Muffins are the “gitte neshamahs” (good souls) of baking. Tolerant to a fault, they can take a little more or less of an ingredient, overzealous whisking or even a few extra minutes in the oven and still come out just fine.
That’s why these simple treats are the stars of my baking repertoire. Relying on feel and intuition in the kitchen, I lack the discipline necessary for more ambitious projects; in other words, I’m too lazy to measure and sift, cream and fold, or heaven forbid, dirty more than one mixing bowl.
Muffins suit my culinary style, with bonus points for quick assembly, fast cleanup and being equally delicious in a lunch bag or on the dessert table. What’s more, they adapt particularly well to pareve substitutions, easily swapping milk for orange juice and peanut butter (or oil) for dairy butter.
And while not cheap in calories, muffins hit the “sweet spot” without copious amounts of sugar, and can be relied on to bake up moist without too much fat.
The recipe I turn to week in and week out (excluding Pesach) are cranberry chip muffins, whose ‘aha!’ moment came when peanut butter stepped in as the understudy for regular butter. At the height of cranberry season in fall, I buy two dozen bags to stash in the freezer for a ready supply year-round.
Cranberry and chocolate are a great couple. To elevate these muffins to a Shabbat treat, toss in some whole almonds for crunch.
To 4 tablespoons of light sour cream in a mixing bowl, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. When the mixture foams, add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla (or 2 teaspoons imitation vanilla extract), 4 tablespoons sugar, one large egg and 3 tablespoons smooth or chunky peanut butter (I use chunky). Blend well with a wire whisk, then gently whisk in 1/3 cup low-fat milk.
To this batter stir in 2/3 cup white flour, 1/2 cup Robin Hood Nutriflour, and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder until blended. Sprinkle in 3-4 tablespoons of good quality dark or milk chocolate chips.
Wash about 1-1/4 cups frozen whole cranberries; drain and place on two sheets of paper towels and blot dry very well. (Damp berries gum up the works.) Toss cranberries into the dough, dusting them with a teaspoon of flour to absorb excess moisture. Work berries and chips into the dough with several strokes of a wooden spoon. (If the mixture feels too thick, blend in a teaspoon of milk.)
Lightly spray six medium foil baking cups with non-stick coating. Scoop batter into muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. (You can stretch the batter to yield one or two more muffins if the muffins are smaller.) Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 until nicely browned, about 30 minutes.
When cool, store muffins in the fridge wrapped in plastic or foil. (I use a wax paper bag from breakfast cereal.) If using fresh cranberries, freeze them first because like frozen blueberries, they “burst” while baking, intensifying their flavour. These muffins taste even better the next day and also freeze well. Thaw at room temperature.