Muffin tops. In a good way.

May 10, 2014

Muffins. Blueberry variety.

Muffins. Blueberry variety.

There are muffin tops, and there are muffins that are tops. These would be the latter.

OK, that was a reach. Give me a break. I’ve been working on a brochure, and my mind has turned to tapioca, and I need to think about something else.

Like muffins.

One thing everyone ought to have in their culinary repertoire is a good muffin recipe. I have two: the bran muffin recipe long detailed on the All-Bran box, which remains one of my favorites, particularly when you add diced dried figs and toasted walnuts.

And this one.

Ages ago — and they may still do it — the Peabody Hotel in Memphis had a marvelous little coffee bar with a case full of pastries baked in one of its restaurants. Marvelous, dainty, sugary creatures, and big, two-fisted make-a-meal-of-it pastries.

In the two-fisted, make a meal of it category were the classic “vanilla muffins,” about one and a half times the size of your standard corn muffin or cupcake. It was probably about three inches across the bottom, and the crown that poked out above the fluted paper cup was close to five inches across. The whole thing was about four or five inches tall.

And it was delectable.

And when a friend and former co-worker, Christine Arpe Gang, who was at one time the food editor of The Commercial Appeal, wrote a book called “Memphis Cuisine,” which featured favorite recipes from many Memphis restaurants, lo and behold, there was the recipe for “Peabody Vanilla Muffins.”

Which is, to-wit:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring

Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. Beat the eggs, milk and flavoring, and pour in the slightly cooled melted butter; add to the dry ingredients and stir just until everything’s moistened. Bake in muffin cups at 375 for about 20 minutes.

That’s the basic recipe, and it’s good, in and of itself. (makes a really nice mini-muffin, glazed, too). But where it really shines is with the additions. To the basic batter, you can:

  • Omit the vanilla, add 2 tsp almond extract and a quarter-cup of poppy seeds.
  • Fold in gently two cups of fresh blueberries, or diced strawberries, or blackberries, or raspberries, or diced peaches, or…well, you get the picture
  • Fold in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. (Shake them in a bag with some flour, first, to keep them from all drifting to the bottom of the muffin as it bakes. Mini chips work better.) Ditto any other flavor chips.
  • Use 1 tsp. mint extract instead of the vanilla, and sprinkle the top of each cupcake with crushed peppermint sticks before baking; then drizzle them with chocolate when they’re baked and cooled.
  • Omit all but 1/2 cup of the sugar, and add grated cheddar cheese and fried, crumbled bacon for a luscious savory version.
  • Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice instead of the vanilla, then mix the zest of the lemon with sugar and sprinkle on top before baking.  Glaze with confectioners sugar and lemon juice.
  • Try whatever other neat combination strikes your fancy. (Ooooohhhh….mocha. And fresh ground coffee beans mixed with sugar, or used to flavor a glaze. Must try.)

This recipe makes two dozen, which is more muffins than you really want to make unless you’re feeding the masses, but it splits in half really easily. Try ’em. They’ll become you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em’s go-to muffin recipe.

 

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