Thursday, February 18, 2010

CHOCOLATE CHIP BUTTERMILK MUFFINS

BREAKFAST LOVE


I grew up in a home where breakfast was “catch as catch can”. From the tender age of 5 or 6, as early as I can remember, we were on our own. Stumbling out of bed and into the kitchen in our jammies, we were in charge of rifling through the multitude of boxes of cereal, grabbing down a bowl and pouring the milk, washing bowl and spoon then scooting off to get dressed then hopping onto our bike and pedaling off to school, lunch money or brown paper lunch sack in hand, all on our lonesome. Though never homemade, the breakfast choice was indeed great: we could go the honorable route and opt for a bowl of Raisin Bran or Cornflakes or fall into the sweet trap, pouring out a generous helping of Cap’n Crunch, Fruit Loops or Cocoa Krispies (or Count Chocula, depending on the year, and the first one to open the box got the prize!). Who worried about balanced meals or cavities back then? All that mattered was that our tummies were full and our sugar level high. If we so desired, we could rip open a packet of instant oatmeal in a rainbow variety if flavors, and have something hot, but a small kid or, later on, a teen, was rarely in the mood for this kind of cooking! Weekends were long, slow and lazy and the choice usually turned to Pop Tarts, chocolate frosted or unfrosted cherry warm from the toaster and slathered with salted butter, or maybe two slices of cinnamon toast. Either way, we were on our own, everyone in the house, and there were six of us, responsible for his or herself and rarely, if ever, bumping into another during those wee pre-school mornings.


Mom, as I have claimed many a time, did not like cooking. Dinner she dutifully had on the table every evening at 6 on the nose, but breakfast and lunch she relinquished early on, brushed her hands of, so to speak, whatever she knew we could take care of ourselves. She never doubted that we would eat, worried not that we’d leave for school on an empty stomach and rarely thought to ask. Yes, she did make that occasional pot of steaming hot oatmeal on a chilly winter Sunday morning, but I just cannot remember a time when we all sat down to enjoy breakfast together as a family. Dad was up and breakfasting literally at the crack of dawn in order to join his carpool at 6:30 every day of the week, and one or the other of us managed to pass him in the kitchen of a morning, but I cannot imagine that mom ever dragged herself out of bed to join him for the meal. And heaven forbid she ever play the June Cleaver and get out of bed, doll herself up and rush off to fix him scrabbled eggs and toasted English muffins at 5:30!

Early on, JP and I got in the habit, the rhythm of always eating breakfast together. Maybe this was something that came from his side of the family, but for whatever reason, we always enjoyed sharing this quiet, early-morning meal together. For many years we were joined by both sons. Whether Milan, Nerviano or Sucy-en-Brie, breakfast was a family affair. A warm kitchen, the wonderful, inviting aroma of coffee and a table spread out with everyone’s favorite treats. Store bought, but treats all the same. Weekends would call for a trip to the neighborhood pasticceria for sweet rolls or cream- or jam-filled brioche, or the boulangerie for croissants and a warm, soft baguette viennoise. We could be sure that the boys ate enough and drank a tall glass of milk or a warm mug of cocoa and we could have cozy family time, starting the day off with a smile.


As the boys grew older, times and schedules changed, as JP left earlier and earlier for work and children evolved into teens, breakfast became our private quiet time, JP and I alone, sitting in the still chilly kitchen waiting for the heating to kick on and the coffee to drip, the sky dark and mysterious through the slats of the shutters. We had time to chat alone about the boys, work, life. We would listen to the fox and her newborn kits mewling under the diningroom in Sucy or the rats scratching around outside in Nerviano, the hotel waking up outside our apartment in Milan and we shared just a little peace and quiet at the beginning of our day.

And we still do. Whether at 7 on a normal day, earlier when he has to catch a train or a bit later on the weekend, we pop (well, “pop” is rather a strong word for that early in the morning, more like “roll and stagger”) out of bed and one of us starts the coffee. In our busy, busy lives, when Clem is either up and out early or in bed until we’ve already finished lunch, when Simon is living his own schedule and grumpy until noon and I can never be sure if JP will make it home for lunch or what time he’ll walk in the door in the evening, when Simon will decide that he’s off to eat junk food with his friends late in the afternoon or Clem will just not show up at all, breakfast is our one sure thing. The house is quiet, the city is just waking up, even Marty is too tired to crawl out of bed and come see what’s going on, and we are alone in the world. I have always wondered if our finding this time together, sharing breakfast and a laugh every morning isn’t the glue that has kept our marriage together.

