This was the trickiest of the lot, but perhaps the most satisfying to crack. The cheddar Mmmuffins had a slightly sweet, cakey texture, and were brilliant orange. My initial tests were tasty but missing the mark… it wasn’t until a CBC listener messaged me with a tip: back in the eighties, working at a different chain eatery, she used powdered cheddar when making the muffins. I added about half a pack of the cheese mix from a box of KD and voilà—extra cheesiness, but also that intense orange colour that acts as a visual cue, making them taste even cheesier. You could, of course, use extra-old white cheddar here—and you could omit the powdered cheese… just expect them to look a bit different.
I think I’m most excited about these – I remember them clearly, yet never thought to make a butterscotch-pecan muffin since. I used the same base as the chocolate chip muffin, swapping out brown sugar, adding chopped pecans and Skor bits (which I think are more accurate than the butterscotch chips some have suggested – though those would be tasty too!) – and a streusel on top. I baked some batter right away and some that sat for awhile and saw a similar, though not as dramatic, difference in the rise compared with the chocolate chip. If you’re looking for higher peaks, let it sit for awhile (just on the counter) before you bake them.. but they’re pretty fantastic just baked right away.
Here we go!!! I decided, after seeing my friend Caitlin Green lament the Marvellous Mmmuffins of her youth, to try to recreate them in my own kitchen. Mmmuffins kiosks brought mega muffins to the masses from 1979 until peoples’ tastes for muffins started to wane around the turn of the millennium – they were in their heydey in the eighties, when malls were also the place to be. The taste and texture of the chocolate chip, butterscotch-pecan and cheddar varieties are burned into my consciousness.
I started with chocolate chip. Peoples’ memories of these seem to differ – many recall them having a crunchy, sugary lid, and I remember them being pale-ish and sticky on top. My theory (and I don’t know this- I haven’t seen the actual formulation) is that a high fructose sweetener was used in the batter – fructose has humectant properties, and draws moisture from its surroundings. (It could also have been that they were a bit underbaked at the location I frequented.) If you want to recreate those massive Mmmmuffin tops that were often square because they kind of baked into each other and had to be cut apart, spray your muffin tin rather than lining it with paper liners – and fill the batter to heaping. Everyone loves a good muffin top. If you like, sprinkle the tops with some coarse sugar, like sugar in the raw, before baking if you want crunchy, sugary lids.
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I make falafel all the time, and keep meaning to write up a recipe to share. The truth is, I make them so often I don’t really measure anymore – I add a bit of onion, some garlic, a bunch of cilantro stems, a bit of heat in the form of a jalapeño or pinch of chili flakes, and some baking powder to lighten them. Sometimes I add a spoonful of flour — any kind – which isn’t necessary, but will help them hold together a bit. Some people refrigerate their falafel mix overnight to let the texture and flavours develop, so really this is a great make-ahead kind of thing that you can cook quickly, without even having to preheat the oven. And yes, you could use canned chickpeas, but the falafel will have a softer texture, and there is a chance they will fall apart in the oil… I’ve never had a problem with them falling apart but a few people have in some dinner classes, and I’m not sure if it’s a particular brand they’re using? At any rate, if you use canned chickpeas maybe it’s safest to cook small patties in a skillet instead!
Wow, what amazing week!!! Thanks for inviting me to join you in your kitchens! You’ve given me a better start to 2022 than I ever could have imagined!
There has been such incredible interest in our zoom cooking classes that OF COURSE we will continue! We’ll cook together some weekends (maybe all weekends?? I’m not sure yet!) and some weeknights we can make dinner together. It will still be free, and we’ll still do it on zoom the way we have been, but we can’t keep doing it every day, since most students are back at school now, whether online or in real life. So we’re going to bake together on weekends (some of them? all of them? I’m not sure yet!) and I think we should make dinner together on some weeknights! Rather than relying on social media, you can sign up for a newsletter and I’ll send the recipes and zoom links out ahead of each class – you can join whenever you like! If you’re interested in hearing about upcoming classes (and getting the recipes!) sign up below!
Coming Up Next: Two Cakes – Carrot Cake and Lemon Cake, with Cream Cheese Frosting
Sunday, January 30, 10:00 AM MT
Click here for a PDF of the recipe + the zoom link!
Here are the recipes and videos from past classes!
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Hanukkah begins this weekend! Which means sufganiyot – jelly doughnuts.
I’m not Jewish, but grew up with so many Jewish friends and family friends, most of whom are great cooks. I’m far from an expert (Amy Rosen”s Kosher Style is my go-to reference book) but I do adore making doughnuts, and I particularly love the jelly-filled kind.
I think we all need a little more cake these days.
Blending whole oranges into a thick puree to add to cake and muffin batter isn’t new – I have a recipe for a whole orange cake on an old recipe card I’ve had since childhood (yes, I was a kid who wrote and collected recipe cards) and the Sunshine Muffins in the Best of Bridge are made with whole oranges whizzed with everything else in a blender. Food 52 has a recipe for a whole orange bundt from Sunset Magazine in their book, Genius Desserts. W made it awhile ago, and it occurred to me that such a cake would make perfect use of those inevitable squidgy mandarin oranges I always seem to wind up with, whether I buy them by the box or bag. (We talked about other things to do with mandarins on this week’s Eyeopener!)
I made a plant-based (vegan) Deep n’ Delicious chocolate cake for a friend’s birthday last spring, and it was pretty fantastic if I do say so myself. Baked in a disposable foil cake pan for easy door dropping and classic Deep n’ Delicious aesthetic, with frosting piped on with a star tip to complete the effect, I’ve baked this several times and it has been devoured each time – it’s wonderful, vegan or not.
I had this squashy dal on repeat last fall – it was something I made one day to use the roasted squash I’m in the habit of having in the fridge at this time of year, and I became totally hooked on it. In the fall, when all the giant gourds are in the farmers’ markets, I often poke one with a knife and roast it whole, directly on the oven rack, while something else is baking. It takes about an hour for a large one to soften and start to collapse in on itself – once cool, it’s easy to cut open, scoop out the seeds, and then scoop the soft flesh in spoonfuls into things like soups and stews and curries and dal.
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