Monday, March 9, 2009

And I love the times


I'm sitting in a crowded coffee shop in Lubbock, Texas, tuning out the loud conversations around me with a mix of voices on my iTunes. I'm escaping a little further.

It's spring break. That infamous week-long party that comes with college life, but I have this theory that my school scheduled it early this year just so we couldn't join forces with anyone beyond our fellow classmates. Not that I'm disappointed. I simply don't have any interest.

I've escaped from Abilene for a few days and that's exhilarating in itself. I'm sipping my fair share of my uncle's home-bottled wine and beer while playing soccer with his kids and talking with his wife about the endless family news that comes with having nine aunts and uncles. And now I get to be in a little coffee shop with the scent of espresso absorbed into the walls and half of a banana muffin on a plate before me. This is all indeed a luxury in a schedule that has booked my life with attending classes, working, studying for those classes, and interning online. I even got to go out for a run/walk this morning for an hour. Phew.

It's nice to have room to breathe.

Not that enjoyment is sucked out of life while in my regular routine. By no means. I love the art that I get to do for "homework," even if it does sometimes require energy I don't seem to have. I love bringing a new batch of photos into my photography teacher to hear his encouragement and receive his critiques. I love every single person I work with in my university's little Study Abroad Office. And I love the times I get with friends on the weekends and (very occasional) weekday.

Last Sunday afternoon happened to be one of those times. It was a beautifully sunny day and a friend was scheduled to stop by to cut my roommate's hair, so I decided to whip up something comforting, slightly sweet, and pretty enough for plenty of lingering-over.

I have been wanting to try the Nutmeg Doughnut Muffins in Molly of Orangette's recipe archive for some time now, but the timing never seemed right. For one, I was not raised with the concept of a "right time" for doughnuts, so that word in the recipe title kept throwing me. I loved the idea of the nutmeg and the look of powdered sugar dusted across the surface, but the word doughnut was always supposed to come with a cringe growing up. While I will surely act more graciously in the presence of those outside my immediate family circle, after my few rebellious experiences with them at childhood friends' homes, I, too, have concluded that doughnuts don't do much for me. Now and then I can appreciatively nibble on one, but they rarely spur a craving.

All that to say, last weekend I found myself scanning over this recipe and finding ways to trim it up a bit so it would leave me feeling less like the average doughnut does...greasy, heavy, and remorseful. Besides, I knew Molly's taste buds did not tend toward that direction either, so there had to be something to these muffins. I pressed on.

I used the last of my oat flour, which cut out a little of the all-purpose. I substituted coconut milk for the whole milk. And I cut back on the butter and sugar applied to the outside. What came out of the oven was delicious. It had a greater complexity to it than I imagine the original does, with ever-so-subtle scents of coconut and oats. Each muffin was light, fluffy, and cozy in all its nutmeg-y goodness. They didn't even need the powdered sugar coating, but I went ahead and put it on the tops of about half. It dressed them up a notch, and because I had cut two tablespoons of sugar out of the batter, the added sugar matched a mildly sweet crumb.

I better get over my "doughnut" word prejudice. Because I plan on sharing these with a lot more people.

nutmeg doughnut muffin 2

Nutmeg Doughnut Muffins
Adapted from Orangette, who was inspired by Columbia City Bakery and adapted her own recipe from Kathleen Stewart of the Downtown Bakery & Creamery, Healdsburg, CA

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup oat flour
2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¾ cup plus 1 Tbs coconut milk (substitute water for the additional tablespoon if using full-fat coconut milk)
2 Tablespoons buttermilk (or 1 Tbs plain whole milk yogurt/1 Tbs water)
1 ½ sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

3 Tablespoons unsalted buttter
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease 1-2 muffin tins (expect to make 12 muffins) or fill with muffin liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk together thoroughly, and then set aside.

Combine coconut milk and buttermilk in a measuring cup or small bowl, and set aside.

Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl with an available electric beater. Beat until the butter is soft and creamy. With the motor running pour the sugar in a steady stream (or in small, gradual portions with the electric beater). Continue beating, scraping down sides, until the mixture increases in volume and lightens to pale yellow. Look for it to become light, fluffy, and creamy, like frosting. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until everything is just combined.

With a large spatula or wooden spoon, mix a fourth of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add a fourth of the coconut milk mixture. Continue to add the dry and wet ingredients alternately until everything is just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the cups of the muffin tin. Bake until they are just turning golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

When the muffins are cool enough to handle, prepare the topping by melting the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop and measuring the powdered sugar into a deep bowl. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of one muffin with butter and turn it upside down into the bowl of powdered sugar. (You may brush the whole surface with butter and roll it in powdered sugar if you prefer.) Shake off excess sugar and serve.*

These kept well for me for another two days, though they need to be in an airtight container. Also, Molly mentions that the batter can be kept in the fridge, covered, for up to three days.


GrantJM said...

I want to try it now that I have a kitchen to experiment in.

Michelle Stiles said...

Ahhhh..... Lubbock
John talks of that town... crazy to think that you are there. I hope all is well! I just made the best bananna cake ever! I will post it in the next couple of days. I can't wait for you to check it out!

Lael said...

GrantJM: I think you'll really like them, Dad. Just look for some whole nutmeg in the bulk section of your grocery store. It makes such a difference.

Michelle: Yes, Lubbock. People seem to think it's more dreadful than Abilene, but I don't agree. At least there is more than one good coffee shop option here and a selection of international grocery stores. And an uncle who makes bread and beer...that helps heaps. Can't wait to read about your banana cake!

The Mullens said...

Lael, it's been so much fun to read your blogs. Your recipes, combined with art and story makes for a captivating read. Your words are motivating me to bake .. and I've never really enjoyed baking! Thanks for sharing your talent via blog. Enjoy your spring break! Nan

Lauren Sutton said...

Hey you, I've been missing you. I like that I can vicariously enjoy a piece of you through your blog. So... let's make that two way. I'm giving this blog thing a second go. Check it out. Love you.