The first spring weekend of farmers market season is exciting. I am ready for all that fresh produce with a new treat arriving each week and little surprises on every visit. I know that I am closer to juicy strawberries, my first tomato in months, bright, sweet corn and so many things. I know it is all about to start. But in reality, that first Saturday is a little sparse. The greens lingering from winter, a few spring flowers, but not the spectacular array soon to come. S on the first market day this year, I came away mostly with baked goods and a restock on pastured meat. Not a huge haul, but still a fun trip.
As I unpacked my oilcloth market bag at home, I took stock of my purchases and realized I had leeks, bacon, eggs and goat cheese. Flamiche! In the fridge I had some local milk and cream, and with a quickly made piecrust, I was ready for a very elegant, locally sourced spring lunch.
This quiche-like tart is a traditional Belgian dish, with the old-world flavors of smoky bacon, salty goat cheese and jammy leeks. When I buy leeks fresh from the farmer, there are sometimes a few very thin pencil leeks in the bunch. I like to press them into the top of the filling before baking, because it is such a lovely presentation. You can slice right through them or pull them off before serving. I like the look of my square tart pan, but round is beautiful too.
Belgian Leek, Goat Cheese and Bacon Tart
If you buy your leeks from a farmers market and they are thinner than grocery store varieties, you will need more.
1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie
2 large leeks or 3 medium (4 cups sliced), white and pale green parts only
¼ cup butter
½ cup water
8 strips of bacon
5 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Fit the prepared crust into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Slice the white and pale green part of the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice each half into thin half circles. Place the leeks in a large bowl of cold water and swirl around with your hands, shuffling to separate the layers of leek. Leave for a few minutes to let any dirt settle to the bottom of a bowl. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Scoop the leeks out of the water and shake to drain somewhat (do not pour the leeks and water into a strainer, the dirt will just fall back on the leeks) then add to the melted butter. Stir to coat and then stir in the ½ cup water. Cook for a few minutes, until the leeks begin to reduce in bulk, then cover, lower the heat to low and cook for 20- 25 minutes until the leeks are soft and semi-translucent. Stir occasionally during cooking and add a drop or two more water as needed. Do not let the leeks brown. When the leeks are soft and pale, uncover and cook a few minutes more until any liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool. (The leeks can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered, until ready to use).
While the leeks are cooling, cook the bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the cooled leeks evenly over the bottom of the prepared tart crust, smoothing the top. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle over the top of the leeks. Chop the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle in the tart. In a small bowl or 4 cup measuring jug, whisk together the milk, cream, whole egg, yolk and pepper. Pour this custard over the filling in the tart. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
A basket of nice, sweet muffins is a wonderful addition to a breakfast or brunch table, and these almond-y bites are made really moist with the addition of almond paste. A bite-sized version of my Simple Moist Almond Cake. Nice tart cherry is a great pairing with almond – if you use big Bings, you might want to snip them into smaller pieces.
Almond Amaretto Cherry Muffins
¼ cup amaretto
4 ounces dried cherries
7 ounces almond paste
½ cup sugar
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Place the cherries in a small bowl and pour over the amaretto. Leave the cherries to soften, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
Beat the almond paste, sugar, melted butter and almond extract together with a mixer until well-blended, but with a few small lumps remaining. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined.
Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bow, then beat into the almond mixture. Beat just until the mixture is combined and there is no flour visible. Stir in the cherries with the soaking liquid until evenly distributed.
Divide the batter between the prepared muffin tins and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 – 18 minutes.
Makes 12 muffins
Spring is the perfect time for brunch. With Easter starting things off, there always seems to be an explosion of daytime events. Graduations and weddings and all the celebrations that go with them. And I love a good family brunch. You can wear a nice dress, but don’t have to worry about high heels and punitive undergarments and retouching your lipstick every ten minutes. I still look forward to finding my fun spring dress like I did when I was kid. And the food. A generous buffet spread, with everyone roaming around and eating and chatting – and eating some more. This may be my favorite form of entertaining.
