“You don’t get tired of muffins, but you don’t find inspiration in them.”
-George Bernard Shaw
Let me begin by saying that George Bernard Shaw had no idea what he was talking about. Recently, I’ve been thinking–and a lot— about muffins. I guess you could say it all started about three weeks ago when a friend mentioned the fabulous smell that woke her up one foggy morning and, upon investigation, discovered that it was coming from the Cinnamon and White Chocolate Muffins that one of her roommates had decided to bake. Her immediate suggestion was that we bake these muffins together and, naturally, I agreed. Cinnamon. Chocolate (even if white). Muffins. What’s not to like about that combination? Despite the temptation that the muffins presented, the only thing we didn’t foresee in our great muffin-baking plan was the fact that around Week 7/8 of the semester, a grad student’s life suddenly goes up in flames…Ok, yes, that’s kind of a gross exaggeration, but the point is that, between writing and grading, we’ve all been quite busy.
But suddenly, at least for me, a tiny window opened! In the past week I not only completed the Herculean task of writing a prospectus (go me!), but I also had a meeting with my advisor about said dissertation plan (revisions are necessary, but there’s plenty of time for that), officially began tutoring with Reading Partners (there’s something immensely pleasurable about spending my Wednesday afternoons reading children’s books with students who want to improve their skills) and wrapped up the discussion of Sologub with my class. Needless to say, celebrations were in order!
As I’m ultimately a simple girl, said celebrations included a lovely dinner with friends on Friday at Pizzaiolo and then baking muffins and seeing the new Woody Allen movie on Saturday. What kind of muffins did I bake? Sadly, not the above-mentioned ones I had long been fantasizing about (my friend and I have plans to bake them as soon as the mid-semester storm passes), but ones no less tasty and no less inspired. You see, when you’re me and you see a cookbook and decide to buy it both because a) you just can’t help but like cookbooks–from their photography to their ingenuity– and b) you know that one day you’ll pull it from the shelf, peruse it and set about making something from it, you always have lots of options. And, two years after a Mother’s Day brunch at Rick and Ann’s when I decided to treat myself to an “early birthday/you just passed your MA exam” gift, I again put the one solely devoted to muffins to work. My recipe of choice was the Cream Cheese Muffin: simple, classic, melt-in-your-mouth tasty. In fact, with the combination of orange and cinnamon, as well as the cream cheese and streusel topping, they’re perfect for fall.
See? I told you that I’d be more chipper when I came back and the prospectus was relatively behind me. Always happy to deliver. 😉
Cream Cheese Muffins
slightly adapted from Muffins: Sweet and Savory Comfort Food
Yields 12 muffins
For the muffins:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. sugar (divided)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. butter, cut up
1 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. zested orange peel
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 12 cubes
a sprinkling of cinnamon (in both the flour mixture and the additional 3 Tbsp. of sugar)
For the streusel topping:
1/3 cup flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. orange juice
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place muffin cups in muffin tins
-In a medium bowl, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in butter with either a pastry blender or fork until the mixture is crumbly.
-In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, orange juice, orange zest and egg together.
-Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients until just moistened (NB: it’s ok if the mixture is clumpy; don’t overwork the flour!)
-Fill the muffin cups until 3/4 of the way full.
-Dip each cube of cream cheese into the sugar/cinnamon mixture and press into batter.
-In another small bowl, mix the streusel ingredients until crumbly.
-Spread topping evenly among muffin cups.
-Bake for 15-20 minutes (I would err on the side of caution and check them at 15 minutes, at which point mine were already turning slightly golden)