Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mini Muffins Four Ways

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching, and amidst the stress of getting students ready for final exams and already starting to plan for next year, there seems to always be something to celebrate.  On Wednesday two of my classes took their AP European History exam, which I hope they will mark as an academic milestone one day (if they don't already).  For the vast majority, at sixteen years old this was their first college-level academic experience.  Now, I'd welcome any one of them to join my graduate level history courses.  While a few came to my class in August pretty much ready to rock that exam, most just came willing to take on a challenge and work for it.  I'm super proud of all them. 

Let me go on record to say that they are now allowed to forget all the facts they learned about European History (even though I know they won't), but they couldn't undo the experience of vigorous learning and adapting to a challenging course load even i they tried.  I tell them on day one that the course is about character building and pushing yourself beyond the academic comfort zone they've experienced their whole lives as high achievers.  We don't really grow unless we stumble, sometimes fail, and test our character by pursing the commitment to the end...that's what I hope they've learned, as well.

Needless to say, they deserved some encouraging muffins for breakfast on Wednesday.  Obviously, these muffins had to be European History themed.  Here's the menu (you'll have to figure out the historical references on your own)*:


GET IT?!

So, muffins.  I've made them before, but never in such large quantities.  Turns out there's some really simple rules: mix all your dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another (including any "wet" flavorings), then mix together to get a thick batter.  Voila! 
The recipes below each make about 24 mini muffins, and probably a dozen standard muffins.   Minis baked for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  For larger muffins, bake at 400 degrees for around 18 minutes.

  • 1/2 cup bran flakes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups raisin bran cereal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
For this recipe, the cereal actually becomes part of the wet ingredient mix by first soaking it in the milk.  Add the remaining wet ingredients to the soaked cereal, the add to the premixed dry ingredients.  Stir until just incorporated.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp finely ground espresso
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
To prep the wet mix for this recipe, melt the butter, chocolate, and espresso together in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes.   Let cool completely and blend with the remaining wet ingredients.  Add to the premixed dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
This recipe was a little bit of an exception to the dry/wet rule.  Start by mixing egg and vanilla with the sugar, then add the remaining wet ingredients (including the zucchini).  Combine with the premixed dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated. 

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/8 cup lemon zest
This is one truly just a matter of premixing the wet and dry ingredients in respective bowls, combining until just incorporated, and gently stirring in the zest and blueberries at the very end.

*Luther gets the Raisin Bran because you're clearly reworking, or reforming, the cereal into a muffin, as Luther reformed Catholicism to spark the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  Louis XIV clearly would get the stereotypically French-inspired chocolate and espresso muffin, but he was an Absolute ruler who mastered coercion and soft power to centralize the state under his sole sovereignty - hence the "dark" chocolate and "coercive" power of caffeine.  Mazzini rhymes with Zucchini (duh), but he was a romantic nationalist and father of the early-nineteenth century Italian unification movement.  Finally, Otto von Bismark's realpolitik policies meant he wasn't afraid to bounce all over the political spectrum - from monarchist to socialist - to unify Germany, as these muffins bounce all over the flavor spectrum from lemony zest to blueberry sweet.

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