Saturday, October 14, 2006

Allspice Crumb Muffins

This morning we made the Allspice Crumb Muffins (page 16) from the Baking From My Home to Yours book by Dorie Greenspan as part of the cookbook spotlight. Let me start off by saying that this is a very pretty book. Great photographs of most all recipes, loads of baking tips, guides to equipment, many sections and categories of baked goods to make. She also makes a point of telling you in each recipes what steps you can take before hand, if they freeze well, serving suggestions, etc. We spent a long time pouring over it trying to decide what make before settling on these muffins.

That said, I was a little disappointed in the muffins. They look beautiful but the taste, well, it just wasn't there. They are called allspice crumb muffins but the recipe only called for 1/2 teaspoon of allspice in the muffin and another 1/2 teaspoon in the crumb topping. My husband added a little bit more than that to the batter and you still couldn't taste it. The muffins had a great texture, light and fluffy, the streusel held up well in the oven (instead of melting away- a common streusel issue) and they were tasty but they were very bland. They tasted like a muffin that was missing an ingredient. Possibly allspice.

Flavor aside, the actual recipe was odd as well, it called for you to mix together the flour and brown sugar until there was no lumps. That was difficult due to the sticky, clumping nature of brown sugar. I wondered why she had us mix it with the dry ingredients rather than cream with the butter, which would have been both a bit easier and the traditional method of baking. It didn't seem to affect the taste at all, so I am not sure why she introduced this technique. Anyway, it was fine, just a little odd. What I didn't like was that while she was very wordy in her directions, she didn't mention things I felt were important, like how far to fill the muffin pan, or how much streusel to sprinkle on each muffin. We sprinkled a large amount of streusel on each muffin, and it looked great, but we ended up with a whole bowl leftover of crumbs. I hate having leftovers of that sort of thing, it's not like we are going to immediately make something else with same topping so it goes to waste. Not to mention the fact that it used a fair amount of butter-not the cheapest of ingredients. There was no way we could have added any more streusel without it all falling off and burning on the pan, so I think it was an error on her part, not ours. The pictures of the muffins in the books and what we made are virtually identical.

She also says that the taste is stronger and better when the muffins are at room temperature, we had them both slightly warm and at room temperature and they tasted the same. I find it a little irksome that she created a muffin that will deepen in flavor over time, because over time, it will also begin to stale.

I did like some things about the muffins. The recipe said it made 12 and we made 13, which is a reasonable amount of muffins and fairly accurate. I like how she pointed out that they freeze well and that you could make the streusel a few days ahead of time, something that might be a good idea if you are in a hurry in the mornings but still want homemade muffins or if you have guests and don’t want to spend all of your time cooking. I also think the recipe would be better if you quadrupled (at least) the amount of allspice, which I didn’t the first time because I was following the directions exactly.

My disappointment in the muffins will not discourage me from making other recipes in the book (although it is hard for me to follow recipes, I am so used to making things up as I go along) and I will report back here. I am hoping that this recipe is just a fluke and the rest are better-not just pretty on the outside, but tasty too.

If you click on the above picture, you will be taken to a larger image and will be able to read the recipe.