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These muffins began as a line item on a spreadsheet.
Yes, I have a recipe development spreadsheet. It's even alphabetized and color-coded, and I did that nifty freeze-frame thing where you can keep the first column static and scroll through the others. I hit upon the raspberry almond muffin concept thanks to a coffee shop bakery case, or maybe it was the remnants of a pastry tray in my office break room--it's been on the list for so long that the origins are hazy. But I finally got around to baking them a few weeks ago, swapping raspberries for blueberries in the muffin recipe from my handy Betty Crocker Cookbook, mixing in a bit of almond extract, and sprinkling on some sliced almonds. The finished muffins are exactly what I had in mind, fluffy and moist with berries, flavored with the tinge of almond that features so prominently in Scandinavian baked goods. But still, these are fairly straightforward muffins, hardly a culinary innovation or a show-stopping work of baking artistry. When I sat down to write to the intro to this post, I was at a loss as to what I should say.
"They're just muffins!" I moaned to Mike, and he replied with about the only logical thing he could: "Yep."
But the wonderful thing about food writing--or any sort of writing, really--is that once you give it some thought, muffins don't have to be just muffins. These muffins are a part of my relationship with Mike, a breakfast that I make for him on leisurely Sundays. Making breakfast for your husband sounds terribly 1950s, but I happen to enjoy it. Also, on weekdays "making breakfast" involves pouring cereal into a plastic container for Mike to eat in the car, and on Saturdays Mike pours his own cereal into a bowl (and then drizzles it with chocolate syrup, but that's a whole other story). Sundays are when I flex my breakfast-cooking muscles, with buttermilk pancakes and waffles and raspberry almond muffins. I'm not particularly comfortable with demonstrative displays of affection; cooking (or portioning out breakfast cereal) is about as sentimental as I get. And luckily, I married someone who appreciates my cooking.
The almond extract is a trick I picked up from my friend Michelle, who lives on a few acres along the Mississippi in rural Minnesota. We've known each other since we were six, and she understands me in the way that only someone who was your confidant at the most awkward and self-conscious stage of your life really can. Michelle is a great cook--whenever I visit, she makes a giant, puffy oven pancake, spiked with a teaspoon of almond extract and spread with homemade plum jam. I think it's supposed to serve eight, but I can easily down half of it in one sitting.
So yes, this is a simple recipe for muffins, something you can throw together in half an hour with ingredients you already have in your pantry and freezer. It might end there, with a delicious batch of muffins that you tear into as soon as they come out of the oven. That's fine. But if you want them to be more than just muffins, if you want them to be a display of affection or a nod to a lifelong friendship, they can be that, too.
Adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, 10th edition
Yield: 12 muffins
- 1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 12 muffin cups with silicon or paper liners.
In a small bowl, toss the raspberries with about 1 tablespoon of the flour.
Beat egg in a medium bowl. Stir in the milk, oil, and almond extract and mix until smooth. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt and mix just until dry ingredients are incorporated--batter will be lumpy. Gently fold in the flour-coated raspberries until evenly distributed.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, and sprinkle with almonds.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
Remove from pan immediately and place on wire rack to cool, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. The muffins will keep well for at least 4 days.