The Cookstr 10: Ten Terrific Muffins
Don’t you love a food that is at ease all day long, from breakfast to snack time to dinner? (Throw a corn muffin on the side of our bowl of chili and we’ll be your best friend.) Not to mention kind of adorable.
So, just what defines a muffin? In short, a muffin is a bread that is baked in small cups. They can be sweet, though typically not as sweet as cupcakes (and also frosting-free), and they can also be savory. They are also usually made without yeast, and so provide the immediate gratification of a speedily baking quick bread.
Beyond that, the sky’s pretty much the limit as to what can go into a muffin. They can be healthy, chock full of bran and fruit and whole grains; they can be a bit indulgent, plugged full of chocolate chips or nestled underneath a layer of crumbly streusel topping; or somewhere in between. Your house, your muffin.
Few phrases are more hospitable than “I just baked muffins,” and if your world involves potlucks, bake sales, office meetings, wedding showers, teacher appreciation committees, or neighbors who watched your dog while you went away for the weekend, then we’re betting you have a muffin tin or two in your kitchen, ready for action.
1. Sara Foster’s Blueberriest Muffins. Nothing is muffin-ier than a blueberry muffin, and these have blueberries coming out the yin yang. Not only are there sweet whole berries punctuating the muffin, but the batter is laced with finely chopped blueberries, so intense flavor in every bite is guaranteed. You can substitute other berries for part of the blueberries for a mixed-berry muffin.
2. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Big Banana Muffins. Ripe, riper, ripest, banana muffins. The gift of brown spotty bananas should not be taken for granted, and banana bread or muffins are the manifest destiny of many bananas in their golden years.
3. Myra Goodman’s The Original Morning Glory Muffin. The alchemy that occurs when apples, pineapple, raisins, carrots, coconut, and nuts collide is hard to explain, but this satisfying muffin with its cheery name will kick off your day encouragingly.
4. Julie Hasson’s Chocolate Chip Cranberry Muffins. Polka-dotted with tart cranberries and sweet chocolate, these muffins aren’t too hard on the eyes, either. A bit of orange zest cleverly pulls the flavors together with a whoosh of citrus.
5. Julie Sullivan’s Sour Cream Peach Muffins. Fragrant with peaches, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon, these tender muffins are studded with chopped pecans or almonds throughout. The crown is covered with a light crackled topping, thanks to a quick blend of sugar and spice.
6. Nina Simonds’ Pumpkin-Applesauce Muffins. Fall means apples and pumpkins, and, therefore, these muffins. And the spices are exactly the warm and comforting ones that seem to elbow their way to the front of the spice drawer at this time of year. Sure, the recipe actually calls for applesauce and pumpkin puree, but you could split hairs, or you could split open this muffin.
7. Lora Brody’s Raisin Bran Muffins. You could have a bowl of bran flakes, or you could have one of these. Fiber is your friend, particularly when you’re trying to get your nutrients on-the-go.
8. Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner’s Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. We’re not sure who first realized that lemons and poppy seeds make such good partners, but we’re grateful. These flavors have become a classic pairing for cakes, quick breads, and, yes, muffins. Rich with sour cream and zesty with zest, these speckled treats are excellent 24/7.
9. Michael Lomonaco’s Savory Chipotle Chile Muffins. Most us of think “sweet” when we think of muffins, but there’s a whole other savory world of muffins out there, waiting to be, well, savored. Smoky, beguiling chipotles in adobo along with cumin season this muffin, which is made with a blend of soft all-purpose flour and just the right amount of rugged cornmeal.
10. Nigella Lawson’s Orange Breakfast Muffins. Ground almonds provide structure as well as flavor, and the orange, which often plays more of a supporting role in various baking projects, is the start of this show. Break them open while they are still warm, and slather away with butter, jam, honey, or whatever topping speaks to you most compellingly at the moment.