Tuesday, May 28, 2013

These Muffins are Jammin'

I love this book.
I own cookbooks. Many of them. I get sucked in by the pretty pictures and delicious looking recipes, then they sit on a shelf and don't get a lot of use. I blame the internet. It's just so convenient, and I can compare several versions of a recipe before deciding which to try.

There is one cookbook I use on a regular basis, however. My trusty Fannie Farmer's Baking Book. I have yet to make a recipe from this book that came out poorly. While I'd like to claim that this is all due to my rad-awesome baking skills, the truth is that the book is just full of wonderful recipes.

It also allows something the internet doesn't – the ability to browse when I feel like making something, but don't have anything specific in mind. I was in that mood this weekend; the only thing I knew was that I wanted something sweet-ish that wasn't a cookie.

I settled on jam muffins. A basic muffin with a delicious jam center? There was no way I could resist that,
especially given the simplicity of the recipe.
Yes, two muffins.  One just isn't going to cut it.  Trust me on this.

It should be lumpy still.
It's a very basic recipe – no fancy ingredients – that takes maybe three minutes to make. Three minutes is well within my acceptable morning effort range. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, mix the wet ingredients in another*, then mix until just combined. Then you get to drink coffee while smugly reflecting on what an awesome mom you are for making 
your kids fresh muffins for breakfast and blithely ignoring the fact that this means you can delay feeding them actual food for a couple more hours so you can drink more coffee and look at the internet.

The "hard" part is done.  Time to lick the jam spoon!
The only effort involved is getting the jam filling in, and that's really not any effort at all – a layer of batter, a dollop of jam, and top it with more batter. Actually, I was a little concerned about my ability to assemble the muffins without creating a mess; I'm not known for my delicate touch and the recipe specified not letting the jam touch the sides. Luckily, however, I had a nice thick blackberry jam that one of my co-workers gave me for Christmas. It held together in a ball, even when I put the remaining batter on top.

What? This isn't a muffin!
These came out beautifully. They're not cupcakes in disguise like so many of the modern "muffin" recipes; they have just a hint of sweetness in them...and then you get to the jam.  There is just enough jam in the middle to get a little bit with every bite.  There's probably less jam in each muffin than I'd put on them if I was adding it after they baked, but it feels more decadent to eat something with a pocket of jam in the middle.  The only problem is that the recipe only makes a dozen and Zoey and Parker insisted they get their fair share, also. We ran out way too quickly.

Mini loafs maximize the jam.
Then Randy had a wonderful thought. “I bet these would make great mini muffins,” he said. Brilliance! It was a hypothesis that I had to test. You know, for science. While I was at it, I decided to make a mini-loaf as well. They were every bit as good in those formats, also.  I'm pretty sure there is no shape that this recipe would not taste fantastic in.

Runny just doesn't cut it.
While the shape doesn't matter, the filling does.  Unfortunately, I ran out of the blackberry jam, and had to do with a runnier grape jelly for the last few mini-muffins.  It didn't work out nearly as well – the consistency of the jam is important. You need a thick jam that won't run out into a thin layer. A thinner jam or jelly won't stay in the center and you lose that element of fruity sweetness in every bite. Marmalade or preserves would be wonderful. 

The thinner jelly (right) just doesn't work.
And yes, we made two batches in one day and ate most of them that same day. I blame the kids. Zoey had “I need another muffin,” on repeat and Parker toddled behind her shrieking his agreement.  On the second go-round, I added a tablespoon of grated lemon peel to the batter.  Honestly, I didn't notice a huge difference.  I'm not sure if it's because my lemon peel is old (at least three or four years) or because I was in a bit of a muffin coma, but it didn't take away from the flavor at all.  I know I'll make these again and try with fresh lemon zest to see if I can't get a little bit of citrus kick in there.
Who needs Starbucks?  

Makes 12 muffins or 14 mini muffins and one mini-loaf

2 c flour
1T baking powder
1t salt
¼ c sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
8T melted butter
1T vanilla
1T lemon zest (optional)
12 tsp thick jam or preserves.

Pre-heat oven to 400
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl*
Mix sugar, eggs, milk, butter, vanilla, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Grease a muffin tin. Fill each cup 1/3 full of batter.
Put a teaspoon of jam in the center of each cup, being careful not to let it touch the sides.
Fill the cups the remainder of the way.
Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (for mini-muffins, reduce time to 15-18 minutes)

*Full disclosure – I only used two bowls because I didn't realize what I had done until it was too late. Usually, I mix the wet ingredients first and then just dump all the dry stuff on top without mixing it together. If I feel ambitious, I'll put them through a sifter to mix them, but I hate dirtying a second bowl for three seconds of mixing. That's just silly. 
Two bowls? What was I thinking?  That's more to clean!

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