Showing posts with label muffins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label muffins. Show all posts

Thursday, May 01, 2008

banana muffins to the rescue


There are few things I find more bothersome than a bunch of neglected bananas. They become more freckled by day, and not before long, bruised and squishy. Their peels thin and overpower the air with a disturbing overripeness. Soon, I know, I will be raising fruit flies in my kitchen.

This is why banana bread is fantastic. It captures so gracefully the concept of "sustainable" baking - taking what otherwise would have been tossed out and turning it into a valued treat. Furthermore, mashed bananas provide moistness to quick breads, so that you can use significantly less oil/butter than you would for, say, something of the lemon poppy seed or cranberry walnut variety. (Of course you know, a banana muffin is really just banana bread with the cheerful disposition of a muffin.)

I recently came about a new cooking website called eatNation, where I scored a great Banana Crumb Muffin recipe from someone named Sprocket. There are actually a number of great recipes and cooking tips on the site. The concept itself is neat - it's a meeting place for people who love to cook (eatNation calls us "homechefs"), where we can exchange information about our experiences and epiphanies in the kitchen - whether in the form of recipes, photos, videos, etc. As more people get on the site, I can see eatNation becoming a go-to place for cooking inspiration and advice - for "mastering the art of the everyday meal".

I posted my favorite Classic Pancakes recipe. I've tried many-a pancake recipe out there, and this is by far the best basic pancake you can make for a lazy Sunday morning. (If anything - check out the site because I somehow made eatNation's "Star Chef" of the week. :)

CLASSIC PANCAKES (with strawberries)

Anyway - the Banana Crumb Muffins by homechef "Sprocket" were easy and delicious - I highly recommend them for the next time you encounter a overripening banana crisis of your own.

Recipe notes: I added 1/4 cup toasted, chopped almonds to give some texture to the crumb topping. And as always with muffins, I tried to mix the batter as little as possible to ensure that the muffins come out light and moist.

Monday, November 12, 2007

banana muffins..cookies...`ono!


Now that I have spent some time in the wine industry, I have become quite accustomed to my daily news feeds like "Unusual Snowfall in Chilean Wine Region" and "Bordeaux 2006 could be the new 1982". (There is an audience out there for every topic.)

Given the fundamental connection between food and wine, I have also deemed it a part of my job to stay up to trend on the latest happenings in food. (FYI: for anyone interested, Hardee's announced today that it will bring back its Philly Cheesesteak Thickburger, for a limited time only.)

I was particularly amused when, for the first time in my career, I received a business article about muffins in my inbox: Amos seeks fame with muffins.

Remember Wally's Famous Amos cookies? Well, with the Famous Amos brand now under the ownership of Kellogg, Wally Amos has turned his attentions to Uncle Wally's Muffin Co. He has also started a small cookie shop - Chip and Cookie - in Kailua, Hawaii.

Anyway, I actually do have more to say about cookies, wine, and Hawaii, but I will save that meandering for a later post...on to my recipe for banana walnut muffins!

Easy Banana Walnut Muffins
adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 12

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk or soymilk
1 large egg
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

2 tablespoon brown sugar
tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with muffin papers (or set out 12 individual silicone muffin cups on a cookie sheet). Sift first 4 ingredients into large bowl. Combine bananas, both sugars, butter, milk and egg in medium bowl. Mix into dry ingredients. Fold in 1/2 cup of nuts. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Combine remaining ingredients in bowl. Mix well, and sprinkle mixture generously on tops of muffins. Bake until muffins are golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffins to rack and cool.

Thank you, Siri and Amanda, my Area 4 girls, for the adorable silicone muffin cups! They did a great job keeping my muffins out of trouble in my fickle oven. The finished product popped out easily when cooled.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

vegan muffins

with coconut, mango, & olallieberries

We felt very lucky when Didi Emmons, former chef at Pho Republique, Delux Cafe, and Veggie Planet, came on board at Haley House Bakery Cafe.

Soon after she joined, Didi invited me over for dinner to discuss some of the marketing and business planning work I had been doing for Haley House. I looked forward to the experience of eating in the home of a real chef, and when the day came, I arrived with a carefully chosen 7-Grain pullman from Iggy's Bread of the World.*

Didi introduced me to Henry her cat (for which one of her Veggie Planet pizzas is named). We stepped over her yoga mat and made our way to her kitchen, which was older, more cramped, and much more inviting than I would have expected for the work space of a chef. She returned to pulverizing walnuts with fresh arugula and parsley..."Pesto," she said, in between blasts of the processor.

"I always think pine nuts and basil when I think pesto," I said, trying to keep in step with a professional foodie.

"Walnuts are pretty fun to play around with." Didi shrugged and tasted the pesto. She paused in thought, then drizzled in some olive oil from a little green bottle.


Didi's spunky and creative approach towards cooking is one that has had great influence on me over the years. Didi cooks with an open mind, without judgment, driven by personal intuition, curiosity, and hunger.

Didi and I once had a conversation about muffin making. A baking instructor had taught me about the grave repercussions of over-mixing (over-developed gluten toughens your product and creates those unsightly air tunnels). We were encouraged to implement delicate muffin batter-folding techniques.

