Monthly Archives: September 2010

Apple cinnamon bran muffins



What a fabulous morning for baking. I love getting back from the gym, worn out in a good kind of way, and starting on a baking project. Of course breakfast and a shower come first but after that I’m all over the kitchen!
This morning I went back to what is probably my favorite muffin recipe. It comes from Farmgirl Fare, the first food blog I ever read regularly. I was searching for a bran muffin recipe online a few years back and came across Farmgirl Susan’s Basic Bran Muffin. These beauties are 100% whole grain and use simple, un-messed with ingredients. The basic recipe is easily modified for any fruit or flavor you’re craving and I’ve always enjoyed how the amounts of each ingredient are easy to remember. These muffins have big crusty tops but are moist inside and taste so good you’ll forget how much fiber is in them! I’ve made a blueberry version of these several times, a simple raisin version, and a ginger pear version. Today I decided to give apple cinnamon a try.
Last weekend Lee and I picked about 11 pounds of apples at Biscay Orchards down the road. We’ve been snacking on them all week and I’ve been trying to decide what to bake with them. We picked about half Macintosh and half Cortland. Of course I had to make some muffins and my favorite bran muffin recipe came to mind as a good backdrop for apple and cinnamon. Perhaps later in the week I’ll make something more ambitious. A pie, tart, or cake maybe?
For now, enjoy these perfectly moist, cinnamony goodies crammed full of apples!


It came to my attention, after baking these muffins, that a bunch of bloggers are celebrating fall by posting apple-related recipes today! Just my luck! Here is my contribution to Fall Fest (see A Way to Garden to find out more).

Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins
Adapted from Farmgirl Susan’s Basic Bran Muffin

2 cups wheat bran
1 cup oat bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon, or more, cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup yogurt + applesauce (The original recipe calls for yogurt. I subbed 1/2 cup applesauce for part of the yogurt this time)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sweet molasses or cane syrup (The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup. I cut back so the molasses flavor wouldn’t mask the cinnamon too much and because agave is already really sweet)
1/3 cup honey (I used agave)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

2-3 medium-sized apples, depending on how fruity you like your muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine wheat bran, oat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, yogurt, oil, molasses, honey, and vanilla if using.
Chop apples finely. I left the peels on, cut the apples into small pieces, and then pulsed them in the blender a few times.
Fill 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners, silicone cups, or a little oil. This makes 12 really big muffins so the cup will be really full. You could also make more, smaller muffins if you prefer.


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Whole Wheat English Muffins



        I won’t hide it. I’m so proud of myself for making english muffins! They have been on my list of must-bakes for a while now and I finally mustered the guts to try last night. I had all the ingredients, not that it’s a long list, and I was mentally prepared for a two day process with several risings. Now that I’m done, they really weren’t that hard to make. That’s a good thing, since I hope to be making them on a regular basis from now on!
        There are english muffin people and there are toast people. I have always been an english muffin person. I love how spreads liquify and trickle into the little orifices on hot, split muffins. I love their crusty exterior and spongy core. I love splitting them with forks and covering them with peanut butter. My mom is an english muffin person too. She has a very precise method for perfectly toasting them in her toaster oven. She is going to have to try making her own, since I now know they really are infinitely better than the store bought kind.
        Something gives these muffins an unusual tangy flavor. Maybe it’s the overnight rise and the yogurt as the recipe suggests. Whatever it is, they don’t just taste like bread shaped like an english muffin. They taste very homemade and wholesome!


English Muffins
From Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup yogurt (I used plain kefir)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
3 or more cups whole wheat flour (I used about 3 1/2 total with flour for kneading)
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Dissolve yeast in warm water.
Mix yogurt and boiling water in a large bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture, then 2 cups of flour.
Cover the bowl with a towel and it this sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in bulk, or leave it overnight (I left mine on the counter overnight). The dough is spongy and will get more sour the longer it sits.
After the dough has doubled in bulk (40-60 min. or overnight), mix in the remaining flour along with the salt and soda. Knead vigorously, adding more flour as needed until you have pliable but slightly sticky dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it, and let it rise for a second time (30 min. or more).
Punch the dough down and turn it onto a floured surface. Roll it out to half-inch thickness with a floured rolling pin. Cut it into circles with a four-inch cookie cutter of the end of a one-pound coffee can (my dough made 12 muffins).
Dust both side of the muffins with cornmeal and set on cookie sheets to rise until doubled in bulk (45 min. to an hour or more if the dough is cold).
*Cook on a griddle or skillet at medium-high heat for 10 minutes on each side.
Split with a fork, the traditional way, and spread on something yummy!

