Sunday, October 19, 2014

Maple Muffins

Growing up in my house, pancakes and waffles were served with a side of Mrs. Butterworth's syrup, and I loved the stuff. Super thick and ubberly sweet, I loved dousing my fluffy stack of pancakes with this delicious liquid sugar. In later years my mom started making her own syrup with a bunch of corn syrup, plenty of butter, and some maple flavoring and I liked this concoction even better; thick, sweet and buttery. However, as time went on, my palate improved and my love of real foods and simple ingredients became a passion, and I knew it was time for a change. 

Then, a few years ago I went to a sugar bush in the early spring and saw the whole process of maple syrup processing, from tapping the trees to getting the sap to the sugar house to boiling the sap down into syrup, I was in love. I found the whole process completely fascinating. It is amazing how a benign looking watery liquid that drips out of a tree can be transformed into liquid sugar with some time and some heat. From that day forward, I decided to only use real maple syrup, I'm never going back. 

Real maple syrup is expensive, I know that, and because of that I try to be sparing, and use it wisely. This recipe is a bit of a splurge, using 1 1/2 cups of real maple syrup, but it is completely worth it for an occasional and very special treat. 

I found that calling these "muffins" may be a bit of a misnomer. After eating through the entire batch I came to the conclusion that they are really more like cake, but lets not worry about symantics. What matters is that they are incredibly tender and full of flavor. The maple flavor is surprisingly subtle considering how much maple syrup is in them, but it is perfect, not overwhelming and perfectly balanced. When I made these, I didn't have any walnuts but they would be a fantastic addition and would really round out the flavor and texture of these muffins perfectly, I'm sure of it. 

So if you're looking for an extra special morning treat I highly recommend this recipe. They would also be wonderful as cupcakes, topped with a little maple cream cheese or buttercream frosting. Versatile, delicious and unique, you really must give these a try.

Maple Muffins
Adapted From Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Home to Yours
  • Softened unsalted butter, for the pan
  • 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
  • 12 tbs (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°. Line muffin pan with muffin liners or alternatively, brush the insides of 12 muffin cups with softened butter, then brush the top of the pan to ensure that the muffins don't stick to the top when they rise.

Whisk the unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk the maple syrup, melted butter, and milk together in another bowl, then whisk in the egg and yolk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until smooth. Stir in the walnuts. Let the batter stand so the dry ingredients can absorb the liquids, about 5 minutes.

Using a 2½-inch-diameter ice cream scoop, portion the batter, rounded side up, into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° and bake until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a wire cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 minutes more.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool completely.

Half a recipe makes 8 or 9 muffins

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