Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Do You Know the Muffin (Wo)Man?

As I've mentioned before, I've been getting a lot of good, tasty ideas for recipe variations this summer.

The latest idea to pique my curiosity and to fire up my baking has been cinnamon nut crumble muffins. I envisioned a moist and tender spice-laden muffin with a spicy pecan streusel... something with a full flavor, a nice contrast in textures, and a satisfying sweetness and spiciness.

Muffins don't often make it into my baking schedule, though, because I have a hard time finding recipes I truly enjoy. And so when I started to work on this idea, it took a while to find the right base recipe. The first batch was too moist and dense, the second was too dry and crumbly.

I finally decided to go back to the lavender-blueberry streusel muffin recipe that always works so well for me. Change a few ingredients here, add a few ingredients there... and the result was almost exactly right, though still a little on the dry side.

Part of the difficulty, I admit, is that I've been trying to make this muffin recipe entirely (or almost) whole grain and without refined sugar, which makes things a little bit trickier, though not impossible.

So last night, after careful thought, I went back into the kitchen to try it again, making it only half whole-grain, finding the right mix of unrefined sweeteners (Sucanat, maple syrup, maple sugar) and the right balance of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg), and adding just a little more oil for extra moistness.

The streusel worked so well the last time that I simply increased the quantity slightly, and it still had that wonderful baked spiced nut flavor without all the rest of the work. I also layered it inside the muffin as well as on top for a nice surprise.

Of course, I ended up baking the muffins just a little too long, but aside from that, they turned out just right: moist and tender inside, a bit of crispness to the outside, and a sweetly spicy nut streusel for a satisfying crunch.

And yes, in the name of quality control, I had three for dessert.

I'm still not going to claim that muffins are my specialty or that I make truly outstanding ones.

But I'm getting better.

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