Friday December 3, 2010

Muffin Vitamins the merits of cake for breakfast

It totally cracks me up when someone utters a gem like, “Oh, I like to have a blueberry muffin or something at breakfast to get my fruit in.” If you catch me on a good day, I’ll stifle my laughter with a faux cough, but sometimes I can’t help it and I’ll wheeze with laughter for a good five minutes. I might also point.

When exactly did we all board the crazy train that takes us to a magical place where muffins have nutritional value?! I mean, I’m sure some vitamins and niacin and stuff get sprayed on at the factory in the case of store bought muffins. And Big Brother has lovingly fortified most all purpose flour with the basics, so I know you’re not gonna get scurvy living off of homemade or bakery muffins, but still.

You have to call the nutritional value of a muffin nominal, at best. I know I’m not the first to say it but, muffins = cake. Don’t get me started on what fat free muffins = .

Jim Gaffigan remains one of my favorite comedians of all time for one reason alone:

Finally! Someone calling a spade a spade. Or, a “muffin” a “bald cupcake” but still; one can’t deny the logic or humor.

Some smarty pants realized, pancakes notwithstanding, straight up cake wouldn’t fly at the breakfast table. So, this clever creature thought to stir in some fruit and shamelessly call it “bread.” Banana cake? My children shall break their fast with no such thing! Banana bread? Why two slices provide twice the fruit!

Banana bread sounds so wholesome, does it not?

As if we, as a society, decided fruit had such overwhelming power for good that it could transform a butter and sugar laden cake into a nutritious start to the day.

But let’s do the math. says one, one serving of blueberries clocks in at 2.8 ounces. That means if you made a dozen blueberry muffins you’d literally have to use over two pounds of blueberries to get one serving of fruit into a single muffin. Or, in grocery store terms, just over five clam-shell packs of blueberries.

In banana bread parlance: two bunches into one loaf of banana bread.

Let’s pause for a laugh, shall we? Who has ever seen a recipe calling for those quantities of fruit? For a real scare, just do the math to see how much bran you’d have to put in a bran muffin to obtain any significant amount of fiber. Let me just say, those bran muffins shan’t move much along, other than the ole waistline.

So, if we set the less-than-a-serving-of-fruit on one side of the scale and the butter and sugar on the other, in whose favor do you suppose the scale will tip? Hint: you don’t need a hint.

But listen. I don’t want to say that we shouldn’t have a muffin for breakfast or that we should retool our recipes in favor of healthier options. I stand in staunch opposition to that sort of thing, happily chanting Michael Pollan’s mantra, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

What I do want to say, however, is let’s be honest.

Let’s have cake for breakfast.

pumpkin loaves

Not everyday. But some days. Especially Sundays.

As a baker, I love sweet breakfasts. I just can’t handle any significant amount of sodium before noon. Give me cup of black coffee and a croissant, waffle, slice of brioche , or some toast and jam at the very least. None of that bacon and eggs crap.

Given my profession (and lack of restraint), I will likely consume a bar of chocolate, a scoop of ice cream, and a handful of macarons before dinner. So my conscience won’t let me actively choose to kick off my day with a nutritionally void breakfast.

I bake something new quite literally every day so a little routine in the morning comforts me. I have two morning menus: steel cut oats and fresh fruit or whole grain toast with almond butter. Mr. BraveTart, also a lover of the routine, plays along but with the addition of some eggs from our Elmwood CSA either scrambled or as an omelet.

On the weekends, however, something comes over me. I want a leisurely Saturday morning with a cup of caffeine and a slice of evil. I need to know a few sticks of butter gave their lives to enhance my breakfast. Something drowning in maple syrup, perhaps?

pumpkin loaf detail

When I first graduated culinary school, I abandoned American style quick breads, too enchanted with the brioche, Danish, croissant, and other sweet breakfast pastries I found myself newly empowered to make. I’ll admit, I even scoffed at the muffin. Banana bread. You name it. For a time, I betrayed Southerners everywhere and disavowed biscuits in favor of scones.

