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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper, Feta and Basil Muffins

After long workdays that I spend sitting on my bum for far too long, I stroll up the San Francisco hills and wind through the (windy!) Italian neighborhood, called North Beach. I’m on my way to my pastry classroom at The Tante Marie Cooking School. Along my journey, I inhale deeply as I pass the chocolate shop on the corner of Columbus and Stockton. It smells more like rich and buttery caramel than chocolate, but is still a sweet reprieve from the usual city “aroma”- which I will avoid describing in case anyone reading this is in the midst of a snack.

Once I have climbed an urban mountain, I see the lovely Bay in the distance (some days more clearly than others, we’re at the mercy of the fog). When I see the water, I feel happier…relaxed…lucky.

And then, down the street I go, trying to look somewhat normal as I walk/run (the run part is not on purpose) down the hill towards the school, wearing a giant backpack overstuffed with my apron, checkered pants, pastry jacket and recipes.

Once inside the school, dinner (courtesy of the culinary students) is served.

In return, we leave them pastries for the next morning, which are generally well received. However, one snooty culinary student once told me that she didn’t like to eat pastries in the morning, so could we please just make oatmeal. For that comment, she will not be invited to my next birthday party…(humph). After dinner, we start baking the recipes for the evening.

And now, I’m going to flip things around a little bit…I’m going to recipe travel back to the first week of pastry school and write about muffins. I know muffins aren’t fancy, they certainly don’t require a pastry school background, and they are often passed up in bakery cases. A friend of mine even suggested that “Muffins are just ugly cupcakes." Well, that is ludicrous...maybe cupcakes are just muffins in drag! [By the way, I’m not anti-cupcake…I just like muffins better].

And now, since I’ve already time traveled, I’m going to confuse things even more. One of the things that I’ve learned from pastry school that I wasn’t necessarily expecting is a new approach towards thinking about foods and recipes. There is sort of a release from expectations…twists on ingredients and food norms that create something a bit unexpected. For example...

Roasted Red Pepper, Basil and Feta Muffins. What? A muffin? But, it’s savory. Why, yes…it is….and it is delicious!

These muffins are great in the morning…or mid-day with some soup or salad for lunch…or with a nice piece of steak/fish/whatever you fancy for dinner. In a nutshell…these muffins are just yummy. You should really give them a try, I think you’ll be happily surprised.

Roasted Red Pepper, Basil and Feta Muffins

(adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet)

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached AP Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cups (4 ounces) jarred roasted red bell pepper, patted dry and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with butter, oil, or high-heat oil spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together feta cheese, roasted bell pepper, and chopped basil. Set aside.

Pour the buttermilk into a medium bowl. Add the olive oil and egg and whisk together until well blended. make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the well and stir gently with a spatula. Mix only until there are no more streaks of flour or pools of liquid and the batter looks fairly smooth. A few small lumbs scattered throughout are fine, they will disappear during the baking. Gently fold in the feta cheese mixture until evenly distributed.

Use a large ice cream scoop or two soup spoons to divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops feel firm and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer muffin tin to a a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently run a thin knife or spatula arond each muffin to free it from the pan, lift out the muffns and transfer to a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm.

1 comment:

Georgia Peach said...

bex i really need to try these savory muffins....