The cupcake shop, a recent trend in the food world, has taken over the District.
Cupcakes certainly can be delicious, but are they really worth the wait?
My question to every cupcake fanatic in this city is this – how about the muffin? Yes, the muffin – the cupcake’s less sugary, often more savory cousin. Amidst all of the cupcake madness, have we forgotten about the poor muffin? While there are plenty of bakeries and coffee shops that sell muffins in D.C., there is not a single place that makes them the star of the show.
A few months ago, my boyfriend Paul gave me a book called The Ultimate Muffin Book. I was instantly intrigued – in the same line as the cupcake crazies in this city, I simply could not think of the last time I had given thought to the muffin. Previously, I assumed that the muffin was just a boring breakfast item. It was this surprisingly fascinating book, however, that proved to me the endless possibilities for the muffin.
The first chapter, Making Muffins, covers nearly every aspect of baking muffins. In the section, Tips for successful muffins, I learned that factors such as weather, the temperature of butter and eggs and the amount you fill the paper muffin cups with batter can all affect the outcome of your muffins. I also learned how to properly wash a muffin tin, and the proper techniques for freezing and unfreezing muffins. And finally, I discovered that I should fill any empty spots in my muffin tin with water when baking my muffins to ensure they cook evenly. Seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it?
I would love to meet the authors of this book – their attention to detail is impressive. This is for sure the most passion I have ever seen anyone show for the muffin.
The recipes are endless. For almost every fruit or vegetable you could imagine, there is a muffin recipe for it. Not only are there apple muffins, there are also applesauce muffins. There are olive oil muffins, Parmesan muffins, pina colada muffins, potato muffins, Quiche Lorraine muffins and peanut butter muffins. There are even cheesy beer muffins and pizza muffins. I love it – these guys are out of their minds!
I decided to give one of the recipes a shot – chocolate chip cappuccino muffins. Here is the recipe below, adapted from the book.
Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Mufﬁns (Makes 12 muffins)
From The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarborough
Scalded milk lends that same creamy texture to these mufﬁns as it does to a luxurious cup of cappuccino. Instant espresso powder makes it easy to get that deep, dark coffee taste, but regular or even decaffeinated instant coffee can be used for a lighter take on these decadent mufﬁns. To keep instant espresso powder fresh, store it, tightly covered, in the freezer.
- Nonstick spray or paper mufﬁn cups
- 1 cup milk (whole, low-fat, or nonfat)
- 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder; or 2 tablespoons regular or decaffeinated instant coffee, ﬁnely ground in a spice grinder or a coffee grinder
- 2 cups all-purpose ﬂour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. To prepare the mufﬁn tins, spray the indentations and the rims around them with nonstick spray, or line the indentations with paper mufﬁn cups. If using silicon mufﬁn tins, spray as directed, then place them on a baking sheet.
2. Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once bubbles appear around the pan’s rim, remove the milk from the heat and stir in the espresso powder until dissolved. Cool for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the ﬂour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until uniform. Add ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg, then whisk in the melted butter and vanilla continue whisking until completely blended. Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir in the ﬂour mixture until moistened.
5. Fill the prepared tins three-quarters full. Use additional greased tins or small, ovensafe, greased ramekins for any leftover batter, or reserve the batter for a second baking. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the mufﬁns, about 1/8 teaspoon over each muffin. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the tops are slightly cracked and golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the center of one mufﬁn should come out clean.
6. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently rock each muffin back and forth to release it. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool them for 5 minutes more on the rack before serving. If storing or freezing the mufﬁns, cool them completely before sealing in an airtight container or in freezer-safe plastic bags. The mufﬁns will stay fresh for up to 24 hours at room temperature or up to 1 month in the freezer.
My muffins turned out great, and I can’t wait to try another recipe in the book. Watch out, Georgetown Cupcake – the muffin is coming for you (See for yourself, below)!
I often wonder if the muffin shop is a concept that could even work in the District. Could you ever imagine buying half a dozen pizza and cheesy beer muffins? It just doesn’t sound right, I know. With the way food trends pop up (who ever thought fro-yo shops and food trucks would be big?), who knows what will happen next. There is hope for the humble muffin, I’m sure of that.
(Thanks to http://architectonista.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/the-architecture-of-cupcakes/ and http://ckanart.windless.org/2009/07/16/walking-muffin-lord/ for the photos)