Muffin Basics

If you aren’t getting perfect muffins, look at this advice and double-check your method next time.  I do have to say that I haven't ever had anybody turn down a muffin that wasn't picture perfect so don't let that intimidate you.  

The Farm Journal's Country Fair Cookbook 1984 gives this information on how to judge perfect muffins.
"An excellent muffin should be light; the outside should be golden brown, symmetrical in shape with no peaks or knobs on top. The top surface should be slightly pebbled and the interior of the muffin should have round fairly uniformly sized holes with no long slender tunnels".
Peaked, smooth crust: over mixed.
Pale: temperature was too low or over mixed. Be sure to let oven preheat fully.
Dry and crumbly: excess flour, the oven temperature was too low or they were over baked.
Tunnels: overmixing.
Toughness : overmixing.
These photos are from a pamphlet “250 Breads, Biscuits and Rolls” from the Culinary Arts Institute 1952.
If the oven is too hot, poor shape and holes inside will result.
Heavy tunnels and flat muffins result from a temperature that’s too low.

The photo recipe is:  Orange Poppyseed Muffins


We were at the coffee shop today...they had huge muffins in all kinds of flavors, right where you wait in line to order!  They probably had a half day's worth of calories.
I went home and made these for lunch, simple and delicious.  Inexpensive with ingredients you always have on hand.  You expect them to be the vehicle for whatever you want and have around...just REAL butter, or with the addition of honey, jam or jelly, sorghum... just like Mom or Grandma served them.  If you have leftovers, freeze them.  Then heat them 10 or 15 seconds in your microwave, wrapped in a paper towel, then toast them in your toaster oven to crisp them up...taste like fresh baked.

This very basic muffin recipe is the one that both Myrna and I use. It is from the Better Homes and Gardens 1968 Red Plaid Cookbook and the Farm Journal Bread Cookbook. I often measure my dry ingredients into the bowl and cover them overnight. I also mix the liquids and cover and refrigerate them. In the morning, I can preheat the oven, combine the ingredients and have the muffins baking quickly.  Use regular-size muffin pans.  I like to use a size 24 muffin scoop. It only takes a minute or two to measure out the dry ingredients instead of using a mix.
We like these with main dish salads, soups, casseroles; any meal that needs a little “filling out”.
Best Ever Muffins
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour - 7 ounces
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup salad oil or melted shortening or melted butter
1 large egg -- beaten
3/4 cup milk
  • Mix dry ingredients. Make a well, stir in liquids until just blended. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400° until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
12 muffins
Cost - 2019 - 4 cents per muffin, 48 cents per recipe
Per Serving: 149 Calories; 7g Fat (41.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 249 mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1 1/2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

**I have had success cutting this recipe in half and using a small or medium egg.

Baked French Fries

  I have made this recipe (directions) for oven baked French Fries several times.They are not the same as the French Fries you get from deep fat frying or at your favorite Fast Food place, but they are good and easy to do. A lot less calories and your whole house won’t smell like McDonalds or Wendy’s. It is not really a recipe as such but more directions. 
 You can choose how many potatoes you are going to use and Russets or baking potatoes work best. That is really about all the potatoes I ever buy. Once in awhile I do buy Yukon Gold as the waxier potatoes work the best in potato salad but when I don’t have them on hand the bakers work fine. 
 The recipe is from the web site The Spruce Eats one of sites I look at usually once a day. I have never bought anything from them, they keep their selling apart from the other things so you can look without having to wade though the things for sale. 

Baked French Fries
4 medium baking potatoes
3 tablespoons oil (olive, vegetable)
Seasoned or plain salt.
Heat oven to 450°
Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil Large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer.
Coat pan with a small amount of oil so potatoes don’t stick.
Peel or not peel and slice potatoes lengthwise between 1/4 to 1/2 thick, slice again 1/4 to 1/2 to make strips. Dry the potatoes and toss with oil in a bowl until well coated.
Spread the potatoes in a single layer and bake for about 10 minutes. With a pancake turner turn over and bake another 10 minutes or until fries are tender and browned. Sprinkle with your favorite topping, I just use plain salt.*

*If you have a convection oven they will brown better.

