Julember: ‘Tis the Season to Sit by the Fire and Eat Comfort Food

While most of the world is experiencing the summer fun of July, here in my part of the world we are experiencing Julember – the calendar may indicate it is July, but the weather is indicating it is November.  With temps hovering around 9C, I have spent the past week thinking of soup instead of salad, socks instead of sandals, and Santa instead of summer.  The normally ignored fireplace has been lit every day this week and I have been knitting – not one of my regular summer activities.

So, when a recipe for strawberry muffins popped up in my Facebook feed I jumped at the chance to mix a traditional comfort food with a summery delight.  I gathered the ingredients and immediately called my visiting sister and her family to drop over for a sit by the fire, coffee, and muffins.

With help from my adorable nine-year-old niece, and changes to the recipe to veganise it, the dual season muffin-making began.

As always, prepare your flax egg first:  1 tbsp of flaxseed and 3 tbsp of water.  Mix in a small ramekin and let gel.

This is also a good time to hull, clean, and chop the strawberries.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened (each Earth Balance butter stick is 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 flax egg
  • 2 cups flour  (Your choice; I used all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy, but almond or rice milk will work just as well)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped organic strawberries

TOPPING:

  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • I usually make a small bottle of sugar and cinnamon to have on hand so I don’t have to prepare this much-used topping every time a recipe calls for it.  

With your nine-year-old niece having a tight grip on the mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the flax egg and mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and let the wee child stir it about. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture (much more fun when two people are doing this!). Add vanilla. Stir in strawberries.

Spoon batter into muffin pans and sprinkle the topping on the batter.  Of course, only small children are allowed to sprinkle the topping on the muffins. 

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

This recipe makes one dozen regular-sized muffins.

Now announce to all and sundry that the beaters, bowls, spoons, and spatulas are ready to be licked!  Go sit by the Julember fire and enjoy!!

BEFORE:

strawberry muffins raw

AFTER:

strawberry muffins cooked

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Buckwheat Sourdough Muffins

Note the empty muffin cup: I couldn’t even resist long enough to take a pic!

If you’ve made my sourdough starter and buckwheat cakes, no doubt you’ve wondered what else you could do with the sourdough each weekend. How about some muffins? This is super simple. The dates and cinnamon blend with the buckwheat flavor beautifully and subtly. I eat these hot straight from the oven.

These muffins aren’t super sweet. I love the flavor, but if you want a sweeter muffin, you can bump up the sweetness by adding slightly more sugar or more dates or both.

1 cup buckwheat sourdough starter (See sourdough starter post)
1 cup white flour
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbls sugar
2 Tbls oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup chopped dried dates
1 tsp cinnamon (I use a strong Saigon cinnamon, aka Vietnamese cinnamon.)

Preheat oven 350.

Put the 1 cup sourdough starter into a bowl. (The rest of the starter you will replenish and put back in the refrigerator until the next weekend; see Sourdough Starter post.) Add all the rest of the ingredients to the bowl with the 1 cup of starter. There may be a better way of doing this, like mixing this and that, then adding…but I just dump all the ingredients into the bowl on top of the 1 cup of starter and stir it all together vigorously. No need to get out your mixer. It whips up into a batter very quickly. I stir until the flour is completely incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among one dozen muffin cups. I use silicon muffin cup liners.

Bake 20-25 mins. (My oven it’s 25, yours may vary. Toothpick inserted should come out clean.) If you love the flavor of buckwheat, you’ll love this as well as my Sweet Weekend Sourdough Buckwheat Cakes.

Pumpkin Muffins

pumpkin muffinsToday it is 27C and humid, but last week it was cold and RDF (rain, drizzle, and fog) so I was looking for something cozy and comforting to make; something that would be tasty with a cup of hot tea or coffee.  These pumpkin muffins hit the spot – perfectly moist with just enough raisins to make it chewy.

You will need:

  • flax eggs to equal four eggs (4 tbsp flax seed with 12 tbsp of water – make this first so it has time to set [about 15 minutes] before you need to add it to the recipe)
  • 2 cups of sugar (I used organic)
  • 1 1/2 cups of oil (I used canola)
  • 1 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups of flour (I used spelt)
  • 2 cups raisins (I used organic)

Put flax eggs in a large bowl.  Add sugar, pumpkin, oil, and beat thoroughly.

Add dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until batter is smooth.  Stir in raisins.

Fill muffin pans almost to the top (about 2/3 full) and bake at 375.  I found the muffins took about 25 minutes before they weren’t dunchy in the middle, but you should probably check on them after 15-20 minutes.

This recipe yields 30 regular size muffins.

Every Day Muffins

Ah, hot muffins!

Ah, hot muffins!

