they are older than six months. Label each box with the date you buy it and write on it "replace in 6 months.''
You can make muffins the old-fashioned way, using arm power and a wooden spoon, or you can use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
The best muffin tins are the nonstick ones or well-seasoned cast-iron ones, if you have them. If you have ever tried to scrub baked-on muffin or cupcake batter off the old-style aluminum kind, you will appreciate being able to sponge off the newer nonstick kind.
I usually store muffins on a cookie sheet on my countertop, lightly draped with plastic wrap. I find that if I store them in airtight containers or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, the muffin tops lose their crustiness and get mushy. The exception to this is if I am freezing some, in which case I put them in zippered plastic freezer bags.
Morning Glory Muffins
Makes about 16 muffins
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups grated carrots (about 4 large)
1 medium to large apple, cored and grated (you can leave on the peels)
8 ounces crushed canned pineapple, drained
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sift together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl (if you don't have a sifter, use a mesh sieve). Add the coconut, raisins, carrots, apple, pineapple and nuts and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil and the vanilla. Pour this mixture into the bowl with all the dry ingredients and blend well by hand.
Spoon the batter into cupcake tins lined with muffin paper cups. Fill each cup to the brim. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Cool the muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out and finish cooling on a rack. Let the muffins rest for 24 hours for ripening to develop their full flavor. They also freeze well.
John's Favorite Buttermilk Muffins
2 cups buttermilk (I prefer low-fat)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (corn or canola is fine)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole blueberries or cranberries, or golden raisins, or diced fresh apples or fresh peaches
Additional granulated sugar for tops (optional)
Mix together the first three ingredients in a large bowl.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl (if you don't have a sifter, use a mesh sieve).
Add the fruit and stir to mix.
Spoon the batter into cupcake tins lined with muffin paper cups. Fill each cup to about 1/4 inch below the brim. If you like, sprinkle additional granulated sugar on top of the raw muffins.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until a light golden brown. Do not overbake, as muffins will not stay moist in the middle.
Adapted from ``A Kitchen Collection -
Sconset Cafe - A Village Cafe on Nantucket Island''
by Pamela A. McKinstry
(published privately, out of print)