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A variety of sweet muffins

PAM ANDERSON | 9/17/2009, 11:20 a.m.

USA WEEKEND Food

Got lots of overnight guests to feed this coming Thanksgiving weekend? Get everyone's day off to a special start by putting out a basket of these warm muffins. Add a platter of fresh fruit, juices and coffee, and it's a serve-yourself-whenever, guest-friendly morning.

Follow the master recipe, adding your choice of flavoring when directed. Also, be sure to check the capacity of your muffin pan's cups. Some are smaller than the half-cup size called for in this recipe. If they are, you'll just have more to enjoy! All can be frozen for up to one month in freezer bags.Flavorings (see specific recipes below)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tb. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 stick plus 2 Tbs. butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees (or 450 degrees for mini-muffins, which need the higher heat to brown perfectly).

Prepare your preferred flavoring from the list below (add as directed below). Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, then alternating 1/3 at a time, beat in the flour mixture, then the yogurt, until a smooth, thick batter just forms.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with 1/2-cup capacity (or four 12-cup mini-muffin tins) with vegetable cooking spray, or use paper liners. Divide batter evenly among the cups. A spring-action regular or mini ice cream scoop works well. The muffin cups will be full.

Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 12 minutes for the mini-muffins and about 25 for the regular ones. Set pan(s) on a wire rack to cool slightly, remove muffins and continue to cool, or serve.

Makes 12 regular muffins or 48 mini-muffinsLemon-Poppy Seed Muffins: Add 3 Tbs. poppy seeds and 1 Tb. lemon zest to the dry ingredients. Spoon half the batter into each muffin cup. Dipping a spoon in water as necessary, make a well in each cup of batter. Using a generous 1/4 cup of store-bought lemon curd, drop a heaping teaspoon of lemon curd in each well (or 1/4 tsp. in the mini pans). Top with remaining batter. These work best in the regular muffin pans.

Date-Walnut Muffins: Add 1 cup each of chopped dates and toasted walnuts to dry ingredients, and add 2 tsps. vanilla to the eggs.

Chocolate Chip-Cherry Muffins: Add 1 cup each of coarsely chopped dried cherries and miniature chocolate chips to the dry ingredients, and add 1/2 tsp. almond extract to the eggs.Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins: Per muffin: 319 calories, 6g protein, 46g carbohydrates, 13g fat (7.2g saturated), 73mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 345mg sodium

Per mini-muffin: 80 calories, 2g protein, 11g carbohydrates, 3g fat (1.8g saturated), 18mg cholesterol, 0g fiber, 86mg sodium

Date-Walnut Muffins: Per muffin: 400 calories, 7g protein, 54g carbohydrates, 18g fat (7.6g saturated), 65mg cholesterol, 3g fiber, 344mg sodium

Per mini-muffin: 100 calories, 2g protein, 14g carbohydrates, 5g fat (1.9g saturated), 16mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 86mg sodium

Chocolate Chip-Cherry Muffins: Per muffin: 402 calories, 7g protein, 60g carbohydrates, 16g fat (9.6g saturated), 65mg cholesterol, 2g fiber, 346mg sodium

Per mini-muffin: 101 calories, 2g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 4g fat (2.4g saturated), 16mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 86mg sodium