I almost skipped today’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge. Buttermilk crumb muffins just don’t sound that enticing to me – especially since I still have a half dozen pumpkin muffins stored in the freezer.
Also, a plain muffin, with a trace of cinnamon and nutmeg for flavor, made from vegetable shorting and buttermilk? Not so much. But I really want to get back on the Tuesday with Dorie bandwagon, so when I saw the first harvest of cranberries at the market last week, inspiration finally took hold.
This recipe found its way into Baking with Julia courtesy of Marion Cunningham, who demonstrated it on the TV show. I wrote about Marion last winter when the TWD group baked her Irish Soda bread. Marion passed away in June, her long struggle with Alzheimer’s finally done. That alone, is reason enough to try her muffins.
It’s a pretty simple formula – you can see the recipe at easier than pie, the blog of our challenge host, Alisa. The trick with this recipe is to see it as a blank canvas. I replaced the shortening – something long since banished from my cooking, with coconut oil. Even if the verdict isn’t completely in on the healthy qualities of this fat, it it’s still a lot better for you than shortening. And, instead of buttermilk, I went with a half a cup of yogurt mixed with a half a cup of orange juice.
But the three additions that really elevated these muffins were fresh cranberries, orange zest and grated ginger. Mine are mini-muffin sized, perfect with coffee or tea. I am delighted to report the coconut oil worked beautifully. For this recipe, you blend together small pieces of the fat with the flour – just as you would for a pie. And just as for pie crust, imperfectly blended chunks of fat are an asset. As Marion said, “that’s what makes them tender.”
Tender they are – and the cranberries provide a sour note, unexpected, but lovely. The recipe is an important reminder that nearly ever recipe is an adaptation of another. In baking as in cooking, and in many other of life’s pursuits, we are lucky to stand on the shoulders of others. Like Dorie, Julia, and Marion.
Be sure to visit the main site for Tuesdays with Dorie, where you can see all the treats these simple muffins inspired.