Fresh Ginger Muffins

In their early days, muffins were virtuous beings. Just little things, sweet and tender, they were nourishing, sharing their seat at the breakfast table with other wholesome fare. Muffins, they had our best interests at heart.

Upload from November 21, 2011

But, somewhere along the way, a big group of these noble baked goods got distracted. Lured by the promise of popularity and an eternal shelf-life, they hit the pantry, shooting up sugars and fats in the name of commercial viability. No longer content with the wholly-resonable confines of their pan, they grew to twice their size, developing (and contributing to) the nefarious muffin top. These new monster muffins? They didn’t care about us one bit.  

Upload from November 21, 2011

Not one to enable breakfast foods gone wrong, I relegated these new muffins to the recesses of my mind. I labeled them “Confused Cupcakes” and shelved them not far from the masses of sugary treats masquerading as kids’ breakfast cereals. Washing the flour and betrayal from my hands, I bid muffins a regretful adieu. 

Last week, everything changed.

Upload from November 21, 2011

You see, last Friday, I was presented with old-school muffins, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Homemade, dense-yet-tender muffins that didn’t scream with sweetness or beg for buttercream. Muffins that were delightfully self-confident in their muffinness. 

Of course, I knew before that first bite that the muffins of my past still existed. But the knowledge was hidden behind the monster muffins, in the depths of my mind. And sometimes, it takes a batch of banana-chocolate-chip to really make you see again (right?). 

Upload from November 21, 2011

This weekend, I made muffins for the first time in ages. To combat the deepening cold, I went for a recipe using fresh ginger and lemon zest. The resulting little cakes are spicy and warm, with crisp tops that are impressively domed, especially considering that I dropped the muffin pan, full of batter, upside down right before I put it in the oven (whether that’s bad muffin karma or good, I haven’t yet decided). 

My camera battery died literally seconds before I had a chance to take the muffins out of the pan (ok, maybe it’s bad karma), so you’ll have to imagine the deep golden colour of their sides and the fine crumb of their interiors. But take it from a muffin skeptic — it’s so worth it to find out for yourself.
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Fresh Ginger Muffins
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.com
Makes 12-16 medium-sized muffins

Ingredients
1 large piece of unpeeled ginger root, washed (~4 oz - enough to yield 1/4 cup when minced) 
3/4 cup + 3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest (~2 lemons-worth)
2 cups all-purpose flour*
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk

Directions
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease or line with liners your muffin pan. 

2. Cut the ginger root into large chunks and process in the bowl of a food processor until it’s finely minced**. Place the minced ginger and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, mix together 3 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp lemon zest and let sit for a few minutes while the ginger mixture cools, then stir the lemon-sugar mixture into the ginger mixture.

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3. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat again until combined. Add in the eggs and beat until combined. Stir in the buttermilk. 

Upload from November 21, 20114. Make a well in the flour mixture, then pour the liquid mixture into the well. Stir with a wooden spoon just until the liquid and dry ingredients are combined. Add in the ginger-lemon mixture and stir just until it’s evenly incorporated through the batter. Scoop batter into your prepared muffin pan, filling muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out moist, but clean. Let muffins cool in the pan on a rack for a minute, then remove from the pan and allow to cool on the rack completely. 

Upload from November 21, 2011

*I used 1 1/4 cups all purpose and 3/4 cup whole wheat, with tasty results!
**Alternatively, you can finely mince the ginger root by hand (coarse grating followed by a good bit of chopping may work fine too).  

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