|The 16th Batch|
|Features - The Craft of Cooking|
|Written by Lizzy Butler|
As an intern at America’s Test Kitchen – and also at its respective magazines Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, numerous cookbooks, and television series - you are able to see the entire recipe development process unfold right before your eyes. And, in most cases, you are experiencing it with your own hands too. By taking on the role as an intern, you are signed up to assist the test cooks as they tirelessly test every facet of a certain recipe, which often leads to a recipe being made forty, fifty, or even seventy times. This means a lot of ingredients, a lot of prep work, and a lot of tasting. And don’t take the vague descriptor of ‘a lot’ here lightly…I’m talking slicing forty pounds of onions to make ten batches of French onion soup simultaneously…in one afternoon. How else could we know what type of beef broth is best? This was what my days were like during the thirteen week period of my time there.
To enhance our experience in the test kitchen, we (I and the other wonderful group of people interning along with me) were given a project that enabled us to mimic the procedure that a test cook goes through each time they are assigned an official recipe project. This meant that, on our own, we were to pick a recipe out of a given topic, research its background and recipe variation, test the many differing elements of the recipe, create a final ‘best recipe’ from the results of said tests, and write an article describing our testing experience behind the created dish in the style of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.
Our topic was fruit muffins. Sounds like a pretty good topic, right? When you think about muffins, they seem so cute. Harmless little palm sized delights, sitting daintily in a dishtowel-lined basket, probably ready for a summer picnic. Let me tell you though, after your 15th batch of muffins that didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to, you start hallucinating tiny little devil horns growing out of muffin tops. Do I really have to make and taste you, AGAIN?? And the answer is yes, because you want to get it right.
Alright, I may be being overdramatic. There were no devil muffins, although I will say that none of us could even look at a muffin for a good couple of weeks after the project was done. But of course, like many challenges, it was very rewarding at the end to have completed the whole process and have your own original recipe and story laid out in an article format.
Morning Glory Muffins was what I chose as my topic. Since I was so fed up with muffins that were more like cupcakes with an identity crisis, I wanted to create a Morning Glory muffin that was still moist and delicious, without being oil slicked and bombed with refined sugar. Who wants to start their day that way? After playing around with many different ingredients and ratios – how much AP Flour to whole wheat flour? What is the real purpose of the egg yolk vs. the egg white? When and how does ‘moist’ turn the corner to ‘gummy’? - the rising heroes of the recipes proved to be apple butter and honey, each adding excellent flavor and texture profiles to the otherwise ordinary muffin. Although Morning Glories were a bold project choice with all of the different ingredients and recipes that exist, I was able to create at least one more variation to add to the list.
Morning Glory Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed (3.5 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter (see note)
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots (from about 4-5 medium, peeled carrots)
1 medium Granny Smith apple peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
NOTE: Apple butter is a fruit spread made from the low-and-slow cooking of apples, liquid, and in some cases added sugar or spices. We prefer Whole Earth All Natural Tap’nApple Apple Butter Spread which contains only apples and apple cider. Other brands will work as well, but be sure to read the ingredients and/or taste it prior to using as these flavors will affect the final taste of your muffin.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or lightly spray cups with non-stick cooking spray.
Whisk the flours, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, apple butter, honey, melted butter, and vanilla extract until combined, set aside.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently fold until the mixture just starts to come together; streaks of flour should still remain. Add the carrots, apples, raisins, walnuts, and stir until evenly combined. Try not over-mix or you will have tough muffins.
Divide batter evenly among the 12 cup spaces by scooping into prepared muffin tin. It will seem like a lot of batter but don’t worry: the batter level will stand above the cup line and is stiff enough that it will stay standing. The muffins will spread out as it bakes (but will not over-rise). Bake until muffins tops have slightly browned and a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out with a few crumbs attached, 24-27 minutes. Place tin on wire rack to cool 5 minutes, then remove muffins from tin to wire rack. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. They also freeze beautifully, and may be even better the next day!