22 May 2012

The muffin, or the delights of no-brain baking

Baking belongs to these hobbies that I find therapeutic.
When I run, I have all the time in the world to think about my day or a project that can be stressing me at work. On the other hand, when I bake I focus on all the small steps of the recipe which keeps me from thinking about anything else. And magically, I relax.

Some days I like tackling complicated recipes which require my whole brain to be put to contribution but I often just want to go home at the end of a bad day, turn my brain off, put my apron on and tuck my hands into flour and eggs.
This is when Mr Muffin is my best friend. May they be sweet or savoury, muffins rely on a dead simple series of steps:
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together
  • Mix all the wet ingredients together
  • Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones together, as little as possible
  • Bake

There you go. Like that, with no warning, I just gave you the secret for perfect muffins.

Whatever the recipes might tell you, just forget it, follow the above and you’ll end up with amazing muffins.
So simple, so good. What else?

I read that three States in America adopted official muffins. For example, the blueberry muffin is the official state muffin in Minnesota (you think you might be a bit crazy sometimes? Go to the US, you’ll feel better about yourself! ). So I decided I wanted to have my own official muffin too. Here it is!

Onion and Thyme savoury muffins


For the muffin base:
275 g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 large eggs
225 ml milk
1 teaspoon sea salt

For the flavouring:
2 tablespoons thyme (fresh or dry)
60g grated cheese (cheddar, comté or even goat cheese if you prefer)
3 big red onions, finely chopped

1/ Prepare your flavouring: soften the chopped onions and the thyme in a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan on low heat for 15min. (the onion must not fry, but should become very soft). Leave to cool completely.
2/ In a bowl, mix well all the dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, salt, grated cheese
3/ In another bowl, mix well all the wet ingredients together: eggs, milk
4/ Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and add the onions. From there, mix them together with a wooden spoon at little as possible until just combined (I allow my spoon to touch the dough 10 times maximum). The less you mix, the better! That will keep you muffins moist and help them rise evenly. Don’t worry if you still have lumps, they will disappear in the cooking process.
5/ Bake in 14/15 silicone muffin moulds for approx. 15 min in a preheated oven at 200deg C, or until well risen and golden.
6/ Eat warm.
You can also prepare them ahead and freeze for up to 2 weeks: once cooked, leave to cool completely and freeze in a freezing bag. On the day of eating, defrost and heat up for 10min in an oven at 120deg C.
Ideal served as a starter with green salad or as nibbles (Zis is what we call Ze aperitif)

Few ideas of possible variations: just replace the onions and cheese by the ingredients below at the last stage of the recipe.
Indian: aubergines and courgettes (softened as well) + curry powder + 60g cheddar
Mediterranean: sundried tomatoes + black olives + basil + feta
Alsacian: onions + bacon + cheddar
Forest burst: mushrooms (softened and drained)+ mustard (2 teaspoons) +diced morbier or comté cheese

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