To me, breakfast is quite the social quandary. What are acceptable breakfast foods? Why is it that we turn a blind eye to someone reaching for a cold slice of pizza for breakfast. Yet, we give others odd looks when they reach for leftover dessert. For those of us who like a little cake in the morning, there is a perfectly acceptable substitute that carries no stigma: muffins.
Last week, I decided to split a batch of muffin batter and make a half dozen each of blueberry and cheese muffins. Muffins easily make it from the kitchen table into a lunch bag during the morning rush to work. They are easily consumed while sitting on the bus, on your way to work or sitting at your desk, waiting for your latest batch of corporate-mandated software updates to run.
My tried and true recipe comes from Alton Brown and an older episode of Good Eats, called the “Muffin Man.” A slightly modified recipe follows:
What you’ll need:
- 350 g (approx. 12.5 oz) of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Heavy pinch of kosher salt
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup of canola, sunflower, or vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 cup Balkan-style plain yogurt
- approx. 1 cup fresh blueberries
- approx. 1 cup of shredded mixed cheese (e.g. cheddar and mozzarella)
- vegetable shortening for greasing a standard 4×3 non-stick muffin tin
The original recipe called for cake flour, which produces less gluten when stirred. However, I tend to reserve my supply of cake flour for cakes, not everyday fare such as muffins.
As for the Balkan-style yogurt, I like its texture and flavour better than non-Balkan-style yogurt. Please note that I am a strong proponent of traditional styles of active culture yogurt. I have yet to find a good reason for producers to thin it down or add “probiotics.”
As for the pedestrian muffin tin, one day, I’m going find myself a cast iron or cast aluminum muffin tin like pro’s use. They are much more sturdy and retain heat better than consumer-grade non-stick tins. In the meantime, my $10 dollar muffin tin from Zeller’s will have to do.
- Pre-heat an oven to 380F. When the unbaked muffins are added to the oven, the heat will be raised to an even 400F, ensuring a strong blast of heat to raise the batter.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together onto a flexible cutting board. I find that a flexible cutting mats allows you to add the dry mixture to the wet in easy doses. Besides, flexible cutting mats are cheap and react badly to proper knife work.
- Place the blueberries (save for a handful) and shredded cheese into separate containers.
- Reserve the handful of blueberries for topping the muffins.
- Add 1 tbsp of the dry mix to each of the containers of cheese and blueberries. The coating of flour will ensure that the cheese and blueberries stay suspended in the muffins as they bake.
- Mix to coat. AB’s recipe says to add the dry mix to all of the blueberries. I find that coated blueberries retain their white flour coating even after baking. Twice, I had to dust my muffins with confectioner’s sugar to make the white coating look intentional.
- Grease the 3×4 muffin tin
- In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until everything is just combined. Because this is a quick bread with wheat flour, working the dough more will create excess gluten. This excess gluten will keep the muffin from rising properly and the resulting texture will be less airy. The intention is to disguise cake as a breakfast food, not bake bread.
- Allow the batter to rest for 3-5 minutes. This step permits the flour to hydrate.
- Split the batter into two medium-sized bowls
- Add the floured blueberries to one bowl and the cheese to the other
- Stir each half batch of batter until the blueberries and cheese are evenly distributed, no more
- Dose into the pre-greased 3×4 muffin tin using an ice-cream scoop or disher.
- Top the blueberry muffins with the unfloured blueberries
- Carefully place the tin into the oven and raise the heat to 400F
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through
- Remove and turn out onto a tea towel.
- Let cool completely before consuming.
I find that muffins last a couple days when stored in a sealed Tupperware container and left on the kitchen table. Though, because these muffins always turned out light, fluffy, and chock full of fruit or cheese, I have only had them last a couple days.
BTW, blueberries are somewhat economical this week (February 21, 2009) at the Superstore, considering that Ottawa is still trying to overcome the last vestiges of winter.
With a recipe this easy, it’s a wonder that the food court coffee shops can even sell muffins with only a scant number of berries. At least, it’s cake.