Pioneer

No, I’m not dead. Yes, I’m back. I could list all the reasons why I haven’t updated in a couple of weeks, or I could just say that life happened, and life didn’t involve muffins. I’m going to do my level best to keep up with the schedule from here on in. I feel like I’ve let Dorothy down by slacking off. I don’t get the sense, from what I know of her, that she would ever have said she was too busy (or tired, or bored, or full of existential angst) for baking.

Anyway, I’m back on the horse. Here we go!

The recipe

Beat in large bowl

3 eggs

Add to eggs and mix well

1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups natural bran

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup applesauce OR mashed banana OR pureed fruit (Note: I used mashed bananas)

1 1/2 cups liquid – water OR milk OR apple juice (Note: I used milk)

Mix in medium bowl

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. powdered milk

Add dry ingredients all at once to wet ingredients, and mix well

Option # 1: Stir in 1/2 cup raisins (I didn’t because raisins, no thanks)

Option # 2: Add 2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 cup walnuts (Dorothy suggests this option only if you use applesauce for your fruit)

Bake at 375F for 20 – 25 minutes. Makes 23 muffins using 1/4 cup batter per muffin.

The process

Grating the carrots was as usual a messy icky task, but overall this was a pretty easy recipe thanks to my stand mixer. Side note: I love my stand mixer. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before just how much I love my stand mixer. It really does take a lot of the effort out of baking.

They were baked perfectly at the 20 minute mark, so check them – as always, your oven’s actual temperature will make a difference to the final cook time.

The result

They smelled SO GOOD while baking. My 7 year old insisted on taking several deep sniffs before bed. They rose just enough and are a pleasing molasses colour.

The first bite was almost disappointing, because my first thought was “oh damn, these are bland, AGAIN” but then I took another bite and before I knew it, the muffin was gone. The mouth feel is actually quite good, and I was surprised, because between the bran, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ, I figured these would be kind of grainy – but the texture is lighter than I expected.

I think the kids are going to enjoy these, and they are very healthy so hey kids! You’ll be having muffins in your lunch all week. Enjoy!

Next week

Another version of Carrot Pineapple. You’ll need a cup of finely-grated carrot and a cup of drained crushed pineapple.

Whole Wheat Banana

The last banana recipe in the batch. Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for six weeks already! And I’m sleepy from the time change, and very much looking forward to a cup of tea. Muffins go with tea! To the muffinatorium!

The recipe

Sift in small bowl

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

In large bowl, beat until mixed

1/3 cup oil

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed banana

Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Add 1/2 cup nuts if you wish. Combine 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and sprinkle on top of each muffin before baking.

350F, 20 minutes.

The process

This recipe was another very simple one. No funny amounts or weird instructions here. Just straightforward dry ingredient / wet ingredient, combine, and go.

The batter was quite liquid. It made one dozen good-sized muffins. I could have stretched it to maybe 16 smaller muffins, had I been so inclined.

A word about the sugar & cinnamon topping: 1/4 cup of sugar makes way too much topping. I put a generous 1/2 teaspoon on each muffin and have loads left over. I’ll just pop it in an empty spice jar and use it for something else, but keep in mind that you will not need nearly as much topping as the recipe calls for.

I didn’t add any nuts; I have a new baby girl in my dayhome now, and her mom hasn’t introduced her to nuts yet. If I were to put nuts in this recipe, I think I’d chop them up fine and use them as topping with the cinnamon sugar rather than folding them into the batter.

The result

If anything smells better than sugar and cinnamon baking, I don’t know what it is. I would make these again for the smell alone.

The cinnamon-sugar topping adds a lovely sweetness and crunch. The muffin itself is surprisingly light given the whole wheat flour, and is moist with a nice banana flavour.

I quite like this one. It’s a good snack muffin, not as hearty & substantial some of the other banana muffins I’ve tried here, but very tasty and a lovely accompaniment to that cup of tea.

Next week: Laura’s Apple Muffins. I do not know who Laura was, but isn’t it fascinating to speculate? Also, Laura’s muffins call for shortening or margarine. Baker friends – will I be able to use butter instead?

