August 11, 2010 § 1 Comment
It was kind of weird: immediately upon waking I hightailed it downstairs, cracked the spine on my new cook book, and started throwing handfuls of flour in a bowl with allspice and cinnamon. The first words out of my mouth for the day were: since when do we not have a tub of quick oats on hand?
I was making “Sunrise Muffins,” as my handy-dandy Ball Blue Book calls them. I’ve known this type of muffin as a Morning Glory Muffin, and it’s had most of the same ingredients, plus coconut and shredded carrots. This recipe was all about putting a filling inside the muffin. (It did, in fact, come from a cook book for jams and jellies, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.) I’m not crazy about things that have a gooey center though. Danishes and jelly donuts always grossed me out, and custardy fillings just strike me as messy. So, needless to say, this morning during my hyper-bake-a-thon, I went without the marmalade that was supposed to go inside.
I started crunching pecans into little baby-teeth-sized pieces and stared out the window into another syrupy-foggy morning. No doubt sticky. No doubt a thick paste that, if embarked within, would coupe my journée into as fine of shards as these toasted nuts, rendering me a puddle of procrastinating anxiety. I preheated my oven and listened to it tick up to 375 degrees. What was I thinking of at this time last year, I ask. What were my thoughts. I was preparing to leave for France the following month. I was working my last few shifts at French Meadow Bakery & Café. I was taking long, long walks alone with book or a podcast. Now I’m back in the house I was living in a year ago, and I’m looking for a new place to put my energy and anxiety. It’s not enough just to bake Sunrise Muffins and avoid the chaleur.
I mix my butter and brown sugar. I add a few tablespoons of flax seeds to my batter for good measure. I make a sinfully delicious, pecan-studded crumble for the top of these little guys. I send them into the yawning mouth of the oven and I retreat back upstairs, still waking up with a mug of coffee, and I do something that could be a major time-suck: I start rereading my old journals. It turns out that I’m basically the same person I’ve always been with the same proclivities and peccadilloes. So why do I feel an urgency? A pressure to have advanced? Changed? I thought Europe was going to magically spit me out: more complete and sophisticated. Instead of goopy muffin batter, I’d come out this perfectly formed sweet thing with brown sugar and butter crumble on top.
Nope. Still asking Life’s big questions.
At least some things never change: baking muffins early in the morning, the house filling with the scent of cinnamon and toasted nuts and butter, and a big ol’ pot of coffee. This is always a good thing. A comforting thing. It says: sit down, take a load off, put away your past, and eat this delicious morsel.
adapted from Bell’s Blue Book recipes
2 cups flour (divided)….1 cup quick oats (or, in my case, 2 packets of instant cinnamon-flavored oatmeal)….1.5 tsp baking powder….1 tsp cinnamon….1/2 tsp allspice….3/4 tsp baking soda….1/4 tsp salt…..1 cup brown sugar (divided)….1/2 cup unsalted butter (divided)…..1 egg….1.25 cups milk…..1/2 cup raisins…..1 cup chopped pecans….3 Tbsp flax seed
Roll up sleeves and hurl together your dry ingredients with gusto: 1.5 cups of flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Now take half a stick o’butter (1/4 cup) and make sure it’s as soft and moldable as play dough. Combine this with 1/2 cup brown sugar and one egg. Mix this well: with fury. Unless you’re feeling really zen; then just mix in normal-style with no expression whatsoever. Add your flour mixture and milk to sugar mixture and stir well. Now toss in those raisins. Now sprinkle this morning’s sunrise with dewdrops made of flax seeds. Now spoon this mixture into greased muffin tin. Set this aside for a second. Preheat your oven to 375.
Time for the topping, which is the best part, so don’t skimp out on the butter and brown sugar. Combine 1/2 cup of flour, chopped pecans, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a bowl, then cut in remaining 1/4 cup butter. Make sure the crumble is uniform so no one muffin feels gypped on its toppin’. Sow this crumble gingerly on the plains of your as-of-yet naked muffins. Bake these little Sunrises for 25 minutes. Eat ’em with copious amounts of coffee and hopefully the fog outside will have lifted and the real sunrise will show itself.