*I used a cast iron skillet and cooked 4 muffins at a time. I ended up using rather low heat after burning the first batch. It didn’t take a full 10 minutes for each side so watch them carefully. The cornmeal and seasoned skillet made oil unnecessary. The muffins puff up as they cook so they’re kinda fun to watch.

        After cooking all 12 muffins, I whipped up a couple of egg sandwiches for Lee for lunch. That’s what happens when you spend all morning baking! Breakfast foods end up as lunch. Lee loved the homemade muffin sandwiches and gave them the “special treat” designation reserved for his favorite foods. I nibbled the unburned halves of the burned batch all afternoon.



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Speltalicious spelt biscuits

Spelt biscuits – look at all that texture!
Wheat/white version – they taste better than they look!

I wasn’t going to post about the biscuits I made the other day but they’ve proven to be such tasty snacks and stew accompaniments that I’m proud to post about them.
Last week I dug this cookbook, The Country Kitchen by Jocasta Innes out of my book box in the basement. I was looking for jam and preserve recipes but I found a lot of other tasty looking things that I’d never thought about making before. The recipes and kitchen wisdom in this book are pretty old fashioned and very British. It is definitely oriented towards homemade staples and living off the earth’s bounty.
A biscuit recipe caught my eye as something that might go well with the stew I was making for dinner. I decided to make two variations: a half white, half wheat flour version and a spelt flour version. I love spelt flour. I love the hearty, nutty flavor and unique texture. The market where I used to shop in Denver, Sunflower Farmers Market, made delicious 100% spelt bread that made heavenly PB and J sandwiches. I really miss that bread.
The spelt biscuits (and by biscuit, I mean crunchy cracker-like English biscuits) were much better than the white/wheat version. The spelt flour’s flaky, crumbly texture combined with just the right amount of butter made for a great consistency. The white/wheat biscuits were good too. They just didn’t look as cool because I forgot to poke fork holes in them (yes, the fork holes are important for the biscuit look). I got to practice my metric conversions for this recipe!

Water Biscuits
From The Country Kitchen by Jocasta Innes

22g (8 oz) flour (I made one batch of half white, half wheat and a second batch using all spelt flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
50g (2 oz) butter
150 ml (1/4) pint water
ground rock or sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Rub in the butter (I used a pastry blender).
Add just enough water to make a firm dough.
Roll dough out thinly on a lightly floured surface.
Stamp out rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter (I used the rim of a small cup).
Prick rounds all over with a fork and sprinkle them with sea salt.
*Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp.

*My biscuits took more like 45 minutes to an hour to get really crisp. I may not have rolled my dough out thin enough. I increased the temperature to 400 deg. F for the spelt version and baked them for about 45 minutes. They seemed to crisp up faster than the white/wheat biscuits.

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Maple almond muffins: a more sophisticated muffin


        I get excited about almond extract. Pouring teaspoon after teaspoon of vanilla extract gets boring after a while. So, on the rare occasions when I break out the little bottle of almond deliciousness, measure out a spoonful, and smell that fabulous, sweet, nutty aroma…I’m in heaven. These muffins got me excited about almonds, maple syrup, and how fabulous they taste together!
        These maple almond muffins seem like a decadent morning pastry or even a dessert compared to what I usually bake. They include a not-too-sweet batter infused with almond extract and a rich filling made with ground almonds, cinnamon, and lots of maple syrup. The filling creates a layer of crunch and sweetness in the middle of the muffin and bubbles out of the top in occasional mapley spots.
        I could not wait for these to come out of the oven. I tried to distract myself by washing dishes but I kept looking at the clock to see if the time had run out yet. When they were finally done I made Lee have one with me, not that that took a lot of persuasion. We both agree, these are very good. They make me think of elegant brunches and smell so, so wonderful. I think I’ll try to keep the muffin baking smell trapped inside with me all day!
        I actually didn’t change anything about this recipe. Next time I would bake them for a little less time, as they stuck to the wrappers a bit.


Maple Almond Muffins
From Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground almonds
6 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix flours, baking powder, and salt.
In a smaller bowl, combine egg, oil, maple syrup, milk, and almond extract.
For the filling, combine maple syrup, almonds, flour, cinnamon, and butter in a third bowl.
Next, add the liquid muffin ingredients to the dry ingredients.
Line a muffin pan with paper or silicon liners.
Spoon one tablespoon of muffin batter into each cup, followed by one tablespoon of filling.
Finish off with one tablespoon of muffin batter over the filling.
Optional: Sprinkle the top of each muffin with slivered almonds.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (I would tend towards 15, especially if you have a dark colored muffin pan)

Enjoy with a mid-morning cup of tea!


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