I love baking things just for breakfast. Sweet quick breads, cookies, cakes or muffins, easy, cozy, homey treats that everyone loves. I was in the mood for muffins this week and as berries are currently out of season, I knew that chocolate chips would be the mystery ingredient. Mmmm. I had half a bottle of thick, fresh buttermilk in the refrigerator that I knew I wanted to use. Buttermilk gives such wonderful texture to cakes. And cinnamon, that perfect companion for chocolate, to add a dash of warmth. And just enough grated orange zest to give a subtle hint of citrus to freshen it up. I found a recipe on the Joy of Baking website and doodled around a bit until I had what I wanted. I created these wonderful Chocolate Chip Muffins, 6 large heart-shaped muffins for my love, almost 2-dozen tiny mini muffins for the sons. The top gave a slight crunch, the inside crumb tender and delicate. Tiny chocolate chips, a hint of orange and cinnamon all made for the perfect muffin, not too sweet, not overpowering, just perfect.


As soon as they were out of the oven, I lost half the mini muffins to a hungry, persnickety teenager who, after scarfing down a platterful of these babies, washed down with half a container of milk, explained that he couldn’t find anything else to eat for lunch so he ate muffins. Just goes to show you how delicious these muffins are.


I also baked these Chocolate Chip Muffins for my Monthly Mingle Bread & Chocolate, and event created by my friend Meeta.


CHOCOLATE CHIP BUTTERMILK MUFFINS
Adapted from a Joy of Baking recipe

1 ½ cups (325 g) flour
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
2 tsps baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon *
Finely grated zest of ½ to 1 orange, to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup (180 ml) buttermilk
2/3 cup (160 ml) vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup (about 75 g) mini chocolate chips

* if you prefer, eliminate the orange zest and increase the cinnamon to ½ tsp

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease or line with paper cupcake cups either 12 regular-sized cupcake tins or a variation, as you like (2 dozen or so mini cups or 6 jumbo).

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and orange zest in a large mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Combine the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla in a large measuring cup or a bowl and whisk until well blended.

Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, stir and fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the batter is well blended and smooth. Do not over beat or over mix as this can lead to a tougher muffin.

Fill each muffin cup ¾ full and bake for about 20 minutes (time may vary depending on your oven and the size of the muffins) until the muffins are puffed, golden and set and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven and carefully lift each muffin out of the tin and allow to cool on a rack.


37 comments:

Deeba PAB said...

Ola...just my kinda brekkie. Mr PAB and me sit over brekkie together, every single day, no matter what time it might be. YUM YUM muffins .... love them!!

Sari said...

Hard to imagine getting up at 7 and having breakfast. I just can't eat anything if I get up before 9, especially when public transport travel follows! ;)
These muffins look delicious. I like the cinnamon flavour!

Cathy said...

Wish I had one (or two) of these scrumptious muffins with the cup of coffee I have sitting right here on my desk. That's the way to start the day!

Debbie said...

Loving the photography- inspired by the new camera perhaps? You must not have received my care package as it would have been perfect for today's blog. C'est la vie ma cherie.

Maria said...

These are super cute!

diva said...

oh a good muffin can make all your worries go away! :) lovely these are and can't say no to buttermilk :D

lisaiscooking said...

Your childhood breakfast routine sounds very familiar. Thinking back, I'm amazed a the variety of cereals we always had on hand.

The heart-shaped muffins are so cute! I'm in the mood for muffins today too.

heather.davis said...

I really like your description of your childhood breakfasts. I can relate! These muffins look scrumptious. Glad the teenager liked them. That's always high praise. Will definitely try them with my kids. Any excuse for chocolate in the morning.

Deborah Mele said...

Look great Jamie! I'm a muffin girl myself!
Here is my Monthly Mingle contribution @ http://tinyurl.com/y88yes9

Elra said...

You know I very rarely make muffins, since this one has chocolate in it, I am pretty tempted now.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Although I never eat in the morning, I'd be very tempted to eat one or two tomorrow for breakfast!

Cheers,

Rosa

Nicisme said...

I'd be having a muffin if they had been around in my home, especially if they looked as wonderful as yours! We just used to get cereal mostly.

sarah said...

I envy your breakfast routine. Lovely. These look like a great say to come out of the morning stupor that I find myself in when I first get up.

