“…..that prince of foods... the muffin!” (From Frank Zappa’s Muffin Man)
Years ago someone gave me three little cookbooks by Elizabeth Alston; one was called Simply Cakes, another Biscuits and the last one Muffins.
Lots of lovely recipes in all her books- which made it damn near impossible to decide which book to tackle first, but of course I decided on muffins. I was a goner once I made the raspberry almond muffins; eventually tried nearly all of them and found quite a few I still make frequently, but the raspberry almond muffins became a family favorite.
Which brings me to my present situation: it’s time for my Garden Club’s first meeting of the season. I try to host the September meeting because it's smaller than the other meetings -so many members are still out of town. (September is Florida’s worst month weather wise……. I'd stay away too if I could figure out a way.) So instead of the normal 40 members only about 28 show up. Works for me ‘cause I can’t seat forty women in my living room - but 28 I can manage- with every single chair I own. Just.
As hostess, there’s not much to do except supply the coffee, juice and some nibble food. (And clean house and polish silver and fill every available container with fall flowers- oh yeah- Garden Club- remember?) Now we’re not talking big eaters here but I try to have a couple sweet breads and some muffins of some sort. For my sweet breads I always have Maida Heatter’s unreal delicious Chocolate Espresso Loaf and this year, for a taste of fall, Ina Garten’s Date Spice Bread with orange cream cheese spread; then to top things off – those sweet little Raspberry & Almond Muffins from Elizabeth Alston’s book. Well, sweet if you like raspberry jam and almond paste, that is. And who doesn’t? As for me, I’m a sucker for almond paste. In anything. Even right out of the package.
For this group I make them in miniature muffin tins because everyone needs to have space for a muffin next to their coffee cup and not have to go through a balancing act when they want to take a sip of coffee. You gotta love the fact they freeze beautifully; thaw them overnight in the fridge and stick them (wrapped in foil) in a slow oven to warm them just before serving.
Raspberry Almond Muffins
(Adapted from Elizabeth Alston's Muffins)
7 ounces almond paste
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk ( or plain yogurt)
Good quality raspberry preserves
Note: if you are using miniature muffin tins, don’t forget to adjust the size of the almond disks to fit the smaller size, (instead of 16 disks, make 32) the amount of batter in each muffin cup, the amount of raspberry preserves in each and you’ll find the baking time is a tad shorter.
However, the following recipe is for 16 regular sized muffins.
Preheat oven to 350°. I like to brush the entire top of the muffin tin lightly with oil so the muffins don’t stick. Then butter muffin tins inside and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. Tap against the sink to remove excess crumbs.
Cut almond paste into 16 pieces and press each piece into a round disk. Beat butter until creamy and add sugar. Beat until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then mix in baking powder, baking soda and almond extract.
With a spatula, fold in 1 cup of flour, then the buttermilk and then the last of the flour. Mix only until well blended.
Spoon 2 tablespoons batter into each muffin cup, top with a small spoonful of raspberry preserves, then press the almond disk into the preserves. Top with another 2 tablespoons batter.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Turn out on a rack and let stand at least 10 minutes. Serve or freeze. Makes 16 regular muffins or 32 miniature muffins.