Somehow I was roused from bed this morning at 7:30 AM for our impromptu Inauguration Day festivities. I had my doubts that I'd be up in time to see our 44th chief executive being sworn in on West Coast Time. A tiny part of me was hoping that "change" would just wash over me while still catching some z's. I know 8:30 AM isn't really that early for some of us, and usually when I'm on barista duty, it's not uncommon for me to be up long before the sun. But since the turn of the new year, I've been feeling sort of sluggish. My head has felt like a big pot of gelatinous gruel with burnt bits of grey sludge stuck to the bottom until at least 10 AM. It's the sort of feeling that makes one want to stay beneath the sheets as long as possible--even if it's terribly lazy and a little childish of me to say so.
Well, I know one person who wasn't having any of my patsy cop-outs. Mary insisted that I celebrate the Inauguration at the same time as the rest of the world. To coax me into a more patriotic state, she brought over a quiche lorraine and helped put the kettle on to brew in the french press while I stumbled through the pantry and made my contribution to the celebration: Victory Muffins. These same muffins were hitherto called Raspberry-Cornmeal Muffins with Hazelnut and Thyme. But that's quite a mouthful, and besides, today is a day of change; even for muffins.
This is a relatively old recipe of mine, but one of the ones that I’m most proud of. Like many good ideas, it began as an accident. I had started whisking together the dry ingredients for cornbread when I realized that I’d added more sugar than intended…so I quickly rounded everything out with a bunch of fresh thyme I’d been meaning to rid myself of anyway, some raspberries in my freezer, and chopped hazelnuts just to give them a little bit of crunch. I wasn’t anticipating anything miraculous when I took them out of the oven, but it was love at first bite. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!) The thyme adds an unexpected savory twist, which contrasts to the sweet-tart raspberries and the buttery hazelnuts. They’re prefect as is, if I do say so myself…but my best friend, who is gluten-intolerant, has been known to switch out the flour for almond or hazelnut meal. I’ve been meaning to experiment with that myself. I have made many different types of muffins in my day--but I always seem to come back to these guys. It has a lot to do with the fact that they're very simple to put together, yet the holy trifecta lends them a pleasant complexity rarely seen in baked goods that take so little time to prepare.
Anyhow, I'm keeping things short today. It seems that I'm one of many among my friends who was caught by surprise at how inspiring and arresting the whole inauguration was. In my lifetime, there haven't been many momentous occasions that actually felt momentous. I'm happy to count today among one of the few that really touched me. I found myself squealing when President Obama put his hand on the Lincoln bible. And did anyone else get a little bit teary watching the President and First Lady having their first dance??? Even Beyonce looked like she was getting completely choked up. If anyone was near me now, I'd ask that they pinch me.
Victory Muffins(AKA Raspberry Muffins with Hazelnuts and Thyme)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups plain whole yogurt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, their skins removed*
2 TBS. fresh thyme
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease well about 12 “1/2 cup-size” muffin tins. You can also use paper muffin cups, too.
2. In one bowl, lightly mix together the dry ingredients with a whisk.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients, and make sure only to stir until just incorporated. It’s okay if it’s a bit lumpy—if you over-do it, the muffins won’t rise properly and will look frankly quite sad.
4. Fold into the mixture the raspberries, hazelnuts, and thyme.
5. Divide the batter amongst the muffin tins, making sure they’re each no more than 3/4 of the way full. They’ll rise a lot in the oven, and burning batter on your broiler isn’t fun for anyone.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick tester comes out clean.
7. Let the muffins cool on a rack for 3 minutes or so. The muffins will keep in an airtight container for about 2 days.
Makes 12-14 servings.* To remove the skins of hazelnuts (or filberts, as they're so lovingly called here in Oregon), roast the nuts until fragrant and golden in a dry skillet. Next, place them in a dishtowel and rub them together until their skins come loose. Don't worry if you can't remove every last speck of the papery sheath, they'll do just fine as is.