 

Banana Oatmeal

I was excited to try this one, because it has actual flavouring added – two kinds of spice! VANILLA! I’m not sure why the first few recipes relied solely on the bananas for their taste; perhaps a combination of thrift and a sense that if you have the taste of banana, why would you want anything else? I don’t know. But there was something very satisfying about finally going to the spice cupboard.

This recipe also did not indicate a final quantity. Michael suggested that perhaps Dorothy had never actually made this recipe herself, and that consequently she didn’t actually know how many muffins it made. The very thought that Dorothy would record for posterity muffin recipes that she hadn’t tested shocked me completely, and is quite at odds with my mental image of her, so I flatly reject that hypothesis. Besides, I have 62 weeks to go – my second born will have started school by the time this project is finished – so to imagine that even she wasn’t so colossally insane as to attempt baking all the recipes takes the wind right of my sails.

The recipe

In medium-sized bowl, combine and set aside

1 cup rolled oats (note: I used ‘large flake’ oats because the bag said ‘best for baking!’ and who am I to argue with packaging)

1 cup milk

Sift into large bowl

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

5 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

To soaked oats add

1/2 cup margarine, melted and cooled (note: I used butter, as I never buy hard margarine anymore)

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups mashed bananas (4 – 5 medium)

Add wet to dry and stir only until mixture is moistened.

375F, 20 minutes

The process

I had some stress about this one, I won’t lie. Soak the oats – but for how long? How many muffins will it make? FIVE TEASPOONS OF BAKING POWDER?? And, secret Non-Baker Confession Time: I hate seeing the instruction “stir until moistened”. That is a ridiculous instruction. In order to moisten all the dry ingredients, you have to stir the blasted stuff. A lot, in this case – it’s a large bowl. Every turn of the spoon I thought “I am overmixing this, I just know it”.

Those five teaspoons of baking powder started working right away, too. The finished batter was foamy and light, with lots of air pockets visible. My seven year old pointed out that it probably needed extra baking powder to help all those heavy oats rise. Thanks, kid – I’ll just put on my Apron of Baking Inadequacy and hide over here in the corner.

I wasn’t sure how much to fill the muffin cups. I settled for 3/4 full, which yielded a princely 24 muffins. Two dozen muffins! Right away this was a huge plus in favour of this recipe over any of the previous ones, because with a family of five and then six extra hungry dayhome kids to feed, a dozen muffins disappear like the wheat crop in a Little House on the Prairie story after the grasshoppers arrive.

The result

They smelled really good while baking, and since my nose is still stuffed up and I haven’t smelled much of anything for over a week that’s saying something. However, they didn’t rise as much as I might have expected given the insane amount of baking powder – and they didn’t rise evenly, either, with some puffing up beautifully and others only lifting a little. I can’t help but think this is probably me overmixing. Or not mixing enough. Or something.

Michael and I tried a couple right out of the oven, and while they were nice enough we found them a little bland, of all things. We puttered around for a while until they cooled, then taste-tested a second time.

Do not eat these muffins until they have cooled. 

Once cooled, these are delicious – maybe my favourite one so far. Everything about them hits all the right notes for me; taste, density, moistness, texture. If I’d had more ripe bananas – the ones I had were really only brown on the outside, so not as mushy and sweet as I usually bake with – they’d have been even better-tasting.

Next week – the last banana recipe in the batch, Whole Wheat Banana. Then, we move on to apple-based recipes. Which is good, because I have many many apples from our trip to the orchard that need to be used up.

Best Ever Banana

Dorothy is making a bold claim with this recipe. I mean, “best ever”? And yet there are two more banana-based recipes after this one? Why would you carry on, if you had already found the best ever recipe? Needless to say, I was skeptical.

Also, this recipe did not indicate the final quantity. I was surprised how much that worried me. Mind you, I was quite sick last night during muffin-baking – it almost didn’t happen, to be honest – so I was probably obsessing just a bit.

The recipe

In a large bowl, combine

3 large bananas – mashed

3/4 cup white sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

Once combined, add 1/3 cup melted butter and mix well.

In a small bowl, sift together

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

Add dry to wet. Bake.

375F, 20min.

