Monday, June 29, 2009

Morning Glory Muffins . . . Feel Free to Customize Them . . . Gloriously!

I started out this evening thinking I'd just make some run o' the mill banana bread or banana muffins. I had two ultra ripe bananas to use up. We've frequently got a couple of senior-citizen bananas laying around here, offering themselves up for just such a purpose. But as I started assembling ingredients for a recipe I'd used a hundred times before, something came over me. It was the irrepressible urge to customize a recipe to my heart's content. So, I didn't end up with banana anything. Though those overripe bananas did make their way into my muffins, they are now sharing the spotlight with a host of deliciously chewy items.

My original, rather dull muffin vision had morphed into technicolor Morning Glory muffins (with a capital MG!). Have you ever made them? One of the best things about them--and there are many good things about them--are their versatility. You can customize them to the extreme, as long as you keep in mind a few basic tenets common to most simple quick breads.

Allow yourself all sorts of freedom as far as your add-ins, which can be any kind of nuts you like, raisins, carrots, coconut, just about any dried fruit that interests you, you name it. I'd say it's fine to add in chocolate chips, but then we'd be on the slippery slope towards a cakey/desserty muffin and we're just not on that particular trajectory at the moment, so let's not talk about chocolate chips in this post, okay? (We can always talk about chocolate again in the next post if we want to, so let's stay calm . . . let's not panic!!) Remember to keep in mind how much fluid you're putting into your recipe in relation to the dry ingredients. Batter that's too soupy is . . . well. . . too soupy. Too thick and pasty? That's not good either.

I'd avoid fiddling with the dry leaveners (baking powder and soda) unless you're prepared to possibly have a flop on your hands. You might luck out, but why risk it? You can choose to use one egg or two (I like to use two for these); they act as leaveners too, you know. Other than that, you can make all sorts of substitutions. Vegetable oil can be substituted for melted butter. Whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, oats, or bran can be substituted for a portion of any white flour in your recipe. Spices are up for grabs as well. Like nutmeg? Add a little bit in. Hate cinnamon? Leave it out. Interested in what things might taste like with allspice? Put a pinch in, it can't hurt. Have a soft spot for dried or candied ginger? Go for it.

Buttermilk or yogurt can frequently be successfully used instead of milk. And, God knows, something rich like heavy cream could be used besides milk, but despite its deliciousness it might negate the more healthful qualities inherent in Morning Glory muffins, and make them sit a little too heavily on your early morning stomach! These babies aren't called Morning Glories for nothing, you know. They really are a nice breakfast treat. A muffin, some fresh fruit, a cup of tea or coffee. Sounds good, doesn't it?

This recipe is my own wild and crazy version of MG muffins. They're not dense and rubbery at all. They're rather light, and very tender when they're fresh and still warm. Not too much chewy stuff inhabits them. Just enough chewy stuff to make them nicely satisfying. You don't need a mixer for these. They're fast and easy. Good warm, good cold. Good with butter, good without.

They're just plain good. And that's that. So ponder your options and go make a batch!

Morning Glory Muffins (Any Way You Want Them)

Makes 18 muffins.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your pans with cupcake liners, or use baking spray.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached All Purpose flour
1/2 cup quick or old fashioned oats
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch allspice

2 large eggs
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup shredded peeled carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 to 1/2 cup raisins

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, milk, eggs, and sugar until well combined. Stir in the mashed banana.

Into a medium bowl, measure out and combine the flours, oats, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together well with a fork or whisk.

Add the above dry ingredients all at once to the liquid mixture. Stir just to combine.

Add in the carrots, pecans, coconut, and raisins, folding into the batter until just combined.

Portion the batter evenly into your pans. (I use a no. 24 ice cream scoop to do this. It holds almost 3 tablespoons and is just the right size.) I like to sprinkle sanding sugar, or regular sugar's fine too, on the top of them before they go into the oven.

Bake on the middle shelf of your oven for approximately 20 minutes, until they're golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let them cool in their pans, on a rack, for about ten minutes, then take them out of their pans and let them finish cooling on the rack, or serve them warm.

Put one on a napkin, get your coffee or tea, and take your breakfast into your backyard or out onto your porch. While you're out there, see if any real morning glories, like the little one below, are about to bloom.

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