The stomach flu descended on our house with biblical force this week, and by Valentine’s Day, the living room was littered with blankets, plastic bottles of candy-colored sports drinks and packages of water crackers, ignored and uneaten. (I can tell you with all authority, friends, that the most generous expression of love has nothing to do with truffles or champagne or little blue boxes; it’s wallowing through a noroviral infection together and taking turns refilling the ginger ale.)
But things were looking up yesterday morning, when I woke up from this dream: I was sitting by the side of a clear lake (with enormous, dream-sized trout and a polka-dotted rowboat, naturally) at a picnic bench, tucking into a fluffy doughnut muffin. Not exactly prophetic, this dream, but it meant my appetite was fighting its way back, and for the rest of the day, the only thing that sounded vaguely appealing was one of these pillowy-soft, vanilla-scented muffins. These have the same nutmeg and cinnamon sweetness of an old-fashioned raised doughnut with a tender, buttery crumb that’s more like a dreamy vanilla cake, refreshingly plain and homey. And after my sudden burst of baking energy, there was still plenty of time in the day for me to rest and recuperate; these little darlings only took half an hour to make, including cleanup.
adapted from kingarthurflour.com; makes 12 muffins
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoons nutmeg, freshly ground
- pinch ground mace (optional)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
for the topping:
- 2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper or foil liners. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, oil and sugars on medium speed until fluffy. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, mace and salt. Set aside.
Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Beat on medium until it creates a smooth batter, scraping down the sides if needed. On low, add a third of the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add half the milk and mix until just incorporated; repeat until you’ve used all the milk and flour.
Use an ice cream scoop or a spoon to transfer the batter evenly among the prepared liners. (They’ll be nearly full.) Bake on the middle rack for 15-17 minutes, until pale golden. Let cool a bit. Use a pastry brush to baste one muffin with the butter; sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Repeat with the rest. Follow by dunking each muffin into the remaining cinnamon-sugar, and serve at room temperature or just barely warm.