Sunday, October 25th, 2009
About a month ago, my mom mentioned that her church was looking for a volunteer to bake muffins for their women’s ministry event. I thought it sounded like fun.
She then clarified that, oh yes, they would need about 200 muffins total. For some reason, I still thought it sounded like fun.
Perhaps it was the thrill of the challenge, or my ignorance regarding the fact that there is probably some baking feat I can’t accomplish, but I just couldn’t say no. So I tested recipes and come Friday night I found myself in a large, semi-industrial kitchen, suddenly and slightly overwhelmed by the task at hand.
But with the help of my husband, family, and a fair amount of caffeine, the evening ended with a grand total of 273 muffins (muffin math: it seems that multiplied recipes sometimes increase more than expected) and at least that many dirty dishes.
I’m happy to say that the recipes I used were a lovely mixture of professionally honed concoctions and those of the more homegrown variety. The Caramel Apple Muffin came from a lady in the church, the Chocolate Banana Muffin was published years ago by a greeting card company that employs a cousin of mine, the Allspice Crumb Muffin came to me via the interwebs and Dorie Greenspan, and the best Blueberry Muffin I’ve ever tasted originated in the test kitchens of Martha Stewart. It was a delicious assortment, to say the least.
At this point I’m not sure I could pick a favorite among the four. The allspice and caramel apple muffins are both frontrunners in my book, but they’re all pretty fantastic.
Caramel Apple Muffins
First Baptist Church of Bentonville
Makes about 36 muffins
4-5 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, finely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups chopped pecans, toasted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. If you use cupcake papers, still spray the pan so that the muffins won’t stick. Stir together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla, in a large bowl.
In another bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the sugar/egg mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in finely chopped apples. Batter will be stiff, but if it’s too stiff, add a little water (1-2 tbsp at a time) until it works. Spoon batter into muffin pans, filling almost-full.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pans and cool before topping.
2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup butter – not margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put all ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes until mixture reaches a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Make sure you use medium low heat and stir constantly or this will burn.
To top muffins: Spoon approximately a tablespoon of caramel atop each muffin and sprinkle with toasted pecans.
Chocolate Banana Muffins
With Heart & Soul
Makes 12 muffins
1 ¼ cups flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
½ baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp plain yogurt
4 large chocolate graham crackers (or approx. 1 cup chocolate Teddy Grahams), crushed*
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first six ingredients in a bowl; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine bananas and remaining ingredients; add to dry ingredients, stirring until moistened. Do not overmix!
Spoon into a greased muffin pan, filling two-thirds full.
Mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of each muffin pan. Bake for about 15 minutes.
*I can never find chocolate graham crackers. Do they even exist any more? Chocolate Teddy Grahams work wonderfully and are very quickly crushed by a food processor, if you have one. If not, no worries: place the cookies between two sheets of foil on a cookie sheet and use a rolling pin to crush.
Allspice Crumb Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground allspice
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper cups.
Streusel: Put the flour, brown sugar and allspice in a small bowl and sift them through your fingers to blend. Add the bits of cold butter and use your fingers or a pastry blender to create irregularly shaped crumbs. Set aside in the refrigerator for the moment. (You can make the crumbs up to 3 days ahead and keep them covered in the refrigerator.)
Muffins: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps.
In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough–the batter will be lumpy. Stir in the lemon zest, if you’re using it (I didn’t, simply because I found myself without a zester).
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Sprinkle some streusel over each muffin, then use your fingertips to gently press the crumbs into the batter (this is key to ensuring that you don’t lose those tasty morsels).
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
Makes 12 muffins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan and dust with flour, tapping out excess (or insert muffin cups); set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Working over the bowl, toss blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons flour mixture to lightly coat; set aside the flour mixture and the blueberries.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add reserved flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add milk, beating until just combined. Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. If desired, in a small bowl, mix together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle sugar mixture on top of muffin batter.
Bake, rotating pan halfway though, until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins on their sides in their cups, and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.