Crunchy Ginger Muffins

February 23, 2010


Breakfast, Cakes, Cupcakes, Dough & Desserts, Fall, Local Eating, Recipes, Winter

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Cake is a favorite food, though sadly it can come with some baggage. Having cake for breakfast, day after day, is a loaded decision, for example…unless you’re someone who really has no qualms about those kinds of social conventions. I’ll have some cake or pastry from time to time, but reaching for it for a week straight might make me wonder if my pants were feeling a tad tighter. Fortunately, those issues really do exist mostly in our minds. So I decided to trick my brain a bit and give my cakes a circular shape, rendering them more like muffins than dessert. You might even call these cupcakes, but then you would spoil my plan.


Melissa Clark first pointed out this interesting distinction in 2008, in a recipe that inspired my original food blog, TASTE. She asked a friendly pastry chef what the distinction between cupcakes and muffins really was. And the answer—very little. Except the obvious things we all recognize: muffins happen at breakfast. And they usually don’t have thick coats of frosting. Muffins are a little bit crispy around the edges, maybe, and tend to have a bit of texture somewhere… nuts or something. Nobody ever puts anything in the batter of a cupcake—except maybe cream filling.


So, even if the batter is about the same, quite a few important distinctions set these pastries apart from their ‘sweeter’ kin. These are one of the best possible hybrids: gingerbread cake in the shape of a cupcake, with key attributes of a muffin. If that’s not healthy, I don’t know what is. Best of all, they are a total meal/snack hybrid, very well accompanied by a smear of crunchy peanut butter at about 4pm.

The fact that these are more cake than muffin will become quickly apparent to the cook. The batter is extremely wet and somewhat labor intensive as far as muffins go. This is no, throw-wet-and-dry-together-and-stir affair. So don’t worry when your baking soda renders your molasses and oil a murky fizz. Fret not when you pour your liquid dough into your paper muffin cups, and try not to be alarmed by the long cooking time. Remind yourself, for just a second, that these really are miniature gingerbread cakes and then move on. Don’t dwell on the oil or sugar glaze. Just eat them for breakfast as if they were as hale as a bowl of steel cut oats. It all depends on how you think of things.


Like Melissa, I drizzled these with a bit of glaze, just to give them an extra bit of texture. I changed a few things, though. For posterity, I threw in some whole-wheat flour. I also replaced the currants with more pecans, as I am a crunchy fanatic. I couldn’t remember how these went when I baked them for the first time in April, 2008, and I almost added more flour before sending them to the oven as the batter looked too wet. I managed to control myself, which was fortunate—have I mentioned that the batter is meant to be runny? Finally, I undercooked these a touch. I like my breakfast chewy and supple. Just like dessert…


Crunchy Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 diminutive muffins
Time: 1 hour

Butter for greasing muffin tin

1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup dark molasses
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
5 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, boil ½ c water and pour into a large bowl.

Whisk in baking soda until dissolved, then add molasses and oil.

When mixture is tepid, whisk in eggs and grated ginger.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk flour, sugar, spices and salt.

Gently fold wet ingredients into dry and add pecans and ginger, stirring minimally.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, just under 30 minutes.

Cool in pan then transfer to wire rack.

In the meantime, whisk confectioners’ sugar and whole milk. Spoon glaze evenly over muffins. Sprinkle tops with remaining tablespoon crystallized ginger.

Yield: 1 dozen muffins.

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