The process

I think I’m getting better at this muffin thing, because even though I had a raging sore throat and a slight fever, and thus I didn’t actually start baking until 10PM, this recipe still went together easily. The batter is nice and smooth with a bit of puff, and by the way, tastes incredible. I could have just eaten the batter with a spoon and been happy.

Pouring the batter in the muffin cups was stressful, because there were no notes about how many muffins, or how full the cups should be, or anything of the kind. I settled for filling them about 3/4 full, which gave me 13 muffins, and then enough left over to make one half-muffin. This morning, after some coffee and cold medication, I realize that I should have just spread that last bit around and made an even dozen, but last night I could not solve that problem.

I’m stupid when I’m sick.

Shortly after they went into the oven, my youngest child – Baby G, aged 9mos – woke with a screaming fit that ultimately lasted two hours and required both earplugs and floor-walking. Michael was in charge of getting the muffins out and by the time we had switched tasks, they were out of the tin and I had eaten one. It didn’t even occur to me to take a picture until this morning, by which time it was too late. Oops.

The result

These may very well be the Best Ever Banana Muffins. Holy moley, they are SO GOOD. The finished muffin is sweet and moist, with a hint of richness from the butter and a delicious banana flavour. There will be none left by the end of the day, guaranteed. I will definitely be making this one again. The two year olds in the dayhome hoovered them up without chewing and asked for more; even sick Ron bestirred himself enough to eat one, proclaimed it “very very yummy”, and then crawled back to bed for a nap.

If I had the bananas available, I would make another batch right now. Yes, they are that good.

Next week – Banana Oatmeal. I’m keen to taste that one, too, although it will be damn hard not to compare it to this recipe. 

Banana ‘n Peanut

This was the first recipe I was unsure of as soon as I read it. It just sounded… odd. Like texture might be an issue.

However, Dorothy hasn’t steered me wrong yet! The biggest complaint in my house so far has been that there aren’t enough muffins to go around, so the Sunday muffin-bake is becoming a bit of an event. Last night I had both Harry (7yo) and Ron (4.5yo) helping out. I’m determined that they be comfortable in the kitchen and I’d rather bake with them than play cars, so! Even though their presence was distracting and I heard “but he already had a turn! It’s my turn!” more than I wanted, it was still Making A Memory, right?

The recipe

Sift in a large bowl

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Mash 

3 large ripe bananas

Blend with bananas

1 egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil or butter

2 tbsp. crunchy peanut butter

Stir wet into dry with optional 1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts

400F, 15min. Makes 12.

The process

Maybe it’s just me, but I hate sifting whole wheat flour – I find too much doesn’t make it through the sieve because the particles are too big and the holes are too small. So I measured the flour first, sifted in the rest of the dry ingredients, and then set my kids to stirring.

When I realized how many banana-based muffins I’d be baking in the next few weeks, I bought a bag of overripe bananas and tossed them in the freezer. I don’t pre-peel them or anything; on baking day I take them out a couple of hours ahead of time (if I remember) and if I don’t, a quick zap in the microwave does the trick. Then I just cut off the end and squish out the insides. It’s vastly satisfying.

My trusty assistant Michael chopped the peanuts, since he wanted to include them. I wasn’t planning on adding them, myself, but consensus in the test kitchen was that we should try it at least once.

I used smooth peanut butter, not crunchy – no one in this house, including me, likes crunchy peanut butter, and I didn’t want to buy a whole jar for the sake of two tablespoons.

Otherwise, this was a very straightforward recipe – and the batter tasted fantastic. Like a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Once again, Dorothy proved exceedingly accurate in both her amounts (12 muffins, indeed) and her cook times (perfect doneness at 15 minutes).

The result

They smelled great while they were baking; like banana bread with a peanut butter kick. They rose more than I expected given how heavy the batter was, and turned a golden brown.

Ron had gone to bed, so Harry tried one first. He said it was “good”, but didn’t rave about it. Also, he was quite bummed that he couldn’t have one in his lunchbox – peanut butter recipes coming from a time before allergies and nut-free schools.