This dish fits the bill perfectly. It is rich and elegant, but with a light, fluffy texture that will amaze. And you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven before the brunch, so no early morning scrambling in the kitchen. Leeks, brie and wine bring up the sophistication level, and it is a happy change from a typical egg-cheese-sausage morning casserole. And it also has no meat, which is great if there is a ham, bacon or sausage on the table too. Now, I have given you lots of reasons this is a perfect brunch dish, but in the recipe testing process, I served it to my book club for dinner and it was a hit. A little green salad on the side and a glass of crisp, cold white wine…you’re in for a treat.
Leek and Brie Bread Pudding
16 ounce loaf soft Italian bread (no hard crusts)
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts
4 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup white wine or vermouth, plus 2 Tablespoons
8 ounces brie
1 Tablespoon salt
Generous grinds of black pepper
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped marjoram or thyme
4 cups milk
Cut the bread into rough, bite-sized cubes and spread out on a baking sheet or tray. Leave to dry for a few hours (but not until crisp or hard).
Meanwhile, slice the white and palest green parts of the leeks in half, then into thin half-moons. Place in a colander and rinse very well under cold running water. Melt the butter in a sauce pan with a lid, shake most of the water off the leeks and add them to the pan. Stir to coat, then add ¼ cup wine or vermouth and ¼ cup water. Stir well, cover the pan and cook the leeks, stirring frequently, until they are wilted and soft, about 20 minutes. Make sure the leeks don’t brown – you can add a bit more water if needed. When the leeks are soft and jammy, leave them to cool.
Trim the rind off the brie, removing as much of the white rind as possible without sacrificing too much cheese. I find a long serrated knife works best, and the cheese needs to be very cold and firm. Cut the brie into small pieces. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Spread the bread in the dish. Spread the leeks out over the bread, tucking them in between the cubes and distributing them evenly. Distribute the brie pieces throughout the bread and leeks, tucking them down between the cubes of bread and leeks.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the salt, pepper, the remaining 2 Tablespoons wine or vermouth, mustard and herbs and whisk well. Add the milk and whisk until completely blended. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes slowly, making sure it is evenly covering the bread cubes. Push them down under the liquid if needed. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the dish out of the fridge to take the chill off while the oven is heating. Cook the bread pudding, covered, for 50 minutes to an hour until it is set and puffed up.
Serves 8 – 10
My love for biscuits is well documented (13 recipes on the site at last count), and my love of country ham equally evident when you peruse my recipes. I have always enjoyed a warm, buttery biscuit with a slice of salty country ham tucked inside, so the next logical step seemed to be incorporating the ham directly into the biscuit. And these are heavenly morsels of Southern flavor.
Cut into small biscuits, these little rounds make a wonderful brunch bite or party snack with their cheesy filling. But they are just good biscuits, so use them how you will. Cut them large and serve with butter or gravy for breakfast, or spread a little mustard instead of butter before you melt the cheese.
I buy already ground country ham, sometimes online and sometimes I find it at local markets. If you can’t find it, grind some country ham slices in a food processor until you have a crumbly mixture, but not a paste. To add the delicious, melty center, I use thick cut sandwich slices of sharp cheddar cheese for ease, but feel free to cut slices from a block.
Country Ham Biscuit Bites with Cheese
2 ½ cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
4 ounces ground country ham
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup buttermilk
14 thick slices cheddar cheese
softened butter for spreading
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Shuffle the butter cubes into the flour, then crumble in the country ham. Beat on low speed until the butter and ham and mixed in and the mixture looks damp and crumbly. Add the mustard, and with the beater moving, slowly pour in the buttermilk. Beat just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times in the bowl to get all the flour worked in. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a round ½-inch thick. Press a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the dough and lift out. Do not twist or the biscuits won’t be as tall. Place the biscuits tightly together in the prepared pans.