As many people do at a certain stage in their life or career, though, I find myself going back to my roots. I’ve been longing for the familiar flavors of childhood when my brother and I would eat an entire basket of mini muffins (aka “muffin vitamins”) for breakfast.

My sweet, sweet mother would bake us muffins, not just on the weekends, but on school days too. She’d make a batch of both my favorite and my brother’s favorite and put them in wicker baskets lined with a cloth napkin, which she’d tuck over the muffins to keep them warm as we dilly dallied getting ready for school.

I can still remember twirling a hot mini-muffin top in the little ramekin of butter she’d set out for us.

Actually, I think I avoid making mini-muffins because I know they can’t compete with the flavor in my mind. I don’t make proper muffins much either. I have muffin tins, of course, but have enjoyed the mini loaves because I can slice one in half lengthwise to fit in my toaster. And they’re adorable. Also, slightly larger than a muffin. Not to mention that the loaf shape eliminates the obvious similarity to cupcakes and lessens both my guilt and insane desire to just go ahead and put some buttercream on ‘em. Maybe some sprinkles. You know.

close up of loaves and coffee

I know, Thanksgiving has come and gone, I should jump on board the Christmas flavor train by now with like gingerbread or egg nog flavored this-or-that. But I still just love the warm flavors of these Spiced "Pumpkin" mini loaves (or their Gluten Free counterparts GF Spiced "Pumpkin" mini loaves).

The batter stores nicely in the fridge for about a week, so you can spread the love from one weekend to the next.

Or just eat the whole thing, cos you like to party.

posted byStellaand filed under:  Cakes  Fruit  Sideshow Photos

7 comments and counting

Dec 03, 2010 · 11:15 AM

I LOVE THAT SKETCH! My friends and I were having this conversation earlier this week. I made muffins and told them that I didn’t like them because they didn’t taste like cake, then they all (a bunch of health nuts – why do I do this to myself? Haha) made fun of me. It’s true, though! I like a sweet breakfast myself, but I definitely don’t delude myself into thinking muffins are healthy. I just allot for them later in the day and make sure I eat a slice of carrot cake after dinner, you know?

I’m digging the colors in the photos on this post, and also the worn surface the little pseudo-cakes are sitting on. Wish I had access to something like that!

Oh – and great idea to use butternut in place of pumpkin! The recipe sounds wonderful!

 · Kaitlin ·

Dec 04, 2010 ·  4:49 PM

We actually took these photos at the fireplace of a cafe in town that a friend of mine owns (Caffe Marco, which we did a previous post on). We couldn’t resist the old, peeling mantle and yellow wall, not to mention the great natural light.

Long live Jim Gaffigan! Yeah, muffins = cake. These “healthy muffin” people are deluding themselves.


Dec 05, 2010 ·  2:59 AM

Great post. Nothing wrong with eating what you want and enjoying it. Just be honest with yourself. The photos are great, the yellow and textured blue really work nicely.

 · Loren ·

Dec 05, 2010 ·  9:18 AM

This breakfast post should merge with the doughnut post. The ultimate breakfast food. And if you should have a stale one of the little sinkers on hand they love to be split and grilled with butter. And if you have to have fruit then a good jam. But it snowed and it is December. WHO WANTS HOT CHOCOLATE?

 · deadly · 

Dec 05, 2010 · 11:07 AM

@Loren, Honesty is the best policy

@Deadly, hahaha, I am seriously going to make a post called, “Who wants hot chocolate?” and then explain the long and glorious history behind that simple question. What about lemon marmalade?


Dec 06, 2010 · 12:43 AM

Now thats hot chocolate. Johnny Depp aint in it.

 · deadly · 

Feb 17, 2011 ·  4:11 PM

haha I love Jim Gaffigan… a bald cupcake indeed! But whats wrong with a bit of sweet in the morning? It gets the day off to a good start I think!

 · Dagmarette @ The Finishing School ·


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