Michael tried one and pronounced it a “hearty breakfast muffin”. Not surprising, I guess, given the whole wheat flour and protein hit. (He did take one to work this morning so I’ll take that as an endorsement).

At baking time I wasn’t feeling very well and my sense of taste was off, so I avoided them altogether. I’m having one right now with my morning coffee and it’s better than I expected. It’s dense and moist, with a subtle spiciness. My only hesitation is, as I expected, the peanuts (and for the record, they are quite finely chopped so small children can eat them without fear of choking). As the nuts are optional, I would leave them out next time – they don’t add much to the flavour, and the crunchy bits put me right off. I have texture issues with food, though, so probably your best bet is to try it both ways and see which you prefer.

Banana ‘n Peanut

If anyone bakes these, let me know in the comments what you think!

Banana

First off I just have to say how pleased and gratified I am by the response to this project. So many visitors and followers, both old friends and new readers! And I know several of you have baked your own batch of “Basic Muffins” for your families.

After being packed away in a dusty box for decades, it’s humbling and wonderful to think that Dorothy’s recipes are once again seeing the light of day. Thank you all!

So – on to recipe # 2, titled simply “Banana”.

The recipe

Beat with electric mixer

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Add to above – beat

2 eggs

3 bananas

Dissolve soda in sour cream

3 tbsp. sour cream or soured milk

1 tsp. baking soda

Mixer on low slowly add cream to banana.

Sift in

2 cups all-purpose flour

Mix gently.

400F, 20 – 25 minutes. Makes 14.

The process

This one was a bit trickier than the basic recipe – this is a not a ‘toss everything in the bowl and run’ kind of affair. Dorothy’s instructions are written in the margins next to the ingredient list, so I had to read it through several times to make sure I had the order correct.

Beating sugar and oil together with an electric mixer is something I don’t think I’ve ever done. It makes an odd, unappealing slurry. I was a little concerned at that stage. I didn’t pre-mash the bananas as I normally would, just threw them in with the eggs and hit them with the electric mixer.

I used sour cream since I had some on hand. Note: do not do what I did and almost use baking powder by mistake. I caught myself just as I was about to tip the measuring spoon. I mixed in the baking soda and science! The sour cream increased in size by probably 50% and got very puffy, with lots of air pockets. I checked with Google and the consensus seems to be that the baking soda would still work if you didn’t pre-mix it with the sour cream, but that this step gives it a kick-start that helps lift a heavy batter.

After sifting in the flour, I had a puffy, light, moist batter.

I lined my muffin tray with papers and then checked the recipe again. Hmm, 14 muffins? I thought I’d try to fit them in 12 cups. (Side note: Michael tells me that Dorothy always kept the foil wrappers from hard margarine stacked neatly in the fridge; she used them to grease baking pans. I have no idea if she used muffin papers or not, but I do not have a ready supply of greasy margarine wrappers on hand, so.)

Anyway, I tried fitting the batter into 12 cups and it was a no-go. Turns out this recipe makes exactly 14 muffins. Dorothy – 1, know-it-all-me – Zero.

I baked mine for 20 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven once at the half-way point to ensure even heating.

The results

An appealing-looking muffin, these browned beautifully. And they rose – oh, did they! These are much larger than the basic muffins. My sophisticated test kitchen – Michael and my boys – clustered around for the taste test.

Inside, they are uniformly banana-flecked, but with no actual pieces of banana thanks to that electric mixer step. The texture is almost silky – all that vegetable oil and sour cream makes for a moist final product. Even my 7 year old didn’t leave a debris field of crumbs over the table, a minor miracle.

The banana flavour is subtle at first, but very pleasant. They are not overly sweet, either; the half-cup of sugar doesn’t overpower the finished product. With a pat of melting butter, these are a great treat for Thanksgiving morning.

Banana Muffins

This is the first of five banana muffin recipes, grouped together. I bought a bag of slightly-overripe bananas this weekend and stashed them in the freezer so I’m prepared. If you hate bananas, have faith – after that we have seven different apple or applesauce-based recipes.

I would make this muffin again, although I would substitute the more heart-healthy canola oil for the vegetable oil. For the purposes of the project I am not replacing any ingredients, but canola should work just as well, and is much better for you.