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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cheddar Cats



Just for fun:  Cheddar Cats! Savory cheddar muffins baked in whimsical or traditional shapes. Either way, they are delicious for any meal.


Muffin Lessons

I don't know how they do things these days, but muffins were the very first topic in my seventh-grade Home Ec class. Clearly, muffin technology was a key skill for any young Midwestern woman to master. It came before skirt-making, jello-molding and cake baking. And so it made an indelible impression on me, kind of like the 42 Prepositions that I learned the following year in eighth grade:

About, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, because of, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, near, of, off, on, out, out of, over, through, to, toward, under, up, upon, with, within, without


Muffins are small, tender quick breads. Their success depends on the correct amounts of egg, moisture, and shortening. It also depends on how the ingredients are put together; the main thing is to do it rapidly, and to not overmix. We were shown depressing photos of overmixed muffins, which develop a hard, pointed top, rather than the domed, golden result we were looking for. The interior of a good muffin is uniform, light, and slightly crumbly. A bad muffin is tough and leathery, with formed holes.

Good vs Bad, the eternal struggle. These lessons have stayed with me through the years. 


The Cats


This recipe is in part the result of my recent purchase of a vintage cast-iron cat muffin pan:




It's a little hard to figure how the pan company decided to invest in the production of this pan, and rather easy to see how someone might want to give it to the thrift store. However, I love this kind of thing; it's just been waiting for the right recipe to unleash its full potential.

In addition, I recently opened another wheel of my cheddar, and I've been thinking about savory muffins. (This year, count on savory muffins as a trend; you heard it here first. ) These muffins are meant to be eaten warm, as a first course. Or as breakfast. 





Even if you don't have a cat pan, try out these muffins. I think you will love them!  --Sue


Cheddar Muffins with Carrot and Parsley



Ingredients

2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1 small to medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded (about 1/3 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups coarsely shredded good-quality Cheddar Cheese (I used half Cabot Seriously Sharp, and half my own cheese)
3 sprigs fresh parsley, stems removed, minced (about 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons)
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of mace



Process


  1. Preheat oven to 325F.  Spray muffin pan(s) with cooking spray.

  2. In electric mixer bowl with flat beater attached, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne and mace. Mix briefly to combine.

  3. Add eggs and milk; mix until halfway combined. Add butter, and mix only until mostly combined. Toss in the parsley, carrot and cheddar, then mix until just combined. The batter will not be completely uniform; this is desired. The batter should drop from a large spoon; if it doesn't, add a bit more milk.






  4. Fill muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake at 325F for 22-25 minutes for large muffins, or 12-15 minutes for mini-muffins.



  5. Cool briefly on rack, then serve!




Note: you can vary this recipe with other herbs and cooked vegetables. For breakfast cheddar muffins, try adding 3 Tablesoons chopped, cooked bacon.


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8 comments:

  1. What I would't do to sample these! First off, I love that pan. How cute is that? And to use your own cheese tah boot = heaven.

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  2. I will be making these this weekend. A long time ago, I used to get cheddar scones at the Amagansett Farmers Market and have never found a recipe that came even close to them in deliciousness. This sounds like it may be it!

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  3. These look perfect for breakfast!! This may be a weird question, but what is the silver gadget in the picture with the parsley?

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  4. I want that pan!!! And those muffins!!! Wow I have to make that this weekend...

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  5. Yeah I was wondering about that gadget too...

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  6. Thank you Jennifurla, Karen, April in CT, and Chocolatesa! I hope you like the muffins; my husband asked me to make another batch, with bacon, for this weekend. They're also very good without the bacon. The gadget is an herb mill, aka a parsley mincer. It's very convenient to use if your herbs are loose and dry. Sort of operates like multiple scissor blades. Cheers, Sue

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  7. Sue: Those look delightful and I must admit to rather coveting your cat pan!
    My Mother taught me to make muffins when I was young, she had taught Home Ec before starting a family and imparted all her cooking and baking wisdom to me over the years. So, by the time I hit High School Home Ec, I was a pro! Years of Girl Scouts, 4-H and FHA helped as well :)
    I'll whip up a batch of these for my daughters, but have them help, never too young to learn proper muffin skills!
    Kind regards, Kitty

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  8. LOVE the cat pan! Can't wait to try this recipe, thanks for sharing!
    ~Jacquelyn

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Your feedback matters! So please leave a comment. I will do my best to answer all comments! Cheers, Sue