It is definitely winter. I can tell. My hands are always cold and my lips are always chapped. Winter is the time for hunkering down and eating hearty foods, like wintery thick soups, stews and more. We drink hot drinks — mulled cider, hot tea with honey and lemon, hot coffee and, of course, hot cocoa.
One of my favorite winter foods is muffins. While muffins are good anytime of the year, there is something special about them in the cold weather. They are warm and sweet and often filled with fruits and sometimes vegetables that make them delicious and a teeny tiny bit nutritious (maybe). Think comfort food here.
The English Muffin, made from a yeasty dough, was probably developed sometime in the tenth century. Vendors would put the dough in a ring and place it right on the hot coals or metal pan. They would sell the hot muffins with fruit or cheese or more and people would eat them on their way to their work or on their journeys.
Settlers in the New World also made the yeast muffins, but as they separated from England, they also cut ties with many of the foods from across the ocean. Many decades later, the Americans created their own product — sweet breads filled with all kinds of delicious nuts and fruits and more. They poured them into individual tins to create single little cakes that they called muffins, originally “moofins” because they were shaped and cooked individually and could be eaten on the run as the old muffins were. Thus, the yeast dough muffin earned the name, “English Muffin,” and the sweet muffins earned the simplified, “muffin.”
Today, muffins are sold everywhere. Most supermarkets sell them in special cases and bakeries sell all kinds. Tory Avey makes a 7 Species muffin for Tu B’Shevat and everyone has some kind of Passover muffin that they make. My mother always made apple muffins for the New Year.
Muffins make the day a bit brighter. On occasion, when I would bring some homemade muffins to my faculty colleagues on the Humanities floor, their faces would brighten, they would smile and, suddenly, 8 am classes seemed a little less terrible!
The Jordan Marsh Blueberry muffin became famous around the country, even though Jordan Marsh was a local, Boston-based, department store. Now, three states have their own state muffins. Minnesota claims the Blueberry muffin, Massachusetts the corn muffin, and New York’s state muffin is the apple muffin!
I love warm, steamy muffins on a cold Sunday morning. Add some hot tea or coffee and a good book and I will happily stay inside until May. Enjoy!
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins (Dairy)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I use about 3/4 cup)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar for topping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard, 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick spray. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy and well-combined, scraping the bowl as needed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the baking powder and the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the flour alternately with the milk. Scrape the bowl often. Remove the bowl from the stand and scrape the beaters.
Take a generous 1/2 cup of the blueberries and mash with a fork. Add to the bowl along with the whole berries. Mix with a fork to blend evenly. Scoop the batter into the pan and then top each muffin with a spoon of sugar sprinkled over the top.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a plate to cool. Makes 12 muffins.
Massachusetts Corn Muffins (Dairy)
Massachusetts does not seem to have an official recipe, although one that uses a mix appears on a state website. These are delicious and not too sweet.
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. stone ground cornmeal
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unbleached flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup canola oil or butter, melted
3 Tbsp. yogurt, sour cream, or more milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with papers or spray with non-stick spray and set aside. Place the corn meal, flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to blend.
Place the maple syrup, vanilla, egg, milk and sour cream in another bowl and whisk to blend. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just blended.
Scoop into the prepared tin and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.
Official NYS Apple Muffins (Dairy)
This is the recipe on the official New York web page! I have made these substituting vanilla yogurt for the cream cheese and leaving out the lemon zest in the topping.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 cups New York State Empire Apples, chopped
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts chopped
3 eggs. Lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 ounces cream cheese, brick style, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place paper cups in two 12-cup muffin tins or spray with non-stick spray. Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Chop the apples and toss with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Set aside. Place the flour, sugars, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a bowl. Whisk to blend.
Place the remaining ingredients, including the apples in another bowl and mix to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, a little at a time, mixing with a fork after each addition, about 4 additions. Do not overmix. Scoop into the prepared pans.
Spoon the topping over each muffin, pressing gently with a spoon. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and a tester comes out clean. Makes 24 muffins.
Quick and Healthy Banana Berry Nut Muffins (Dairy)
I used to make these in mini muffin tins for my kids for lunchbox treats!
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1/8 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1-2/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
2 extra-large egg whites or 2 whole large eggs
1/3 cup butter or trans-fat free margarine, melted
1 cup fresh mixed berries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc. (cut strawberries)
1/2 to 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, banana and butter until smooth. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Add the berries and nuts.
Spray a muffin tin with a non-stick spray and fill each cup two-thirds full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden and a tester comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.