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tuesdays with dorie / baking with julia: buttermilk crumb muffins

I don’t make muffins often. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy anything sweet in the morning, and, to me, muffins are just un-iced cupcakes masquerading as breakfast. Tuesdays with Dorie kicks off November with Marion Cunningham’s recipe for Buttermilk Crumb Muffins. A friend was coming over of visit on Sunday afternoon, so I decided to make a half batch of these muffins to go with our warm cups of tea.

The batter comes together easily. Fat is combined with a flour / brown sugar mixture. The recipe calls for Crisco, but I used butter instead. You could use a pastry blender or a pair of knives, but I enjoy the tactile step of using my fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture transforms into sandy crumbs in just a few minutes. At this point, you set aside some of this mixture to use as streusel topping later.

Warm spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) along with some leavening are mixed into the bowl before stirring in buttermilk and egg. Now, you are ready to fill the muffin tins with batter, sprinkle with the reserved topping, and bake. It couldn’t be easier.

The muffins both looked and smelled wonderful when they came out of the oven. Unfortunately, getting them out of the pan wasn’t so easy. The flat-topped muffins had risen and partially baked onto the top of the muffin pan, just like the picture. I did neglect to oil the top of the muffin pan, just the cups, and they wouldn’t budge. In the process of trying to free the tops from the pan, every single top came off. I ended up with two-part muffins: tops and cakes. Not the most attractive treat to serve to a guest. Fortunately, good friends are forgiving. (And, I don’t think I overfilled since I got 10 muffins from a half batch that was supposed to make 14-16 muffins.)

As for flavor, these muffins tasted good. They reminded me of the buttermilk coffee cake from Margaret Fox’s Morning Food from Café Beaujolais. We especially enjoyed the tops. They reminded my friend of her grandmother’s snickerdoodle cookies, chewy and sweet. Warm from the oven, they hit the spot for our afternoon treat, but I’m not sure I’ll make these again.

If you’d like the recipe, this week’s host Alisa from Easier Than Pie shares the recipe, along with a vegan version of the muffins. To see how the other bakers made out with their muffins, you can follow their links at Tuesdays with Dorie to read all about it. The recipe can also be found in Dorie Greenspan’s baking tome, written with Julia Child, Baking with Julia.

One final note: if you are a US citizen, please take the time to vote today! I know it sounds corny, but voting is a privilege that not everyone in the world enjoys. Take the time to exercise your right to vote and to support the candidates and issues that you believe in. Everyone’s vote counts, and you could be the one to make the difference in an incredibly close race today.

The Olympics Are Over

Over the past two weeks, I haven’t said much about the Olympics, but I didn’t want them to pass unnoticed. I love the pomp and circumstance of the opening and closing ceremonies and, of course, the games themselves. I dutifully watched an hour or so each night between after-dinner and bedtime. While it’s great when USA wins gold, I like all the athletes and most all the sports, especially gymnastics, swimming, and track.

This year, I was skeptical of beach volleyball as a sport rather than a spectacle. When a night of men’s beach volleyball followed a night of women’s, it seemed clear to me that it was all about the bathing suits, but, by the end, when it was USA vs. USA for gold, I had to admit there was more to it than I originally thought.

My sister-in-law Sheryl sent me a fun Olympic baking set with cupcake wrappers and decorations. Much to Howard’s disappointment, I didn’t get around to making cupcakes, but I did make Olympic muffins and brought them to share at work. They were super cute. I made one batch of raspberry and one of cherry. I preferred the cherry.

Cherry Muffins
Makes 1 dozen

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted
¼ tsp almond extract
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners (or grease each cup well with butter).

Whisk together flour, powder, soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mash half of the cherries with the sugar. This will moisten the sugar with the fruit’s juice. Stir in the almond extract. Add the fruit-sugar mixture, the remaining cherries, buttermilk, egg, and melted butter to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

Divide batter into the muffin pans, filling each cup about ¾ full. Bake 12-15 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

It’s less than two years to wait for the next games in Winter 2014 to take place in Sochi, Russia. I can’t wait!