Muffins are a tasty way to avoid breakfast boredom

Every morning, my husband Jack asks for the same breakfast: scrambled eggs (or cholesterol-free egg substitute), some sort of meat product (usually homemade sausage patties) and a buttered English muffin. Maybe he’s comfortable with the consistency, but I would be bored by the monotony. But, he always wants to try something different on Sunday mornings.

I’ll offer any number of options, from baked eggs (which I know not to call by their correct name, “crustless quiche”) to pancakes, French toast or eggs Benedict. Through the years, I have learned a few things about each of these dishes. Don’t overbake the eggs, or they become tough rather than creamy and tender. Always use some sort of insert to make poached eggs to avoid deconstructed egg whites floating in the water like some sea creature.

We find pancakes are more interesting with bananas or blueberries added to the batter, and buttermilk is ideal for fluffiness. As for French toast, there’s a reason the folks in New Orleans call it “pain perdu” or “lost bread.” You’ll want to use stale bread for the best outcome. If you use fresh, soft bread, you’ll end up with a soggy mess instead of a crisp crust.

On a recent Sunday, I tried making French toast with slices of Dave’s Killer Bread. The first few pieces disintegrated in the egg batter and never made it to the skillet. Once I sped up the dunking process, the slices stayed together long enough to reach the pan intact. But, when I tried to flip them, they fell apart. I could have turned the whole mess into bread pudding if I had been quicker on my feet.

One other secret for delicious French toast comes from my mother, who believed you could never overdo the amount of butter in any recipe. Whether your pan was nonstick or ceramic, you had to use at least a half-cup – and that was just for starters; she always tossed in more toward the end. Keeping the heat fairly low also helps the bread toast evenly without burning. Of course, slather with more butter when serving.

Every once in a while, I’ll suggest the Sunday menu, usually to address a pantry overstock of some ingredient. Not too long ago, the problem was too many raspberries. The grocery had a “buy one, get one free” promotion and I had two pints of raspberries. As you know, these tender berries will start to wilt and become mushy after a very short time, so I needed to find them a home.

Raspberries originated in Turkey, spread through the Roman Empire in the fourth century, were cultivated by the British in the 13th century, and then found their way to the New World. Before the start of the Revolutionary War, American colonists interested in growing raspberries were able to purchase commercial nursery plants. Before the end of the following century there were more than 40 different varieties. Today they are grown across the United States, Mexico and several European countries.

The pinkish-red fruit covered with bumps (a “rough” berry) has long been considered a luxury because they are so easily bruised and crushed. The latter feature may explain why the fruit’s juice was used as colorant in paintings and illuminated manuscripts. It’s also why I approached my plan to make raspberry muffins with great care. I searched for a recipe that would build a batter into which I could delicately fold the berries. As you can see from the photo, the recipe was a success. I’ve also included a recipe for a savory tart with raspberries and goat cheese. Happy Sunday!

Raspberry Muffins

2 C flour

1 C sugar

2 t baking powder

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 t salt

3 T melted butter

5 T vegetable oil

3/4 C milk

2 t vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 C fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar and baking powder. Stir in lemon zest; set aside. In a glass bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla. Whisk in eggs and mix until smooth. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid mixture and stir just until combined. Gently fold in the raspberries, without overmixing. For batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake until lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Raspberry Galette *

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

2 T grated Parmesan cheese

6 oz crumbled goat cheese

2 6-oz packages raspberries

1 t finely chopped fresh thyme

1/4 C Balsamic vinegar

2 T honey

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Unfold the puff pastry sheet onto the pan. With the tip of a paring knife, score a 1-inch border around the perimeter without cutting all the way through. Using a fork, thoroughly pierce the area inside the border. Bake for 10 minutes. Using the fork, pierce the area inside the shell to deflate it, leaving the border intact. Sprinkle the pierced area with Parmesan cheese followed by goat cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the pastry border is puffed and golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Meanwhile, combine Balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. When the crust is done, arrange the raspberries over the warm cheese; sprinkle with thyme. Using a serrated knife, cut in half crosswise, and then into 6 to 8 strips. Transfer to plates, drizzle with the glaze, and serve warm. * Adapted from Driscoll’s Berries.

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