As I watched Didi make muffins one day, I inquired about her carefree mixing, and its implications for her gluten structure. She looked at me inquisitively, "I stop mixing when everything comes together." Then she poured the batter into pans and baked them into perfect little strawberry muffins, moist with a soft and crumbly texture.


So, back to California. Recently, twenty lovely friends joined me on an olallieberry picking expedition to Swanton Berry Farm in Pescadero, CA.

When we returned late in the afternoon with juice-stained hands, 30 pounds richer in ollalieberries, Johanna made cake, and Juliann made pies. Cowboy made pancakes. And I took out Didi's cookbook, flipped to "The World's Best Vegan Coffeecake", and, in the spirit of Didi, played around with the recipe until it suited my whimsy.

Vegan Muffins with Coconut, Mango, and Olallieberries
adapted from Didi Emmons' Entertaining for a Veggie Planet

1 cup almonds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup canola oil
1 small mango, cut into small chunks
2 cups olallieberries (raspberries, blackberries, or boysenberries will also do fine)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line 12 standard muffin cups.
2. In a food processor, finely grind almonds. Transfer to a large bowl and add flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and mix well. Mix in coconut.
3. Make a well in the center and add soy milk and canola oil. Stir until the mixture comes together.
4. Gently fold in mango and berries.
5. Divide the batter among muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let cool in pan about 10 minutes.

I don't believe a non-vegan version could be any better. And I have to say, there is something extremely satisfying about eating food you picked from a bush.

*Note: The 7-Grain loaf has been a favorite of mine ever since my summer selling Iggy's bread at the Boston City Hall Farmers' Market. For those who don't know, Iggy's is to Boston as Acme Bread is to San Francisco.

Sunday, July 09, 2006



Intense. Unpredictable. Extraordinary.

Nothing like an over-reactive strawberry ice cream soda and gigantic muffin to nurse the delirium of working till 4am.

These photos were taken at Cabot's Ice Cream & Restaurant, the prime location for a power lunch in West Newton, where I worked until two Fridays ago as a Design Strategist for Design Continuum. I figured I should record this experience for the team (we're really into memories and everlasting friendships and such).



pref. in center of table, far away from anything you might care about


I have finally decided to move onwards and westwards. Or more, I have finally found the courage to uproot myself from my safe and happy home of 25 years, eliminate 70% of my possessions, and drive 3500 miles across mountains and desert, all because I think I have found the right opportunity for a new adventure and career.

Over the next two weeks, my best friend and I will be driving from Boston to Berkeley, CA. At the end of the month, I will begin my new job in Napa Valley at a wine company. I am excited. I will keep you updated as much as I can.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

the quest for a better muffin


This is my first muffin post since the inception of Bribe Me with a Muffin.

It is difficult to explain why we like the muffin, just as it is difficult to explain why we like long, hot showers or, say, George Clooney. We just know we do, and, rather than deconstruct the reasons, I prefer not to spoil the magic and just live it.

Twenty-four years in Boston have led me to some pretty good muffin finds throughout the city.
Petsi Pies's blackberry peach crumb muffin is superb (Petsi Pies is on the Cambridge/Somerville border). Sorelle Bakery & Cafe in Charlestown also does a nice job (I prefer the quaint location on Monument Ave.), as does Appleton Bakery Cafe in the South End (banana chocolate chip). And of course, I must mention Haley House's unique line of all natural and wholesome muffins. My personal choice is the pumpkin bran, topped with organic pepitas. While I am at it, I will also note that one of my most memorable muffins of all time was this piece of work from a cafe in the Upper East Side in NY (the name of this place escapes me at the moment - it was the type of place that had a serious thing for stainless steel). Memorable, partially because the muffin was indeed tasty, but more so because it set me back $4. Oh, New York.

Anyhow, I digress. There are thousands - maybe millions - of muffin recipes out there, many of them bad. I've been through my share of dispiriting let-downs. There's always something wrong - too cakey, too dense, too dry...I have high standards for muffins, and I always have my eye out for something better.

Joanne Chang, a personal heroine of mine, runs Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston's South End. Joanne Chang is my heroine, because she is a Harvard applied math/ec major turned management consultant turned pastry chef/ restaurant owner. Flour is both hip and cozy and turns out excellent baked goods (not to mention a highly satisfying curried tuna sandwich). Food and Wine featured Flour as the Best New Bakery in Boston in 2001.

Fine Cooking recently printed Joanne Chang's muffin recipe. I adapted it for mixed berry muffins. This one's a keeper.

Mixed Berry Muffins
(makes 12)

3 1/2 c flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 c granulated sugar
10 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 c. whole milk
1 c. whole milk yogurt or sour cream, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 c. mixed berries, fresh or frozen (blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

Put rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease top of standard 12-cup muffin tin and line with paper or foil baking cups.

In a large bowl, sift the first four ingredients and mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, butter, milk, yogurt/sour cream, eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon zest.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold gently with rubber spatula until dry ingredients are mostly moistened (a few lumps and streaks of flour are ok). Fold in berries.

Use an ice cream scoop or ladle to scoop the batter into the muffin cups. The batter should mound higher than the rims of the cups by about 3/4 inch.

Bake until the muffins are golden brown and spring back when you press the middle, about 20-30 minutes. Let the tin cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes.

The result is a worthy example of what is perhaps one of the most versatile and pleasing baked goods to ever come out of the American kitchen.