Monday, December 28, 2009

Honey-& Goat Cheese-Filled Muffins

I have been a subscriber to Eating Well Magazine forever. I like its health and/or nutrition-related articles although I rarely cook or bake from the recipes. The January-February 2010 issue is different. For the first time in months, I found myself reaching for post-its and earmarking pages, especially from the Wake Up to Whole Grains feature article, written by Maria Speck. Speck was raised by a German father, to whom she attributes her yearning for whole grains, and by a Greek mother who taught her to love the flavors of her native country (hence the figs, the goat cheese and the honey). I love whole grains too and, maybe because I hail from the Mediterranean as well (through my mom whose grandma was a black-eyed Provençale with Italian forebears), I have a passion for figs and goat cheese. So I decided to try these whole-grain muffins. They are good! They keep two or three days at room temperature and freeze really well. If frozen, Speck recommends microwaving them (wrapped in a paper towel) for 30-45 seconds on High. Personally I don't really like them warm (I don't think the flavors come out as well) but I love them at room temp. My only modification was not to put in any sugar (Speck adds 3/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar to the batter). To my taste, the muffins are plenty sweet without it but the Man thinks they could be a tad sweeter and he eats them spread with rhubarb jam. Since I don't have a sweet tooth, if it were not for him, I probably would have skipped the honey as well (although I do love the flavor). For all I know, the taste for sweets might be genetic: until his very last years, my dad didn't like sweets either and as for myself, even as a Parisian child, on the eagerly awaited occasions when my mom took us to the neighborhood bakery to purchase our afternoon snacks, my brothers always chose a "pain au chocolat" or a "pain aux raisins" (chocolate or raisins croissants) or a "chausson aux pommes" (apple-pastry) but I always went for a "pain de gruau" (a plain crusty mini-loaf). I even remember that when my tonsils were taken out (I must have been 7 or 8) and I had to eat soft food for a day or two, my mom splurged on 3/4 of a liter (that's how ice-cream was sold in Paris then, maybe still is) of vanilla ice-cream from nearby Boissier, a renowned "pâtissier, chocolatier et glacier" (pastry-shop & chocolate and ice-cream maker). I ate one spoonful, loved the feel of the cold gliding down my sore throat but had to stop eating as the sweetness and the richness literally made me gag. Since there were no freezers in those days, my whole family promptly had the ice-cream for lunch! To this day, I feel guilty for turning down a treat that my mom bought with such love and anticipated joy and that we could probably ill afford... Well, at least, I have been consistent with myself over the years. I still don't care for most ice-creams! Ingredients (for 12 muffins): 100 g crumbled soft goat cheese or reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel) (I used Trader Joe's plain fresh goat cheese, one of those sold in a package of three) 30 g honey grated zest of half a lemon 8 g vanilla extract, divided 317 g white whole wheat 5 g baking powder 3 g baking soda 1 pinch of salt 2 large eggs + 1 large egg white 260 g plain yogurt (Speck uses buttermilk but I didn't have any. If using thick Greek yogurt, such as Fage, you may need to dilute it with some milk. I used homemade yogurt and it was fine as it was) 50 g extra-virgin olive oil 107 g dried figs, chopped (I used Black Mission figs) chopped caramelized hazelnuts for topping (Speck uses turbinado or granulated sugar but I had a bit of leftover hazelnuts I had kept in the freezer from another recipe and I used that) Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF/218ºC. Line 12 regular muffin cups with paper liners or coat with cooking spray
  2. Thoroughly combine the cheese, honey, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in a small bowl. Set aside
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl
  4. Lightly beat eggs and egg white in a medium bowl, add the sugar (if using) and the remaining vanilla extract and whisk until dissolved
  5. Gradually whisk in yogurt (or buttermilk) and oil until smooth
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the figs
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Add 1 generous teaspoon of the reserved cheese filling to the center of each muffin and cover with the remaining batter (the filling should not be visible). Sprinkle with finely chopped caramelized hazelnuts (or sugar if using)
  8. Bake the muffins until the edges start to brown and the top springs back when gently pressed (13 to 15 minutes, according to Speck. In my case, it was closer to 20 minutes)
  9. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

2 comments:

  1. You are so quick! I just saw this recipe in the magazine too and they looked like something to try. Last summer I had made fig jam and was thinking instead of the dried figs putting a small spoonful in and then the cheese filling. Wonder if it would work?

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  2. Hi, Marcella! I bet it would be delicious. Let me know how it works. I made fig jam last summer too! But then maybe we should skip the honey, don't you think?

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