Friday, October 07, 2005
Niki's Jam & Memories of Breakfast in Vermont
A few weeks back I received a tasty little package from Niki at Esurientes - The Comfort Zone: candy (yay - I finally got a taste of Violet Crumble!), crackers, the cutest little platypus pin, a bookmark featuring a picture of Wattle (Australia's national flower), and Niki's own homemade jam. It was so sweet of her to send me all these goodies, but I was especially touched that she had included a jar of her own jam. She made it last January (summer for her, the depths of winter for me!) with plums and nectarines from her grandmother's trees. This was her first time making jam and I'd say it was a huge success! When I first tasted the jam I had a very pleasant surprise - I had expected sweet and tangy, but Niki's jam is also warmly spiced. It has the most fantastic flavor, not to mention wonderful chunks of fruit... just heaven!
I thought this special jam deserved something homebaked for its debut and last weekend I finally got around to doing some baking. I made some muffins, which are rather plainly named, Make Ahead Muffins. This is a recipe that my Mom got ages ago from a friend in our old neighborhood. I was reminded of these a couple of months ago when I spent a weekend in Vermont with Bob and Chuck. They had some muffin batter in the freezer that a friend had brought the weekend before. We baked off the rest of it for breakfast Saturday morning. When I got back I asked my Mom for her recipe, which I suspect is very similar to the one Bob and Chuck's friend had used.
I just love these muffins - they're very moist and slightly sweet. They have a flavor that is hard for me to describe, but one that is apparently etched in my memory. They are great for breakfast and are also wonderful alongside some soup for dinner. They were also the perfect foil for Niki's jam since they have a subdued flavor and aren't overly sweet. So here's the recipe for the muffins, maybe Niki will share her recipe for the jam... hint, hint!
I tweaked my Mom's recipe slightly. The original calls for All-Bran cereal, but on examining the package in the store I discovered All-Bran contains not just bran, but high fructose corn syrup, among other things. I replaced the All-Bran cereal with plain old unprocessed bran and a little extra sugar. I also replaced the shortening with oil, which I figure is healthier, easier to use, and cheaper (cheaper because I have taken to buying the kind of shortening that is not hydrogenated). This makes a huge bowl of muffin batter which will keep in the refrigerator for a while or which you can freeze. The recipe claims the batter will keep in the fridge for three weeks.
Make Ahead Muffins
2 cups oatmeal (I used quick oats)
1 3/4 cups unprocessed bran
2 cups crushed shredded wheat biscuits
2 cups boiling water
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups (1 quart) buttermilk
5 cups flour
5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Combine the cereals in a large bowl and then pour the boiling water over the cereal. Set aside. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a mixer with a large bowl (I think mine is 5 qt, and it was just big enough), beat the eggs slightly then add the oil and sugar and beat just to mix. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, then add the cereal mixture. Beat briefly to break up and distribute the cereal. Bake muffins at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes. Yield: 4 dozen muffins
Here's a photo of our breakfast that Saturday morning. I love the lighting in the picture - we had breakfast on the porch and you can tell it was quite early in the morning. It was the start to a really wonderful weekend... wish I was there now!