Monday, November 12, 2007

Muffin and pancake day...

I had just about a half cup left in a jar of apple butter lounging around in the refrigerator that I've been trying to figure out how to use up. Today seemed like a good day to bake a batch of muffins and this recipe for Spiced Apple Cider Muffins would take care of that leftover apple butter!

I know the ingredient list for the muffin batter looks a little long, but for these muffins it is worth it! I used a combination of all-purpose flour and white whole-wheat flour - we spiced the two flours with a healthy dose of cinnamon and a sprinkling of fresh grated nutmeg for that wonderful fall aroma they give. The muffins are sweetened with a mixture of brown sugar and an equal amount of pure maple syrup for a rich depth. Keeping the muffins light and quite moist is a combination of apple butter, apple cider, tangy yogurt and just a few tablespoons of oil.

Now, I'm sure they would have been tasty enough as is, but these get even better with the buttery sweet crumbles from a cinnamon-scented streusel tossed on top before baking. If you have an affinity for nuts, add a couple tablespoons of finely chopped walnuts or pecans to the streusel mixture before you top the muffins for a nutty crunch. When I make these again, I think we may reduce the cinnamon a little and toss in a few cinnamon chips for an extra special treat.

Jeff loves when we have a breakfast-for-dinner night, so I made Orange-Ricotta Pancakes for us to have this evening. I must confess this recipe is a little more involved than most, but it does produce a very light and fluffy pancake!

Instead of just relying on baking powder or soda as a leavener, we separated the eggs and whipped the whites to stiff peaks to help lighten the more heavy ricotta batter. Kissing the pancakes with a bright sweetness is grated orange zest and a couple tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice. I did find that these took a couple extra minutes to completely cook through than normal pancakes, but they browned evenly without getting any darker from being on the griddle longer. We gave them a shower in confectioners' sugar when we ate them as to not cover up the orange-y flavor, but they were not overly sweet, so they could handle a drizzle of maple syrup on top. We quite liked the mild ricotta flavor and it made for a pretty filling pancake - however, with the airy egg whites doing their thang, they also didn't leave that heavy pit in your stomach if you ate more than you should have (hint hint...).

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