The muffin is a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, the muffin’s true potential is often overlooked on account of the overabundance of styrofoam-textured, glucose/fructose-stuffed wannabes on the market today. The cheap knockoffs you find at most coffee-shops under the presumptuous label of “muffin” simply don’t live up to the name.
For those of us who really love baking – and really love muffins – calling one of Tim Horton’s stale old cake blobs a muffin is like serving a slice of bologna and calling it a steak. Sure, they technically belong in the same category. But they are not the same thing.
It’s time to reclaim the muffin.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall agrees. Recently when I was asked to bring an appetizer to a wedding shower for a colleague, I decided to google recipes for savoury muffins. (You heard me. Savoury. Muffins don’t even have to be sweet – that’s how radical I am.) I came across a Guardian article by the above-named chef and promptly created two of his suggestions.
What was even better, I made mini-muffins. Now, you might think: Hey, Jordi, if muffins are supposedly so awesome, why wouldn’t you want them as big as possible? And my answer to that is: Don’t be stupid. Muffins are all about texture. And everyone knows the top of the muffin is the best because it’s perfectly golden and crispy at the edges. So making shallow bite-size muffins means you get, essentially, loads of little morsels of muffin top. Who doesn’t want that?
Actually, I should give partial credit to my husband for the idea of the mini delights. Recently, when he attempted to make me dinner, he nearly burned down my parents’ kitchen because he didn’t know how to turn the oven on. He pressed a power button, but instead of turning the oven itself on, it turned on the warming drawer beneath the oven. The drawer happened to be full of tea towels that promptly caught fire. But beneath the charred remains of these cloths Robbie discovered (also charred) mini-muffin tins. And they inspired me. So thank you Robbie. Btw, my mom wants more tea towels.
The first recipe I tried, the ones I brought to the shower, were the bacon, cheddar and red onion variety. They were delicious when they were piping hot, fresh out of the oven, but I was a bit disappointed in them by the next afternoon. It wasn’t their fault; Like any muffin, prime eating-time is within an hour after baking. Muffins are not meant for long-term packaging (and yes, I’m talking to you, Starbucks).
But the next muffins I tried actually held up surprisingly well for a couple days post-baking. They were the moistest, juiciest, most succulent savoury muffin I have ever had. Even though they sound like they belong in an organic, vegan delicatessen or something, they are stupendously moreish.
Honestly, you’ve got to try these carrot, spinach, and cumin muffins. They positively burst with flavour – the onion is rich and salty, the carrot is sweet, the spinach is earthy, and the cumin adds intrigue. The seeds, of course, bring a brilliant crunch to the mix.
What can be said about the muffin being disgraced by its pretentious, insalubrious name-bearers, can also be said about the cupcake.
The cupcake, too, is beautiful. It’s more delicate than the muffin – airier, ethereal, and elegant, where the muffin is voluptuous, rowdy, and vibrant. In short, cupcake = Nicole Kidman, muffin = Drew Barrymore.
To prove it, I made the coconut and raspberry fairy cakes from my good ol’ Peyton and Byrne book and they were lovely. Loooooovely.
Easy rules to remember: A cupcake should not be so dense you could play baseball with it, and not so sweet your teeth ache. Just pretty and precious and feathery and fun. Cupcakes, unlike muffins which serve a more functional purpose (breakfast is not a joke), cupcakes are simply little frolics for your mouth.
And I’m not going to give the recipe here because, let’s face it, you should simply own this book. Go buy it. Make some delicious stuff.