Almond Cornmeal Cake

This a good recipe  for a different cake than you might be used to. Every one who had a piece thought it was excellent and as it just makes one layer it is easily eaten for a coffee hour treat or a light dessert for a meal.
This is a nice cake and we didn't feel that it tasted of cornmeal which I was worried about. 
If you are feeling in an adventurous mood, do try this.
Almond Cake with Cornmeal
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
1/4 cup almond paste cut in small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup powder sugar, plus more for dusting
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
Rack in middle of oven, preheat to 350°. Butter and flour 8 inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cake flour, and baking powder. 
Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and almond paste on high speed until smooth.
Be sure it is thoroughly smooth, about 3 minutes. 
Reduce speed to low and beat in vanilla. Gradually add the 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Increase speed and beat in egg yolks and eggs one at a time. Reduce speed to medium and add the sour cream and dry ingredients just until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until the cake is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan,, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool. Remove the cake from the pan and dust with more powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve.
Store airtight in a plastic container for one day if needed.
From The Everyday Italian cookbook by Giada De Laurentiis

Quick Cheese Grits

Grits don’t have to be served just as a breakfast side; I most often serve them with pork chops, ham patties, ham steak or sausage patties for lunch in place of potatoes, noodles or rice.  Buy “Quick” grits, the instant ones are just terrible!  If you haven’t liked grits in a restaurant, they were probably gummy and overcooked.  Cook these according to the recipe and serve right away, they are perfect.
 When I worked as a dietitian in Texas and Georgia, patients who had little appetite would request cheese grits “like their Mama’s” when they were coaxed into trying something.  We like them too…and this is my husband’s favorite recipe for them; the thickness is just right, and they are quick and cheesy.  We like sharp cheddar, but choose your own flavor. 
We had them for lunch today, with this recipe for Indiana Breakfast Sausage, a vegetable and oranges for dessert.  I freeze the sausage in a little thinner patties nowadays, then cook them from frozen in a covered cast iron frying pan at medium high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. 
You can’t beat a meal that cooks this quickly and doesn’t need any thawing ahead of time.

                          Quick Cheese Grits

2 Side Servings
8 Side Servings
¼ cup
1 cup
Grits -- (quick grits, not instant)
1 cup
4 cups
1 ounce (1/4 cup)
4 ounces (1 cup)
Cheddar Cheese -- grated
1 tablespoon
¼ cup
Butter (optional)
To taste
To taste
Salt and Pepper
To taste
To taste
Cayenne (just a very little sprinkle)

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan.  Whisk in the grits; reduce heat, and cook, covered, 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Stir in the cheese, butter and salt and pepper and cayenne if desired.
Serve right away. 

Potato Yeast Bread

This is one of our favorite breads – the potato flakes make it moist and it keeps longer.  It's one of the breads I have made the longest, probably 52 years, since I first married.  It's still one I make regularly as I did Saturday.
I slice these when they are very cool; package in bread bags and freeze. We remove them a couple of slices at a time. 
Let the dough rise the first time right in the mixer bowl, saves washing! 
Takes about 2 hours.  This quicker and simpler method uses Instant yeast or bread machine yeast, using plain active dry yeast means longer rising times.
Potato Bread
2 2/3 cups water
2 pounds bread flour -- about 6 1/2-7 cups (can use 1 cup whole wheat flour substitute)
3 1/2 tablespoons Butter -- (or salad oil)
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 Ounces potato flakes -- (5/8 cup)
1 Ounce dry skim milk -- (1/3 cup)
4 Teaspoons Instant or rapid rise dry yeast* (2 packages)

•Heat water to 120-125 ° in microwave or saucepan. Use an instant-read thermometer to get the right temperature.  Place flour (minus 1 cup), butter, sugar, salt, potato flakes, dry milk and yeast in mixer bowl.
•Using paddle attachment, turn on mixer to slow and add water. Turn to speed 2 and mix 2 minutes. Change to dough hook, add remaining flour and knead 6 minutes.
•Let rise in warm place in covered mixer bowl 10 minutes.
•Shape into 2 loaves, about 1# 13 oz. each, let rise in  greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" pans 30 minutes or until the loaf is 1" above pan rim, while preheating oven to 400 °. Bake 28 minutes.  Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer 1 inch into end of loaf should read 190-200°.
In 2019- $ 1.08 per loaf   Makes 2 loaves for $2.18
Per Serving: 128 Calories; 2g Fat (12.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
** If you use active dry yeast instead of instant or rapid rise yeast, the rising times just about double.
**If you don't have dry milk, substitute one cup of regular milk for a cup of water.
**I often make this in 4" x 10" loaf pans, for a little narrower, longer loaf.