By Kate Heyhoe
Usually the last thing the family cook wants to do after slaving over a holiday dinner is bake. But people still need to eat, and overnight guests often look to the hosts to provide the meals.
Muffins tend to be my answer to the morning meal dilemma. They're foolproof (hard to make a bad muffin), require little effort, cook up quick, and fill the house with wonderful aromas. In fact, they're so easy to make that even kids and visiting kitchen-klutzes can pitch in. After just a few minutes of mixing and about 15 minutes or less of baking, you can set out a batch of muffins with butter and jam, perhaps some cream cheese and ham, and let your guests fend for themselves.
Preheat the oven with a rack in the middle position.
Nonstick pans require no special treatment, but regular pans need greasing. Spritz with nonstick vegetable spray or lightly coat with butter, oil, or shortening. Be sure to coat the rims as well as the cups. Or, use paper muffin-cup liners.
Set out two bowls: a larger one for dry ingredients, and a smaller one for wet ingredients. Measure the dry ingredients into their bowl, stir to mix. With the wet ingredients, add any eggs first and lightly beat them; stir in any remaining wet ingredients. Finally, pour the wet ingredients all at once into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir, but don't go crazy: you want to stir enough so all ingredients are moistened. Lumps are okay. A smooth batter without lumps produces uneven crusts, coarse crumbs and tunnels.
If using butter or shortening, let it warm to room temperature. Cream the fat with sugar before blending into the batter.
For standard muffins, fill muffin cups 2/3 full. For ones with giant tops, fill to the rim or slightly above, but be sure to grease the top of the muffin pan first.
As soon as the pan is filled, place it into the hot oven to bake. This helps the top rise higher.
Test for doneness by pressing gently on a muffin top. If it bounces back, it's done. A toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin should come out clean, without wet crumbs.
Let muffins cool on a wire rack. Flip the pan over and tap the bottom to release them. If some stick, run a knife around the edges.
To store muffins, wrap them tightly in plastic and then foil and place in an airtight container at room temperature. Or, seal well and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw them at room temperature and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, loosely tented with foil.
Some guests like sugar in the morning; others do not. Satisfy both camps with a combination of sweet and savory muffins. You can add just about any ingredient to a muffin batter, from spices and herbs to cheeses, fruit, and nuts. Go Mexican with chorizo sausage muffins, Italian with prosciutto-parmigiano muffins, or whip up a healthy muffin of flax seed and oat bran.
I've assembled below an assortment of favorite muffin recipes to make even sleepyheads smile. Good muffins, good mornings!
Copyright © 2002, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created 2002 and modified November 2006.
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