Now, tell me, is there a kebab stick holding up that big stack of muffins? How did you get them to stay like that??

Jamie said...

@sarah - LOL! That's funny and I even thought about doing that but I really didn't have to as long as I snapped the picture fast!

sarah said...

Aha! Fast shutter speed is all you need... Thanks for telling me.

Jenn said...

Aww...I love the heart shape muffins. I'm not much of a morning person, but I'd definitely get up early for a couple of these muffins.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I would be so happy to wake up to one of your delicious heart shaped muffins!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Muffins are not bread? Have you bent the rules?! I considered doing chocolate croissants but decided they were pastries rather than bread and ended up with the horrendous brioche that I inflicted on you by Twitter this evening.

Anyway, they look lovely and I would devour them for breakfast given a chance.

Snooky doodle said...

I enjoyed reading your post! I like the early time in the morning. It s so quiet and nice. These muffins look so good!

Gastronomy Gal said...

I'm not a breakfast person at all! Maybe muffins would be ok though- and now you have got me craving cinnamon toast!

Julia @Mélanger said...

Wow, how crazy were your breakfasts as a child. My mother was quite strict with our food, particularly sugar. (Though, I was quite a hyperactive child, so probably why - LOL!)

I really do love a lazy breakfast. These muffins would be ideal to munch on with a nice piping hot cup of coffee. Anytime of year. Delicious!

Rambling Tart said...

Wonderful story, Jamie, just wonderful. :-) I'm a breakfast with my man type girl too, and absolutely treasure those quiet, dark mornings of winter, or the lovely bright and cheery ones of summer. These muffins are brilliant - orange AND cinnamon AND chocolate. Heavenly. :-)

Fresh Local and Best said...

These chocolate chip muffins look so moist and delicious!

Barbara Bakes said...

I love your heart shaped muffins baked with love! I too love to fix yummy treats for breakfast, but usually just on the weekends. I think no neighborhood pasticcerias is the problem in the US!

Jeannie said...

Lovely looking muffins. I rarely had breakfast with the family simply because we wake up at different times, me being the earliest and already had breakfast long before the rest woke up! Your routine sounds so much fun!

5 Star Foodie said...

Chocolate chip heart-shaped muffins sound so perfect for breakfast!

Barbara said...

My mother always cooked a hot breakfast for us and I did as well for my family. I still eat a nice breakfast- it's such an important meal. Sometimes oatmeal, sometimes an omelet; your muffins would be perfect...I could freeze them and zap them when I was ready to eat.

Katy ~ said...

Those are so adorable. Who couldn't use a little breakfast love. Those old ads are hysterical.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Jamie, what darling muffins. I really love the heart shape and chocolate chips would only make them better.
Sam

my spatula said...

those are the sweetest looking muffins EVER!!!

Aparna said...

Oh yes, breakfast time is always special time for the both of us, and on no school days, for the 3 of us.
Only we prefer savoury for breakfast. Put it down to what we grew up with.
Muffins are usually snack stuff for us and love choc chip in anything. Yours look tempting.
Just made some bread with some yesterday. :)

Nina said...

Wow jes my type of breakfast.I love the shapes...they look so cute.

Adele said...

They look delicious, Jamie, and I think it's fate that I have some buttermilk in the fridge that needs using up. I love mornings too. We usually get the baby and cups of tea, and get back into bed for a few extra minutes. Heaven.

asiangrrl said...

Cookie Crisp, baby! Nothing better (at least when I was a kid. Years later, as an adult? Not so much). These muffins are so cute. I bet they are delicious.

Federica said...

I made these muffins yesterday! People went crazy for it! Good job! Great recipe! It's funny because last night I was thinking :"what if I make buttermilk chocolate chips muffin? Is it possible? How is it going to turn out?" And so I looked on line for a recipe....and here it is yours!

just a question, I read that you want to use buttermilk because it makes a special reaction with baking soda...is it this reaction that provide the fluffiness?

Jamie said...

@Federica: So happy you made these, loved them and let me know. The use of baking soda and buttermilk is explained here fairly well : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baking_powder Look down under the headings Use and Substituting. Interesting stuff. Thanks for visiting!

Karen said...

I had some leftover buttermilk and chocolate chips and googled recipes to use them with and ended up with your lovely recipe. I love how it turned out, with a bit of crunch on the outside and moist and chocolatey on the inside. Thanks for your recipe!

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