Saturday, January 27, 2007

Food: Muffin Bake-Off!

It's a cold and dreary Saturday afternoon here in Beantown, USA--about time given all the warm weather we've been having here this winter. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to finally collect all my little recipe notes and taste-testing thoughts on my Lemon Anise Spice muffins and put everything together in proper recipe formation. Plus the deadline for the recipe contest I want to enter this into is Wednesday, but whatev.

I was hosting a Craft-ernoon at my house a while back and wanted to serve all my crafty little friends some muffins that were both familiar and a bit more...dramatic. Looking through my cupboards, cardamom immediately jumped out at me as a good pairing with the creamy flavor in basic muffins. Think chai tea with milk while lounging sumptuously on a red velvet sofa, and spicy after-dinner toddies just before you snuggle into bed. The anise was really added as an afterthought. I tasted the batter and decided it needed that something "extra," and was surprised at how the anise ended up stealing the show. A few tablespoons of lemon brought all the ingredients together (Lemon goes with poppy seeds and anise is about the same size as poppy seeds, right?).

The resulting flavor is exactly what I was going for--familiar ingredients put together in an unfamiliar combination resulting in something new. The primary flavors are lemon and anise, but that little touch of cardamom rounds out the edge and highlights the best qualities of both the lemon and the anise. The basic muffin recipe I use for this results in a denser muffin than you might be used to seeing. This makes it a perfect brunch item since the cakey fluffiness is a happy medium that both muffin and scone lovers can enjoy. Note: Other citruses would probably work equally well
here--tangerine, orange, Meyer lemon...

Lemon Anise Spice Muffins

with thanks to Orangette for the basic muffin recipe HERE

3 c. flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
scant 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
2 Tbsp anise seed
3/4c + 1 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp buttermilk
4 oz unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 c + 1 Tbsp sugar
2 large eggs (warmed to room temperature)
2 Tbsp lemon zest (about the zest of 2 medium lemons)

Note: It's important for the butter and eggs to be at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with rack on the middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners (or spray with non-stick coating).

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and anise. In a separate measuring cup, combine the milk and butter milk and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand-mixer or using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest to the butter-sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined and no trace of yolk is visible.

With the mixer on low, pour in one-third of the milk mixture and then one-third of the dry ingredients. Continue to alternate between the milk and dry ingredients until all ingredients are incorporated. Your dough should look pale yellow and shaggy.

Divide the batter between the twelve cups and bake until the muffins are firm to the touch and a cake-tester inserted into the center muffin comes out clean--about 25-30 minutes.

The muffins are wonderful on their own, but you can also brush the tops with melted butter and press them into confectioner's sugar for an added treat.

WeightWatchers: Using 1% milk, 12 muffins is 5.5 points per muffin. These make pretty big muffins though, so you can easily make 24 muffins out of the same recipe and still have a healthy muffin to munch on. If you make 24 muffins, each muffin is about 2.75 points each.


Dominique said...

I have been craving muffins lately. I was going to bake some tomorrow, maybe I will have to give these a try. I do like Cardemom, and anise, but it seems like alot together. I am so curious now I will have to try them.

A crafter-noon! Augh! I am so jealous! Alaska Airlines apparently has $99 fairs to Boston from Portland right now...Maybe I could fly away while Stephen is at work, tell him I am being crafty, which I would be in more ways then one, and won't question me arriving home in the wee hours of the morning!


Hey, has Angelina showed you her pirate fabric? Yes, that's right matey! It would knock your socks off! I think she should have a whole line of pirate garb!

Angelina said...

Dominique and I discussed the muffin question. I think this muffin sounds really good except I would have to find something to substitute for the anise. I cannot be persuaded to enjoy anise seeds in anything. Or caraway.

I do like to eat fennel as a vegetable though.

Dominique said...

I have to say that I got a little side tracked by Orangette. So yesterday I made her nutmeg doughnut muffins, OH man I have never had a muffin like this! I ran out of butter though so I just made a glaze for the muffins instead of coating in Powdered sugar. Also, I didn't have buttermilk, so I used sour cream. Seemed to work out great.

I am not sure if you made them before thinking of your recipe, but if you did I can totally see where your ideas came from. The nutmeg flavor has my palette wanting more. Next week I will make your muffins, I think I will substitute the anise though. I like it sometimes, but sometimes I don't, I think I need to work up to it. What do you think of allspice? I do have cloves though too. Would you still add the honey too? Would you still put in the lemon?

Emma C said...

Oh, mama, those nutmeg donut muffins from Orangette are deadly! I could eat them constantly. Yes, they were part of my inspiration because I love the cakey texture. Interesting about substituting sour cream--I didn't think of that. And I hate having to buy a whole carton of buttermilk when I only need two tablespoons.

If you're not in a licorice/anise mood, I would recommend cloves or cinnamon. Allspice would be good, but it's powerful so use 1/2 teaspoon or so. The nice thing about the anise is that it adds texture as well as flavor. Candied ginger would be excellent at both tasks and would work well with cardmom, I think. Cinnamon chips, perhaps? You could cut back a bit on the sugar and use a tablespoon or so of good honey--chai muffins!

Wait, what if you steeped chai tea bags in the milk? think of the possibilities! You could get a nice infusion of herbalness. Other kinds of teas would maybe work well too--green tea? Herbal floral teas?

Man oh man, I'm going to have to do some more experimenting and find another bake-off to enter! I wish I'd gotten my act together and posted on this earlier! You guys are inspiring such great ideas!

Dominique said...

Oh yes, I love the idea of steeping the milk! I have to try that next week! I am not a fan of candied ginger in baked goods, so I will try the combination of cloves, honey, steeped milk, and cardamom of course.

Can't wait!