Monday, March 31, 2008

Oatmeal Raisin* Browned-Butter Muffins

The Grand Dame of Southern Cooking was a Communist. Her name is Edna Lewis, and I was thrilled to stumble across her cookbook, In Pursuit of Flavor, at Goodwill today. She writes, "In those days, we lived by the seasons, and I quickly discovered that food tastes best when it is naturally ripe and ready to eat." And unlike Alice Waters, she started cooking professionally all the way back in 1949. She makes her own baking powder, and braises meat in a clay pot, and advocated seasonal food long before the West Coast jumped on the slow food bandwagon. She fed William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. And, yes, worked for The Daily Worker.

Here's the thing, though. I'm not really pitting one culinary genius against another. Unlike other caustic celebrities, the heroes of cookery play a good game of wholesome charm. Think of a kitchen full of the likes of M.F.K. Fisher, Alice B. Toklas, James Beard, Julia Child...? My heart just melts like butter on an oatmeal muffin. Which reminds me to tell you that oatmeal muffins are improved twelvefold by the addition of half a cup of browned butter -- but that does NOT mean you should refrain from topping them with extra butter when you split them open all steamy from the oven.

Browned-Butter Muffins

Melt 1/2 c. butter over low heat. While it slowly gilds to a honey-wheat color, whisk together 2 cups white flour, 1.5 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 T. cinnamon, 3 c. rolled oats, and 1 cup of raisins*.

In another bowl, whisk 3 eggs, 1/2 c. honey, and 2.5 c. kefir or yogurt (some part of which may be old sour milk, water, or other bilge).

Pour the browned butter into the oat mixture and toss it about till evenly coated. Stir in the liquids and let the batter sit and thicken up for an afternoon or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour 18 muffin holes. Bake till golden brown on top, some 25 minutes or so.

*In retrospect, the raisins effectively sucked up the moisture like sponges. I much prefer a muffin riddled with caverns of tart berry juice. Add frozen or seasonal berries instead -- just before filling the muffin pan if you don't want grey batter.


Bailey said...

Hello -
I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I read your latest blog with the mention of Edna Lewis and her recipe for Browned-Butter Muffins.

I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Miss Edna Lewis and its viewable in its entirety on Internet at a Gourmet Magazine website:

and at a Georgia Public Broadcasting website:

My documentary is called Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.

My website, has more information about the film and the story of Miss Lewis.

Bailey Barash

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