I am all cooked out -- not to mention feeling the consequences of overindulging during December's celebrations. The holidays are behind us, but we still need to enjoy what we eat. How about starting the new year with some tasty muffins?
What exactly is a muffin? I think of it as a quick-bread cupcake. That means there is no yeast in the recipe so it can be put together and baked immediately. The typical American muffin is similar to a cupcake in size and can be savory or sweet. I love the two muffins below. The bran muffin is light and moist, and the cornmeal cranberry muffin satisfies those who prefer a sugar crusty topping. Think of these for breakfast, brunch or a snack anytime.
The light raisin-bran muffins taste great any time of day. Although some bran muffins can be dry, soaking the bran cereal with liquid ingredients is the secret to making these moist muffins. Applesauce is used in lieu of part of the oil with excellent results. Make sure to select unprocessed bran, like All Bran or Bran Buds, for best results.
Cranberries and yellow cornmeal team up for added texture and pure American flavor in the rustic, crusty textured muffins. They are wonderful served warm right out of the oven along with berry preserves. Crowned with a brown sugar crust, this is a satisfying breakfast or brunch-style muffin.
Don't over mix the ingredients; otherwise you may have tough muffins. Use liners for ease in releasing and serving the muffins, spraying them with oil before filling them. Also, let the muffins cool on cooling racks to make sure they don't overcook. You can store the muffins in zip-lock bags for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to a month. Defrost and reheat.
Golden Raisin-Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups wheat bran cereal (All Bran works well -- no bran flakes)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup golden raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a 12-muffin tin thoroughly.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce, buttermilk, salt and bran cereal, and mix well. Let rest at least 10 minutes to soften the bran.
3. In another bowl, stir together the flour and baking soda. Stir in the bran mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the raisins.
4. Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Do not overcook or they will be dry. Cool on a rack and serve warm or room temperature.
Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely chopped orange zest
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 12-muffin tin by greasing each muffin tin well. Reserve.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the baking powder, salt, flour and cornmeal, and set aside. Combine the milk and orange juice in a measuring cup and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until very light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each one in well before adding the next. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix well. Using a spatula, fold in half of the dry mixture, then half of the liquid. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and liquid, then fold in the cranberries.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared tins, making sure to get an equal amount of cranberries into each one. Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of each muffin.
5. Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack and serve warm or room temperature.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)
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