Sunday, January 24, 2010

Basic Muffin Recipe: Almond Apricot, Coffee Chocolate Chip, and Banana Nut Spice

Got up one morning on a rainy holiday, and what did I do? Made muffins. It would have been hard not to do, honestly. Now that I'm back on a baking kick, free time means recipe time, and a rainy day said comfort food to me.

I realized that I don't actually make muffins that often, so the consistency of the batter felt a little foreign to me. This is a really thick, dense batter, which results in dense, moist muffins. The density also meant that the muffins didn't rise that much, but being used to cupcakes that rise a lot, I didn't put quite enough batter in each muffin mold to make muffin tops. I think I would almost want to call these tea cakes rather than muffins given the texture, but muffins come in all manner of varieties - some batters are thick, some are thin, some are almost cake. Still, they turned out well, and were lovely right out of the oven with a cup of tea.

For Christmas I received the relatively new baking cookbook from America's Test Kitchen, an enterprise that produces classic recipes, all well-tested and excellently explained. I decided to make this muffin recipe because it can be a basis for a number of versions, including the two I picked: Almond Apricot, Coffee Chocolate Chip, and Banana Nut Spice. The almond apricots and banana spice were definitely my favorites, since a coffee-flavored muffin seemed a little redundant to me (do you want to eat something coffee-flavored with your coffee?).

So here you go! Sub in your own add-ins (extracts, zest, dried fruits, nuts, etc.) for those given:

Basic Muffin Recipe
from Big Beautiful Muffins in The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

3 C flour
1 C sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C whole or non-fat plain yogurt (I used Greek)
2 large eggs
8 T (one stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Almond Apricot: add 1/2 tsp almond extract to the yogurt mixture, fold 1 C finely diced apricots into the final batter, and sprinkle a few sliced almonds over the muffins before baking.
Coffee Chocolate Chip: add 3 T instant coffee or espresso to the yogurt mixture, fold 1 C semisweet chocolate chips into the final batter.
Banana Nut Spice: add 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp cinnamon to the dry ingredients, fold 1 1/2 C finely diced banana and 1/2 walnut bits into the final batter, and sprinkle cinnamon sugar liberally over the muffins before baking.

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-mold muffin tin. Try to not use muffin papers - this causes them to be paler and not rise as much, plus the papers stick to the muffins.

2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt and eggs together until smooth (plus any add-ins for this stage). Gently fold the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined, then fold in the melted butter (and any add-ins for this stage).

3. Portion the batter into each muffin cup equally (should make 12). Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through baking. Mini muffins will take more like 15 minutes.

4. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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