This is my “go to” recipe for muffins. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s versatile, and best of all you can have a hot muffin any time you want one. 😀 The recipe is ideal for both small families and large families because you can make just the number of muffins you want and they’re ready in about 20 minutes because this is a huge make-ahead recipe…I don’t even know how many the batter will make because I lose count over time. The recipe is a variation on Six Week Raisin Bran Muffins. It gets its name the fact that the batter will keep (allegedly) up to six weeks in the refrigerator. I don’t think I’ve quite made it to six weeks and once you taste these muffins you know why! 😉

The link above will give you a recipe similar to mine. It has more fat than my version. (The recipe I got from a friend twenty years ago called for shortening instead of vegetable oil and I use less oil than the recipe above.) I’ve also made a number of other changes to the recipe…notably I use 16 oz Post Great Grains Raisin, Date and Pecan cereal, (I have on occasion added some extra dates), and I use 2% milk instead of buttermilk. I only use 3/4 cups oil (the recipe above uses more). I have also cut the amount of sugar to 2 1/2cups sugar (and you might be able to cut that down a bit more). Below the slideshow of images you’ll find my version of this wonderful muffin!

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1 (16 oz) box Post Great Grains Raisin, Date and Pecan cereal
1 qt 2% milk
3/4 cups of vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
5 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp salt
5 cups flour

Mix the ingredients in a large non-metal bowl. (Hint: use your biggest bowl because this makes a lot. I’ve only got two non-metal bowls that can hold this much and it’s up to the brim and impossible to stir in one of them!) Mix the cereal, milk and oil first. I sometimes let it sit for 10 minutes before giving it a good stirring and adding the other ingredients. I think it helps the bran to get a bit softened and mushy if you’re going to make muffins right away. The batter is best when chilled at least a day after being mixed, but you can use it right away. The consistency of the muffins will be a bit different, however. I add the baking soda and salt next, then the sugar and eggs, beating them in by hand with a wooden spoon. No matter what order you mix ingredients — I mention this because some versions specify that they should be mixed in the order listed above — the flour should always be added last. I stir in a couple of cups of flour, then another cup or two until I’ve stirred in the whole five cups. The batter shouldn’t look homogenous; it will look lumpy not just from the fruit and nuts, but from the flour. Get all the flour wet, but don’t over mix (another reason to stir this by hand).

Keep covered and refrigerated. Use as needed. To bake you can use greased and floured muffin tins, paper liners, or silicon liners in a muffin tin. Preheat oven 400º and bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. The batter (allegedly) keeps up to 6 weeks. The batter may become thinner over time. This is nothing to worry about. You can add a little more flour if you like. If not using it for a while, it helps to stir the batter periodically.

If using paper liners, let the muffins cool a bit or they will tear up when you peel them. Likewise they will be difficult to separate from the paper liners if left to get stone cold. You can usually pop them out of silicon liners right away. 🙂

Variations: This recipe lends itself to myriad variations based on the type of cereal used. The original recipe called for raisin bran, but there are a number of bran cereals with fruit and nuts which can be used instead. I don’t measure the number of cups of cereal, but try to get a box of a similar size to what I usually use if I’m trying a different kind of cereal. You can also add additional dried fruit and nuts to the recipe, such as more raisins, dates, pecans, walnuts, etc. You can also add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. I sometimes sprinkle a little bit of nutmeg on top of the muffins before baking. If you experiment with adding spices when you mix up the batter, I would advise going easy on the spices because if you add too much or the spice blend doesn’t work you’ve got a lot of muffins to eat before you can make a better batch! 😉

The recipe is great for a snack with a mug of hot tea, or breakfast, or brunch with friends. You can have a hot homemade muffin (or two!) any day, every day, any time. 🙂

Craisin Muffins

craisin muffinsToday I was in dire need of baked goods. Yes, dire need. I decided to make muffins, but it was one of those days when every recipe I read required more ingredients than I had on hand. Improvisation and veganisation was needed! I used Boyfriend’s muffin cookbook, found a recipe entitled Christmas Morning Cranberry Muffins, and proceeded to change just about every ingredient – the original recipe called for cranberries, white sugar, all purpose flour, walnuts, eggs, and orange peel. I have to admit I was afraid they would only be fit for the garbage, but they turned out lovely. Now renamed Craisin Muffins, this is what you will need:

  • 1 cup Craisins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) salt
  • 5 ml (2 tsp) cinnamon
  • 5 ml (2 tsp) ground cloves
  • 1 flax egg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup melted Earth Balance butter sticks

To make the flax egg (as suggested by the all-knowing Boyfriend), put 1/3 cup flax meal in a bowl and mix with water until just moist. Let sit about 10 minutes until flax meal swells and is a gluey texture.

Preheat oven to 375F. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground cloves, and Craisins. Add the flax egg, orange juice, and melted butter. Combine until the mixture is moist. Fill greased muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes. They may not be pretty, but they sure are tasty.