Bake the biscuits for 10 – 12 minutes or just until firm to the touch. Remove to a wire rack until they are cool enough to handle. Lower the oven temperature to 325°. When the baking pans have cooled, spray them with cooking spray again.
Use the biscuit cutter to cut rounds of cheese the same size as you biscuits. When the biscuits are cool enough to handle, carefully slice them open and spread both sides with a little soft butter. Place a piece of cheese in the center, close the biscuit up and tuck back into the baking pans. Spread a little butter on the top of the biscuits. Cover the pans tightly with foil and place back in the oven for about 5 – 8 minutes, just until the cheese is melted.
Makes about 2 dozen 2- inch biscuits
To make these biscuits ahead, here are a couple of options. Freeze the dough rounds on a waxed paper lined baking sheet until hard, then transfer to ziptop bags. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time slightly. You can also bake the biscuits, add the butter and cheese, cover and refrigerate for several hours before the final baking, again increasing the cooking time slightly.
Canning is my summer time obsession. From the first strawberries of spring to the last pears of fall, I spend my weekends putting up my famers market bounty. Then the market closes for the season, I put the canner back in the pantry and shelf the jars for the next year. But at some point, in the dark days of winter, I get the slight canning bug. I don’t particularly see the point of making jams or pickles from grocery-store produce flown in from foreign parts. Then this idea struck me like a thunderbolt, I just had to try it out. I can still find beautiful fragrant mint in winter, and anything with the summery flavor of a cold glass of iced tea is bound to appeal to this Southern girl.
I’ll be honest, I don’t do jelly much, in the summer my canning kitchen is practically a factory, preparing and cooking bushels and pecks of fresh fruits and vegetables, so I tend to go with quicker jams and butters. But when I need a little winter canning fix I don’t mind the extra time of leaving the apples to release their juices overnight.
Sweet Tea Jelly is great on toast or biscuits, and amazing in the center of a thumbprint sugar cookie. But for a little something different, use it as a glaze for chicken wings or a pork roast.
Sweet Tea Jelly
4 tea bags (for iced tea, like orange pekoe)
Big handful of mint leaves
6 cups water
2 ½ lbs golden delicious apples
2 lemons, juiced
4 cups sugar, more or less
½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
Place the tea bags in a large measuring jug and add a handful of mint leaves. Pour over 4 cups boiling water and leave to brew until dark amber, about 4 minutes. Remove the tea bags and leave to cool.
Cut the apple, peel, core, seeds and everything, into small chunks and place in a large heavy Dutch oven. Pour over the brewed tea with the mint and the remaining 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, until the apples have broken down and are soft and mushy. Use a wooden spoon or a potato masher to crush the fruit.
While the apples are cooking, line a sieve with cheesecloth, muslin or a clean 100 % cotton handkerchief and place it over a large bowl. When the apples have cooked and you’ve mashed the fruit, carefully pour everything into the sieve. Leave the pulp to drip juice overnight. Cover the sieve and bowl with a tea towel, but do not press down on the pulp, or you’ll end up with cloudy jelly.
Place a small plate in the freezer to do a set test when the jelly is done.
The next day, discard the pulp and measure the juice produced. You’ll have anywhere from 4 – 6 cups. Pour the juice into a heavy, large Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Stir in the lemon juice and ¾ cup of sugar for every one cup of juice. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the chopped mint leaves. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 – 15 minutes, until the jelly is thick and streams in a sheet from a spoon lifted out of it.
When the jelly has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jelly onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jelly stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jelly on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
While your jelly is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going. Here are step-by step instructions for processing jam in a canner. When the jelly is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
When the jelly has met the set test, fill the jars. I like to ladle the jelly into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jelly, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jelly, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
Makes 3 half-pints, or 5 4-ounce jars
Persimmons are the brightest spot in the barren winter fruit scape. Sure, citrus is there, but I miss the reds, pinks, peach, blues, plums, purples and greens of summer bounty. But then there are these bright beauties, orange and smooth and shiny, with their frilly green caps. I have a tendency to overbuy, because I am so excited about a fresh winter fruit. And I am not always sure what to do with them. Sometimes they sit happily on my counter, making me smile at their lovely color and sheen until I’ve missed their usable moment. But my simple, delicious answer is this slightly sweet, moist, persimmon rich bread.
