The first muffin recipe on here, and for very good reason, too.
I love the word and idea of muffins, all warm and friendly and tucked in. Mr. Pear once had a cat called Muffin, a deeply suitable name for a soft friend who naps in sunny spots around your home. But as to the actual quickbread, it takes a lot of persuading for me to make muffins; if I want a cake-like thing in the morning, I prefer to continue lying to myself about cookies with oatmeal or loaf cakes being choices more wholesome than other cakes, and therefore suitable for breakfast. That’s just how I’m made.
But I’ve long been fascinated by the sprightly, knowledgeable writing of Molly Wizenburg, particularly how she describes the making of Marion Cunningham’s fresh ginger muffins. It’s such an interesting technique, cooking the minced fresh ginger with sugar; it becomes, as Molly says, more a sensation, a feeling, in the resulting golden muffins. It gently warms the back of the throat, as fresh ginger tends to do–a more delicate proposition than, say, traditional British ginger cakes, which are bold and sticky. They both comfort in different ways.
This is a year-round sort of thing to bake, but perhaps you’ll be in a particular mood for it as the months grow cold and rainy.
SMALL BATCH FRESH GINGER MUFFINS
Halved from Orangette; makes 6 muffins. Keeps for about 3 days in an airtight tin; really best eaten warm, so heat for a few seconds in microwave on medium.
1 piece of unpeeled ginger root weighing approximately 40g/1.5 oz, carefully washed
83g granulated sugar, but since you’ll add sugar in batches, it’s easier to measure it out as 7 1/2 tablespoons
1 tbsp grated lemon zest (from 1 fat lemon or thereabouts)
56g/4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature soft
1 UK medium (US large) egg
120 ml/1/2 cup buttermilk (I soured some whole milk with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)
125g/1 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
scant 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
A good grating of fresh nutmeg (optional)
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C/170 fan (375 degrees F). Grease a muffin tin, or line with papers.
Finely mince or grate the whole, unpeeled ginger root (or cut into large chunks and process until it’s in tiny pieces). Measure out 2 packed tbsp–too much is better than too little, like the original recipe says, so I often just use the whole root. Put the ginger and 2 tbsp sugar in a small pan and cook over medium heat, stirring watchfully for a minute or two until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot. Set aside to cool.
In a medium mixing bowl, rub together the lemon zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Add to the ginger mixture.
In the emptied mixing bowl, beat the butter for a second or two just to soften, then add remaining 4 tbsp sugar, beating well. Thoroughly mix in the egg, then stir in buttermilk (or soured milk), not worrying about curdles. Add the flour, salt, bicarbonate soda, and nutmeg if using, beating just until smooth. Add the ginger-lemon mixture, mixing until well combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve warm.