Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Word I Hate To Speak

But love to eat. Which is why I continue to struggle to make m-u-f-f-i-n-s. Because the ones you buy in the store? I dunno. They always taste either way overloaded with sugar and chemicals or like something you'd get if a troop of hippies spent all morning stoned to the gills on really, really good whatever it is stoners like to smoke, listening to "Suite for Judy Blue Eyes" over and over on the stereo, and then decided to bake. Dude.

Anyway. Emma, I didn't forget about you. I've just been really, really busy. And I made these back in, oh, God, May I think. Two recipes. Both from my handy dandy Williams and Sonoma Muffins cookbook. The first recipe, for carrot-nut muffins, is all earth mother crunchy. About the only thing they're good for is hiking, 'cause if you're seven miles into a trek up the side of a mountain and the last meal you had was four hours ago, you'll eat just about anything. The second, however, I think approaches near muffin perfection in terms of texture and taste. The first is made with oil. The second with butter. Proving, once again, my theory that nothing on God's great green earth despite the Mojave, beats butterfat.

See what you think.

Carrot-Nut Muffins

4 large eggs
1 cup canola or walnut oil
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
12 ounces shredded carrots
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (or any nut of choice, really)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray 24 standard muffin or 16 large muffin cups (will give you larger muffins) with non-stick spray.

Sift all dry ingredients, minus carrots and nuts, together in large bowl. Set aside.

In bowl of electric stand mixer, combine the eggs, oil, and sugar and beat for one minute on medium speed. Add sifted dry ingredients and beat on low speed until smooth. If you're pretty burly, do this by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon.

Then, using a large spatula, fold in the carrots and nuts until combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with batter.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before un-molding.

See, even the batter looks crunchy:

And the end result. See that weird texture? That's what you get with oil.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coarse raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray 10 standard muffin cups with non-stick spray.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and salt. Set aside.

In bowl of electric stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and beat well after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, then the lemon juice and vanilla. Beat just until smooth.

In another large bowl, beat the two egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold into the batter until just blended.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle the top of each with some raw sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before un-molding.

See? Pretttttyyyyy.