Category Archives: Muffins
It’s been a slow summer for me. I don’t do well in the humid heat of Ra’anana. I feel sluggish, ponderous, as sticky as thick honey. All that, and a bout of pneumonia last week, has left me full of ennui and it hasn’t helped the blogging much either. I haven’t been in much of a mood to cook, or to write about cooking. Pity this hasn’t extended to my appetite, that’s been as healthy as ever, in the most unhealthy of ways.
It took my friend Abby to get me out of my funk. Well, not totally out of it, just to nudge me a bit. She’s been asking me about Rosh Hashana menus. I haven’t really thought about the holiday yet, I mean, it’s not Rosh Hashana until next year…
This Friday Ju-Boy and I are celebrating having survived six years shackled to each other in matrimony.
The wonderful holiday of Shavuot is coming up, it starts tomorrow night, culminating with cheesecake overload on Wednesday night. And then you have just a mere 48 hours before you begin to stuff yourselves with the wonders of Shabbat. Ju-Boy and I have been planning our menu for a while now…
I wouldn’t say we were poor growing up, but my brother and I never had what the other kids had. My parents were Holocaust survivors who came out of the camps with just the rags on their backs and managed to put their lives back together one day at a time. They both found their way out of the ruins of Europe and settled in Sweden, where they met and married. Together they saved up to immigrate to New York where they made a home, created a family and were just happy to live out an existence which was meant to have been extinguished by Hitler. And yet here they were, given a new chance. Money was tight and they weren’t going to let my brother or me waste their hard-earned security on narishkeit.
So what did narishkeit mean in my parents’ world? I’ve touched upon it before when I was denied what I felt were my inalienable rights as a child or teenager. When the Mister Softee truck came tinkling its tune down the street, all the kids had a quarter for a cone. All the kids but me. We never owned a car, so I missed out on those Sunday birthday parties all my classmates attended . As I grew older it meant I didn’t have any spare change for some hot chocolate at the synagogue-sponsored ice skating party on Chanuka. I really felt left out, and nowhere did I feel more left out than at the snack bar, or the ice cream truck. When you’re the only kid without a bucket of popcorn at the movies, it hurts.
When I started to earn a little money of my own I would always spend it on junk food. It was the most amazing feeling being out with friends and not being the only one without a slice of pizza. “Money burns a hole in Miraleh’s pocket,” my mother used to say, and she was right.
I didn’t even need to be among friends for that wonderful rush of buying narishkeit. One of my favorite times was a free hour in between classes at Queens College. I would head over to the kosher cafeteria and spend wonderful minutes deciding what to buy with the $10 an hour I earn teaching kids Hebrew songs and folk dancing at the local community center. One of my most favorite snacks in-between classes was a toasted corn muffin spread with yummy melting butter and a large mug of hot chocolate. I was on top of the world. And even then I was very much like my parents — it didn’t take much to make me happy. Just give me a little foodie freedom and I’m flush with contentment.
Corn muffins is one culinary experience that has never made it to Israel. Thankfully, I can recreate the experience at home. Toasted, served up with some of that sweet and delicious Israeli butter, a large glass mug of hafuch (the Israeli version of a latte) on the side, once again, I’m flush.
This recipe comes from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. The Magnolia Bakery must be one of my most favorite bakeries in the world, although I’ve never been there. If you’re a foodie or love New York, you must have heard of the Magnolia Bakery. I just recently found out that they now have a hechsher, and a pretty good one at that, so you can be sure that the next time I’m in New York I will be one of those standing in the line that stretches all the way down Bleecker Street.
The recipe below is dairy, but I make my corn muffins parve. I also usually double the recipe. Whatever doesn’t get eaten right away freezes beautifully!
One last thing, read through the recipe first before you decide to make it, you don’t want scrambled eggs!
- 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (in Israel you can find this in the couscous section of your supermaket)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I use soymilk)
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, or 150 grams) butter (I use evil margarine), melted and cooled slightly
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (170 degrees C).
- This is the time to melt the butter.
- Grease well 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. That’s what the recipe says. I make smaller muffins (not minis), using a #4 cupcake liner. I can get about 20 medium sized muffins out of this.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, making a well in the center. Stir in the liquid ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. The batter may be lumpy, don’t worry about that. BTW, this is why I told you to melt the butter first. The very first time I made this recipe I was full of hubris and just went ahead without reading it first, didn’t see you had to use melted butter, and did that at the last minute. Pouring the hot butter on top of everything else scrambled the eggs sitting in the liquid in the dry ingredient well. It wasn’t pretty. I almost cried.
- Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Bake for 18-20 minutes (medium muffins need just 15 minutes) until lightly golden or a cake tester inserted into the center of the muffin comes out with moist crumbs attached.