Fuyus are the squat persimmons, and best for baking. Cut out the green stem end, cut into chunks and puree them in the blender or food processor. Persimmon bread is a particular treat slathered with Meyer Lemon Curd.
1 cup persimmon puree (from 3 – 4 ripe Fuyu persimmons)
2 Tablespoons water
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a standard loaf pan.
Cut out the stem of each persimmon and cut into chunks. Puree the persimmons in a food processor or blender with 2 Tablespoons water.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the persimmon puree and beat until thoroughly combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to batter and beat until smooth.
Pour into a loaf pan and bake at for 50- 60 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool well before slicing. Well wrapped, the bread will keep for a few days.
Makes 1 loaf
No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year’s Day pass without at least one bite of black- eyed peas. They bring luck and good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin’ John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here’s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.
This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It’s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year’s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham “biscuit slices” readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped “seasoning pieces” are great for seasoning, but don’t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year luck, serve these with greens, like Foldin’ Money Cabbage.
Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet
For the Black-eyed Peas
4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices
Half of a small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas
3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon flour
1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained
Salt to taste
For the Cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the Black-eyed Peas:
Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and ½ teaspoon of the creole seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil. Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cornbread.
For the Cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg andmelted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden and set.
Everyone is up earlier than any other day of the year to see what’s under the tree. Wrapping paper ripping, bows flying, boxes everywhere. And somewhere in there, folks get hungry. Just a nibble before the big celebration. Something special, but simple. There’s just too much going on to whip up a gourmet feast. And the cookies Santa left behind just won’t do.
I’ve been making versions of this type of muffin for years, and decided it was finally time to work out a Christmas version. Because these are the perfect treat for a crazy, busy morning. Make the batter a day or two ahead, then simply scoop them out in the morning and bake. The deep ginger and molasses flavor sings of Christmas and the tart, sweet cranberries add to the festive flavor. I love the added hit of candied ginger, but feel free to leave them out or substitute raisins or nuts. These muffins are delicious straight up, spread with a little plain butter or some cranberry jam if you happen to have any around. But add this nutmeg-y butter with the flavor of eggnog to add to the holiday spirit. Make it ahead too, even a double batch for toast or waffles.
Merry Morning Muffins with Eggnog Butter (Overnight Gingerbread and Cranberry Muffins)
For the Muffins:
½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup white sugar
½ cup molasses
1 ¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon warm water
1 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup crystallized ginger pieces
For the Butter:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Muffins:
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Beat in the molasses, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.
Sift the flour and spices together and beat into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the batter is just mixed. Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water in a small dish, then mix into the batter. Stir in the cranberries and ginger until they are distributed throughout.
At this point, the batter can be refrigerated for up to two days, tightly covered.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups and divide the batter among them equally. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 12 muffins
For the Butter:
Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and nutmeg until combined and smooth. Scoop into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm.
The butter can be made up to a week ahead.
Makes ½ cup
I do give thanks for biscuits. And I love a little biscuit bite in the Thanksgiving bread basket, particularly when they are made seasonal with the addition of sweet potato. These angel biscuits use yeast to get an extra rise, which is helpful when you add the dense potato purée. Make sure you potato is cooked through and soft to create the smoothest purée.
I like these biscuits in their purest form, but you could add a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon if you want to, or even some very finely chopped fresh sage. They are delicious with plain butter, but a little honey or sorghum stirred into that butter takes them up a level. And they make a great breakfast treat or party snack, stuffed with a sliver of ham or leftover turkey and a cranberry sauce. Feel free to cut them as nice big biscuits or little bite-size babies.
Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits
1 large sweet potato, about 12 ounces (to yield 1 cup purée)
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast
5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lilly)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
1 ¼ cup cold buttermilk
¼ cup melted butter
Prick the sweet potato all over with a skewer or a thin knife. Microwave the potato on high for 12 to 15 minutes until it is very soft when squeezed. Alternately, you can bake the potato in the oven for about an hour. Holding the potato with a folded tea towel, cut it in half and scoop the flesh into a small bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork to a smooth purée. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 425°. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.
Stir the sugar and warm water (about 105°) together in a small measuring jug. Sprinkle over the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until it is foamy.
Stir the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl of a stand mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Using the paddle attachment, blend the butter and flour on low speed until the butter is the size of small BBs. You want some butter blended in, but the visible small pieces of butter help make the biscuits fluffy.
Stir 1 cup of the buttermilk into the potato purée, mixing vigorously to create a smooth liquid. Add this to the flour and butter, add the yeast mixture, and beat on medium speed, just until everything comes together. If the mixture is dry, add a little of the extra buttermilk until the dough comes together.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times to pull everything together. Pat the dough out to a circle about an inch thick. Dip a cutter into flour and press it into the dough and pull up (don’t twist the cutter or the sides won’t rise). Place the cut biscuits in the prepared cake pans, fitting them in tight with the sides touching. Pat any scraps together and cut out more biscuits. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. If you want to brown the top of the biscuits, turn the broiler on, and watch carefully until they start to brown. You can brush the hot cooked biscuits with a little extra melted butter if you like.
If you’d like to make these biscuits ahead, you can refrigerate the unrolled dough tightly covered for up to 2 days, then proceed with the recipe. To make them further ahead, roll and cut your biscuits, place them on a baking tray and freeze for an hour or so until solid. Transfer to a ziptop bag with all the air squeezed out. Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time as needed. If you don’t serve these fresh from the oven or have leftovers, wrap them in foil and warm in a low oven.
Makes 12 2-inch biscuits
When the reality of the new school year and the end of summer hit, having a quick, portable breakfast on hand can be a serious boon. And these muffins fit the bill. I often find muffins labeled “healthy” to be leaden gut bombs, but these are light and tender, thanks to the magic of buttermilk. Oats provide a nice, sustained energy level and soaking them in the buttermilk prevents that chewy, gritty texture you sometimes find in baked goods with oatmeal. These are not excessively sweet muffins, so no sugar crash, and the applesauce keeps the flavor up and the fat content down.
But the real beauty of these muffins is their versatility. While delicious straight up, the recipe below is really the blueprint for your own creativity. When you stir in the applesauce*, add your favorite dried fruit and/or nut combo, and any spice that tickles your fancy. Try ½ cup dried cranberries and ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Or make that ¼ cup cranberries and ¼ cup chopped walnuts. Or raisins and cinnamon. Blueberries and nutmeg. Pecans and apple pie spice. I often scoop half a batch of plain batter to the tin, then add my additions to the second half. These muffins are delicious fresh, but will last for three days in an airtight container. When they are completely cooled, wrap each one individually in plastic wrap and pop into the freezer in a zipper bag. Just pull one out the night before and you are ready to go.
And one note on the yield. I have been fiddling with this recipe for years, and I simply lack the mathematical skills to make it an even dozen. If the anomaly truly bothers you, divide the batter between all 12 cups and you’ll get smaller muffins.
Oatmeal Get-Up-And-Go Muffins
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
Place the oats in a large bowl and pour over the buttermilk. Stir gently with a spoon to cover the oats, then leave to sit for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 10 cups of a muffin pan.
Stir the egg and brown sugar into the oat mixture until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir until just barely mixed. Add the applesauce (and any add-ins*) and stir until just combined. Don’t’ stir too hard or too long or the muffins will be tough.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups (I use a large cookie scoop). Bake for 12 – 15 minutes until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Yields 10 – 11 muffins