Back at the end of June we went out to pick the last of the juneberries– there were masses of them, dark purple and heavy on the tree, so we filled our bucket and decided to freeze them for future use. After washing them and picking out the stems, I spread them in a single layer on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and froze them overnight. Then it was time to decide what to do with them!
We decided on muffins, figuring that we could treat the juneberries much like blueberries, and went with the Cook’s Illustrated “Best Blueberry Muffins” recipe, which involves a combination of fresh berries and berry compote. Since we already had a stash of juneberry jam we used that instead of the compote. You can use blueberries instead!
With the recent spate of wintry weather here at home, I decided to try to warm things up by invoking tropical flavors– pineapple and coconut! Since I make a batch of muffins roughly every two weeks and it was about time to make one, I started with my standard muffin recipe and loaded it up with crushed pineapple and coconut flakes, using the pineapple juice for good measure.
The finished muffins were light and tender, with nice bursts of flavor from the pineapple and a subtle coconut background. They’re not overly sweet, which I actually liked since coconut baked goods can often be too sugary. They also go well with tea, if you want to enjoy warm-weather flavors with a cold-weather beverage.
I will note that if I weren’t making these for my kid, I might have considered adding some rum to the batter, or making a rum/brown sugar glaze. Maybe you’d like to consider it if you try these yourself!
Our freezer always contains a stash of homemade muffins– it’s just the way things are. The vast majority are used for my daughter’s daily school snacks, but I admit to sneaking a few to nibble on now and then. I most often go with pumpkin or banana muffins, but this time my daughter asked for oatmeal muffins with cinnamon and chocolate. It sounded like a tasty combination to me, so off I went to the internet in search of a recipe.
I ended up modifying this recipe, adding cinnamon and omitting the pecans. Also halving the baking powder, per the recommendations of many reviewers. The finished muffins turned out quite well, extremely moist and almost reminiscent of a chocolate chip cookie in flavor.
You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning, with a long day of doing nothing in front of you, and you feel like having an indulgent breakfast? It doesn’t happen very often for me (at least not the “doing nothing” part), but recently I found myself with just such a day, and decided to take advantage of it. But what to make? Pancakes weren’t special enough, I didn’t have any good bread to make french toast, and we didn’t have any good omelette fillings in the fridge. I scrolled through my list of bookmarked breakfast ideas when I came across a recipe for “breakfast puffs.”
Breakfast puffs (also referred to as “french breakfast puffs” or “doughnut muffins”) are basically nutmeg-scented muffins, dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar while still warm. They supposedly taste just like warm doughnuts, but without the frying. Sounded perfect.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
My daughter’s class is having a Halloween party and has requested parent contributions to the menu– naturally, I volunteered to bring a dessert item, and asked her what she’d like me to make. After a little debate about ingredients and logistics, we decided on pumpkin muffin balls decorated to look like pumpkins. And I can’t wait to tell you about an awesome discovery I made with regard to decorating icing– but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I started off with my standard pumpkin muffin recipe, omitting the white chocolate chips and nuts. I doubled it, and baked up the batter in my trusty cake pop maker.
I make a lot of muffins these days, not least because my daughter needs something to eat for an afternoon snack at school, and I’d rather pack these (with fruit) than storebought granola bars or crackers. And while we both love the cranberry-orange muffins and pumpkin-white chocolate muffins, those really need nuts to make them shine– and nuts are, regrettably, not an option for school these days.
Instead our latest batch of muffins was the classic blueberry muffin– no bells, no whistles, no yogurt or sour cream or lemon zest to make them fancy… just a good old-fashioned muffin, tender, not too sweet, and studded with handfuls of fresh blueberries. The recipe doesn’t make a full dozen but you could easily add more blueberries to bulk up the mix– since I wasn’t using paper muffin liners I didn’t want to risk the muffins falling apart during unmolding due to an excess of berries, but looking at the finished product I think they’d be fine with a full pint of berries.
You always know that Thanksgiving is officially coming up when grocery stores really start pushing the fresh cranberries. While I personally prefer canned whole-berry cranberry sauce to homemade (I know, blasphemy! Revoke my foodie credentials!), I do love to bake with fresh cranberries, so I picked up a bag when I was last at the store. I also got an orange and a bag of walnuts, knowing that I would end up making these muffins.
When I was a kid my parents never made muffins from scratch– instead we would get a box of muffin mix from the grocery store. If we were lucky it would be the kind of mix that came with a little round tin of blueberries or cranberries to stir in, rather than just having dried berry-like bits in the bag of mix. (I can still remember the purple muffins that resulted the one time I forgot to drain the blueberries before stirring up my batter) And I specifically remember some delicious cranberry-orange muffins we made once, that were the perfect blend of tart and sweet with a delicious crunch of granulated sugar on top (one way we used to dress up muffins)– so I thought I’d take a shot at making my own from scratch!
Okay, so first things first– I’ve got to admit that these are a shameless cheat. They’re technically my Pumpkin Pecan Chip muffins with frosting, not cupcakes. But really, once you’ve added white chocolate chips to muffins, they basically become cupcakes by another name anyway, right? And the topping makes all the difference, I promise you!
To take these muffins over the top into cupcake territory, slather them with a brown sugar/cream cheese frosting, then top them with candied ginger and toasted pecans. The combination is amazing– creamy, crunchy, spicy, and everything you’d want in an autumn dessert!
I’ve been making these muffins for years now, and they are invariably hailed by my friends as “the best muffins ever.” They’re moist, tender, with plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and spices, and studded with white chocolate chips and pecans as nice surprises in the middle. I tend to make them in fall (our freezer always has a batch ready to defrost for snacks at this time of year) but have been known to make them on a whim out-of-season– they’re that good! Make them yourself if you don’t believe me, and you will be converted!
I will note that the recipe below makes 12 muffins, but if you don’t want to find yourself with half a can of leftover pumpkin and half a bag of leftover chocolate chips, you may as well make a double-batch. You won’t regret it!
I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond on my own as a kid, but then had it spoiled for me by my school’s making it required reading. Nothing makes you hate a book more than having to sit through your classmates’ laboriously reading aloud one paragraph at a time while you’re forced to listen and keep track of where they are so you can take your turn. Bleh.
BUT, at least the book left one abiding pleasant memory– blueberry corn cake, which Hannah Tupper (a nice old lady who is later accused of being a witch) gives to Kit (a rebellious teenaged girl in Colonial Connecticut) to comfort her after a really tough day.
Hannah had set a wooden trencher on the table with a small corn cake studded with blueberries, and beside it a gourd filled with yellow goat’s milk. She sat watching as Kit ate, taking nothing herself. Probably, Kit thought too late, swallowing the last crumb, that was every bit of dinner she had!
I think that when I first read this, I was picturing a square of cornbread with blueberries stuck to the top– kind of like how you stud an orange with cloves by sticking them all over its surface– but I’ve since realized that the author was likely referring to a single cake with blueberries stirred into a cornmeal batter.