Would you like cinnamon or...
Kayte, of Grandma's Kitchen Table, is one of my all-time favorite bloggers, and this week she picked the Allspice Crumb Muffins for us to bake. I wasn't sure how I felt about allspice on its own (Dorie mentions that it's reminiscent of cloves, and I am not a huge fan of cloves). I considered making these with nutmeg or cinnamon, but except for subbing dark brown sugar for the light brown, I made the recipe as written.
Well, the first time.
This was a ridiculously simple recipe. Getting the crumb topping to the right crumb-like texture was the hardest part (and one I didn't master). I took them out of the oven and immediately (well, after a few photos) put them in the back of my car and took them to work.
The reaction was very positive, but they didn't thrill me. I had forgotten the salt (if you doubt the importance of salt to the flavor of baked goods, try leaving it out), and my baking powder didn't totally incorporate (even though I mixed and mashed with a spoon), which really annoyed me. I also used my silicone muffin mold that I got on our trip to Paris. Love that thing! The only problem with it is European muffin cups are slightly smaller than those in the U.S., so cramming all of the batter in 12 muffin cups and then adding the topping resulted in the muffins rising over the cups, onto the rim of the muffin mold, and the crumb topping melting and browning all over the tops.
That part was good! I inadvertently created what muffin top pans deliver, but with a muffin attached. They were well received at work, but I was very disappointed that I had little tiny balls of unincorporated baking powder, and I wasn't huge on the allspice. So I resolved to make them again a few days later.
And I did, but this time I used my favorite cinnamon, only more of it, and I sifted the dry ingredients to eliminate the offensive little balls of baking powder (it was easier than trekking off to Safeway to buy another can of baking powder.) I filled the muffin cups less full, utilizing five cups of my other muffin pan. The muffins were a more normal size, with less over run than the others had, but they were infinitely prettier. And since they were made with cinnamon, they were a much bigger hit at home. I finally figured out that just because the crumb topping doesn't form "crumbs," it's not a flaw. In fact, the caramel-y melting of the brown sugar and butter is fantastic, especially with the cinnamon. Thanks, Kayte, for picking such an easy and delicious recipe for us to make this week.
If you're interested in the recipe, check out Kayte's post, or, even better, buy the book Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. What are you waiting for? It has a zillion (actual number, I counted them) fantastic recipes. And then you should join the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers as we work our way through the book. It's a lot of fun and I guarantee you'll learn a lot.
I recently went to one of my favorite shops, Penzey's Spices in Menlo Park. It's so much fun to visit Penzey's, and I love their spices. I picked up what I needed, but I also picked up something special for you. Yes, it's my very favorite...
One lucky person will win a 1.7 ounce jar of Penzey's Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon. This is spicy and assertive, and is wonderful in baking, chai, cinnamon toast, you name it. When I got home, the new Cook's Illustrated was in the mailbox, and they tested cinnamon and, you guessed it, this one came out on top.
If you'd like to win this jar of cinnamon, just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite way to enjoy cinnamon no later than 9:00 PM Pacific on October 17th.
UPDATE: Cassandra of Foodie with Little Thyme is the winner of the Penzey's Vietnamese Cinnamon! Thanks to everyone who shared their favorite way to enjoy cinnamon. I now have a lot of great new ways to try it.