- Do not overbake.
There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good, she was very very good
And when she was bad she was horrid
Once upon a time, back in 1990, I was talking to my friend Cara on the phone and rendered her speechless with these words, “I can’t decide if I’m going to get pregnant tonight or not.” The next day I bumped into her in the supermarket and did it again with these words, “Well, I’m about 12 hours pregnant.”
I’d like to say it was an uneventful pregnancy. Biologically it was. However, if you remember your history correctly, sometime during my first trimester Saddam Hussein started raining SCUD missiles on Israel. While Didi was in her own little sealed room in my womb, her father and I, together with her three older sisters, sat in a sealed room in our apartment, gas masks firmly in place, waiting for the all clear.
Didi was a cuddly little thing, always smiling, happy to have three older slaves sisters to do her little baby bidding. Around the time her curls started to really come in she hit her Terrible Twos. Didi didn’t just have them, she was the poster child. The little girl in this video had nothing on my angel, my Didi could have taught the Master Class in Tantrum Throwing.
Around the time my baby was 5 years old and the Terrible Twos were still alive and kicking I had a little chat with her kindergarden teacher. I had been kicking around a theory that the sealed room within a sealed room had something to do with her personality. I had spoken to a few friends and they also mentioned that their children who had been in utero during the Gulf War were also a tad… difficult. Placement in the family didn’t seem to matter, these were older kids, middle children, the babies in the family. The teacher mulled this over for a moment and said to me, “You know, I’ve been a kindergarden teacher for 20 years, and I have never had such a difficult group of kids as this class!”
When Didi was 11 1/2, just as we were planning her Bat Mitzvah celebration, certain events happened to our family that made me once again enter my sealed room, even though the missiles didn’t come from Iraq, they came from within. Didi had to quickly come to terms with a new family dynamic. All of my daughters found their own ways to deal with what happened, but Didi stuck by me the entire time. In a period where I felt lost, she was always my beacon home, her face and smile a shining light through the darkness.
When my life finally got back on track, Didi was there, and now it was my turn to be her anchor. When she was 14 I got remarried and moved her away from the only home she had ever known to a new town, a new school, a new group of friends, a new family. The first year was hard, but I like to think I was as supportive as I could be, and she has found her niche here in Ra’anana. She truly fits in, and I believe she is happy here.
Last summer Didi turned 18, old enough to vote, old enough to drink, old enough to serve her country. She opted not to be drafted into the Israeli army but to do National Service. She works at a shelter for disadvantaged children, children removed from their homes for various reasons, children whose life stories can make you cry. There’s nothing Didi won’t do for these children. One little girl, whose story is so tragic you just want to cuddle her and protect her and make it better, has become a favorite of hers. Over the Shavuot holiday, when this child had nowhere to go, Didi brought her home. When she saw the child had no clothes for the holiday she went out and spent her own money to buy her a dress and a pair of shoes.
Didi doesn’t believe she’s made a difference this year. Red tape and bureaucracy have made her doubt herself, and she called me last week in tears to rail against a wasted year. I don’t think she’s wasted this year, do you? When I see the smile on this little girl’s face as Didi makes sure she has a good breakfast before going off to the synagogue on the holiday, when I hear the kids kidding around with her in the background while I talk to her on the phone, when I see the countless photos of happy faces she plasters all over Facebook, I see a life that has injected goodness into the lives of others.
Didi, sweet Didi, do not let anyone make you doubt yourself!
A few weeks ago Didi was home for Shabbat. The meal had been mostly cooked and we had a few hours of downtime before candle lighting. “Let’s make something yummy!” suggested Didi. Never one to turn down cooking with my girls, we went to my cookbooks and Didi suggested the recipe below, from my (relatively) new cookbook by Carine Goren, Sweet Secrets.
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup strong tea, cooled
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves (we left this out)
Preheat the oven to 170 C (340 F).
In a bowl mix together the sugar, honey, oil, tea and eggs until evenly combined.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon (and ground cloves). Mix to a lump-free batter.
Pour into muffin pans lined with cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes until the muffins spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean, with moist crumbs.
Carine says the recipe should make two 12 cup muffin pans worth of muffins. We got around 50 smallish muffins and another small pan of Honey Muffin Cake (because we ran out of muffin pans).
We had these for dessert on Friday night, and they were indeed yummy, so mission accomplished. By Saturday morning they were gone! Didi had gone out on Friday night to meet up with her friends, most of whom she never gets to see anymore because they are all doing either National Service or are in the army. She took her handiwork with her. While I mourned the loss of the muffins for the family, I’m very proud of my daughter that she’s turning into her mother, with a need to feed.