Monthly Archives: August 2010

Some definitions

What is a muffin? I wish I had access to the Oxford English Dictionary corpus so I could research the etymology of the name. My muffin history research might just have to be ongoing. For now, I’ll give you my definition of a muffin and a few resources for baking tips specific to them.

  1. Muffins are not cupcakes: I’ve seen muffins described as “cake-like” or more like mini quick breads. Now, isn’t a cake-like muffin just a cupcake? It’s not that I have anything against cupcakes. It’s hard not to love them. However, I believe that muffins have more potential to be healthful and I feel obligated to make them closer to that end of the spectrum than the cake end. This doesn’t mean all muffins should be bland fiberful rocks. Healthful muffins can still have fabulous texture, flavor, and sweet-tooth-satisfying richness.
  2. Anything goes: I realized after writing definition number one that there aren’t a whole lot of other constraints I put on muffins. When I scan the internet of cookbooks for recipes I gobble up each successive muffin (at least the image of these unmade treats flying around in my mind). I also immediately think of ways to tweak each recipe, either to make it healthier or more unique. We all love a good blueberry muffin but it’s nice to try something different once in a while…or more often. You may think all the possible muffin ingredient combinations have been thought of already but I highly doubt that. I thought of one just the other day that I’m pretty sure has never been done before. All in all, whether it’s sweet, savory, or neutral a good muffin can be full of unique ingredients in unique combinations or simply and old favorite.
  3. Size matters: Why are all the muffins sold in cafes and coffee shops so huge? Their tops bulge up and out over their paper liners like love handles over tight pants. We have become accustomed to seeing and eating large muffins but home made ones don’t have to be that big. You can fill your muffin cups as scantily or as generously as you want (just adjust baking time accordingly) and petite little muffins are no less worthy than their monumental counterparts. Sometimes the beast way to make food a smarter choice diet wise is to limit portion size.
  4. Ingredients matter too: Didn’t I just say anything goes? Well, when it comes to ingredient quality I try not to compromise. Muffins are supposed to be healthful, right? Use un-messed-around-with grains (whole grains whenever possible), natural sweeteners, real eggs (unless we’re talking vegan muffins), seasonal fruits and veggies, and generally fresh, wholesome ingredients. It makes a difference in taste and it makes eating the finished product all that more satisfying because you know truly good things went into it.

I came across some excellent muffin-baking advice on The Joy of Baking. The warning not to over mix is familiar: I remember my mom telling me not to stir the batter too much when I helped her bake. My trusty copy of Joy of Cooking also has great how-to guidelines and a good basic recipe that can serve as a blank slate for experimentation (p. 634). Some of my favorite unusual and healthful muffin recipes come from my mom’s tattered old Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook.
That’s it for now. Next it’s time for recipes and pictures!

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Filed under inspiration and musings, muffins

Hunting and gathering

This is the beginning of a blog about two very specific food items. I’ve been a food blog reader for several years now and I like to think I’ve learned a few things about writing one. Reading cooking blogs tends to snowball into reading more and more of them, scanning recipe websites obsessively, finding new favorites, and of course going back to good old fashioned cookbooks. There is nothing I love more than curling up with a good cookbook. Well, maybe that’s not true. But anyway, I love to read about cooking and I love to cook myself. I may still be an amateur but I like to push my boundaries, experiment, and try new things.

Why muffins and eggs? Well, as you can read on the about page, muffins are my chosen baked good. I love making them because I love eating them so much. I figure that as long as I can bake a healthy muffin I don’t have to feel guilty about eating them. This policy goes for all baked goods, muffins are just particularly well suited to health-ifying. In fact, I believe muffins must be truly healthful to be called be called such (more on that later). In short, muffins are relatively easy to make, easy to eat, satisfy those sweet carbohydrate cravings we all have, and can be made in an endless variety of ingredient and flavor combinations.

Eggs? Well, my fiance loves egg sandwiches. I remember discovering this shortly after we moved in together. I asked him what he wanted for breakfast and he said “egg sandwiches” (he’s a multiple sandwich kind of guy). At that point, I don’t think I had ever made an egg sandwich before in my life. I’d made plenty of one-eyed bandits, something my parents always served my brother and I on weekends when we were kids.

My egg sandwiches started simple: a friend egg, sometimes two, on an English muffin or bun. Sometimes I added cheese and/or salsa. Canadian bacon made an occasional appearance. The simple egg, toasted muffin, and green Tabasco sauce combination became my standard.

Why not branch out a little?  There are endless possibilities for creative customization with an egg sandwich. They are a good combination of protein and carbohydrates, ideal for breakfast. Still, they can vary from extremely healthful to very extravagant (I’m thinking lots of cheese, hollandaise sauce, sausage…).

What ties these two together? Well, they’re both round, portable, tasty breakfast foods. In a way, they are the yin and yang of breakfast: sweet and savory dishes that coexist harmoniously at my table. Oh, and a good cup of coffee fits in well too. I figure, some day, a little cafe could come out of this. It would serve only egg sandwiches, muffins, and beverages of course. That’s my dream anyway.

Now, for the hunting and gathering part. I’ve been hoarding muffin recipes for a while but I’m going to start collecting and testing them in earnest. I’ll see what works and what doesn’t, try my own variations of recipes I like, and hopefully come up with some of my own. New egg sandwich varieties will appear on my fiance’s plate on a regular basis. I’ve already written out a few combinations I’d like to try. I also think it’s appropriate to try making my own English muffins. After all, they are a variety of muffin as well as a perfect egg sandwich bread.

I’ll give a few recipes a try, take some pictures, and hopefully post them here.


Filed under inspiration and musings