Posts tagged ‘rosemary’

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I have no business inventing recipes for baked goods. I am an inexperienced and impatient baker, and my assets as a cook, such as an inclination to omit or improvise ingredients and eyeball measurements, frequently sabotage my efforts as a baker. Yet, I am about to present my own recipe for muffins. Muffins that came to me in a dream.

Somewhere in the foggy state between sleep and first morning light, a steamy muffin presented itself. Studded with rosemary, the muffin was both sweet and savory, the kind of thing one could enjoy at breakfast with a plate of scrambled eggs, or along side a soup of chickpeas and pasta. Did such a muffin exist? I hoped not, because I really wanted to invent it myself. Like a man looking for a hidden bottle of mustard in the refrigerator, I did a weak scan through my cookbooks and the internet. I was pleased to discover that, so far as I could tell, my somnolent vision had yet to be realized.

While there were several variations on Italian rosemary and olive oil cake, instinct told me that the dream muffins employed butter. And although the majority of recipes I found called for lemon, I wanted to avoid anything tart and zesty so as to focus on the bitter, salty, and sweet. While I thought they might benefit from some bittersweet orange zest, the idea of lemon just didn’t jive with my muffin concept.

I located a basic muffin recipe to use as a foundation, and planned my alterations. Before I started cooking however, I turned to one of my all-time favorite videos from The Onion for a little inspiration: Chef Adam Scott preparing his “Dream Omelet.”

Do your eggs say WWII? Good, we’re ready to start.

My dream muffins didn’t take long to make, and were simple at that. Because I hate day-olds, I made a small batch of six; for a complete dozen you should double the measurements that follow below.

As I had hoped, they were both salty and sweet. Using buttermilk and some extra baking powder helped to keep them fluffy, and the crunchy topping accented each bite with rosemary, sugar, and salt. I enjoyed my first dream muffin as a midday snack, with a tiny white wine spritzer, made just the way my Italian friend, Guissepina, enjoys them – one part crisp white wine to one part mineral water, with a thick strip of lemon rind. It was so good I partook in another – of each. I will report here that my second muffin received a thin layer of orange marmalade, and did not suffer for it.

Dream Muffins with Rosemary

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease your muffin tin with butter (or, better yet, use paper liners). Finely chop the leaves from two sprigs of rosemary, yielding about two tablespoons. In a small dish, mix 1 tablespoon of the rosemary with 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt and 2 tablespoons of coarse, raw sugar. (Optionally add 1 teaspoon of orange zest.) Gently macerate this mix, which will serve as your muffin topping.

In a saucepan melt 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons) with the remaining 1 tablespoon of rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Allow to brown slightly, and set aside.

Blend 1 cup flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder in a small bowl. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, lightly whisk together 1 egg and 1/3 cup sugar. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk (milk will work fine, too), and the rosemary-butter; mix together wet ingredients. Add in the flour mix and whisk until combined – do not over beat.

Spoon the muffin mix into your prepared cups, and top with the rosemary, sugar, salt mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes.

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To build an igloo you really only need two things: a shovel, and a bunch of snow. Add candles, cocktails, and friends to create a classic igloo party, and a magical way to spend a Maine winter evening. Here’s how we built ours!

Building the Igloo

Early last weekend Mother Nature delivered the goods. It was an epic snow event that challenged the common notion that snow falls from the sky; in this case the snow came at us from all angles, including upward, as if from an angry hairdryer located far beneath the earth’s crust. This melee resulted in more than 30″ of fresh pow, spread like a child frosts a cake, unevenly across our yard.

While most of the fluffy white ended up on our car, a decent amount blanketed the back yard, and so Justin proposed an igloo. It had been almost a decade since I’d witnessed an igloo being built, so I put together the following video that distills this 3-hour project into a palatable 45 seconds.

Building the Cocktail

Meanwhile, as I triangulated our Subaru and began digging, I daydreamed about the perfect igloo cocktail. A snow event of this magnitude is rare, even in Maine, and I felt it called for something more creative than passing a whiskey bottle. I mentally mulled over hot beverage concoctions but hadn’t settled on anything when we walked to Sam DiPietro’s Market later that afternoon for libations and a few groceries.

It may go without saying, but the only thing that scares me about a snowstorm is the Hannaford Supermarket in the days leading up to it. Therefore, we were running a little low on provisions. Not such a risky proposition considering our proximity to DiPietro’s, their commitment to 365 days-a-year service, and the excellence of their homemade meatball sub. No one was going to starve around here. So while I casually picked out olives and a couple of cans of San Marzano tomatoes, Justin perused their ample liquor aisle. When I found him he was gazing at a bottle of Campari.

An idea hatched: Campari snowcones. It brought me back to a memorable lemon ice, la grattata, I bought from a street vendor in Naples, both ingredients cut fresh for customers on the spot. Where la grattata limone was tart and refreshing, perfect for the sultry Napoli climate, ours would be a sweet and woody affair, more aligned for a winter evening in an igloo. I decided to match the pine tree and orange rind flavor of the Campari with a quick, homemade rosemary simple syrup (1:1 raw or cane sugar to water, bring to boil, remove from heat, add rosemary and remove after 30 minutes), and a little lime zest.

Of course there was the final ingredient: the snow. According to Wikipedia, “The first documented ‘shaved ice’ dessert was made in 27 B.C.E. The Roman Emperor Nero sent slaves to collect snow from nearby mountains that he then flavored with a fruit and honey mixture.” We would revive Nero’s ancient dessert using the bounty from a blizzard called Nemo, and we would venture to the backyard to fetch it ourselves.

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Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor

Our Campari Snowcones turned out even better than expected. A kind of Maine woods and Fellini film mash-up, the bitter Campari balanced nicely the sweet syrup, both adding strong, arboraceous flavors to the mix. I started with the syrup on the bottom, adding the Campari to the top of the snowball to preserve its shocking red color. We used spoons to muddle and slurp the snowcones down, the fluffy snow turning into a delicious and rewarding slush.

Justin hollowed out spaces in the igloo to house small votive candles, which emitted a warm glow inside our little hovel. We enjoyed a Campari Snowcone in the romantic atmosphere, and were later joined by our dear friends and neighbors, who arrived wearing their snowpants. Together we warmed the igloo with stories, laughter, and – okay, I’ll admit it – a passed bottle of whiskey, cozily insulated from the wind that sill howled on the other side of our snowy walls.

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