Tag Archives: breakfast recipe

Recipe Review: Blackberry Muffins (2003) by Beth Hensperger

A summer berry muffin ready to eat.

A blackberry muffin.

“‘You’re out and about so much more these days,’ said Cecil. ‘Why don’t you join us on Blackberry Night?’

This was his great idea? ‘You’re mad!’

Good girls didn’t romp about on Blackberry Night. Father has strong opinions about it. His biggest, fattest sermon of the year is all about Blackberry Night, which is also Michaelmas, when is also when Archangel hurled the Devil from Heaven. Naturally, this annoyed the Devil considerably, and goes about on that night spoiling the blackberries.

‘I’ll protect you,’ said Cecil, laying his hand over mine.

I whipped my hand away. ‘Cecil!’

On Blackberry Night, the lads and lasses run barefoot through the swamp, pretending to try to catch the Devil; but it would appear the Devil catches them instead, for they consume quantities of beer and wine, and they shed their clothes, and there are always a number of surprise weddings come Advent.”

From Chapter 16 – The Party’s Always Over at Midnight, from Chime (2011) by Franny Billingsley

This is the legend as I understand it. At the end of the battle of who would rule Heaven, Archangel Michael pushed the then-angel Lucifer one final time and Lucifer fell all the way to Earth and landed in a bramble patch. The bramble patch was full of thorns and blackberries. Lucifer, already furious at losing his access to Heaven and God, thrashed his way out of the brambles, cursing the thorny vines and staining berries as he went. So, no one is to pick blackberries after Michaelmas, because the Devil cursed them. This victory by Archangel Michael and his band of angels is one of the events celebrated at Michaelmas, a traditional Roman Catholic Church holiday adapted by the British Isle Anglican Church. When Michaelmas is to occur seems to depend on who you are talking to or reading. Some would have it be September 29, the traditional “quarter day” when rents were due. Others would have you wait until October 10 or 11. I understand a more modern celebration of Michaelmas has been pushed up to the Autumn Equinox, September 21.

Michaelmas was in some sense a traditional second harvest festival, or a thanksgiving celebration. The harvests were all in, whatever was required had been sold to pay the rent, and the first frost historically could be expected any day towards the end of September. Blackberries would have been in abundance, and hard to preserve outside of jellies or jams, so they would need to be used as picked. Stories about the food served at any holiday can define a culture, so blackberry dishes and associated stories around Michaelmas would help define the local traditions and culture.

Blackberry muffins are tasty year round thanks to freezers. I was reading about Michaelmas, a much mentioned calendar date in Regency and historical romance novels – Mr. Bingley of Austin’s Pride and Prejudice was to decide to keep or release his lease of Netherfield Park by Michalemas – and thought blackberry muffins sounded good. I went to my trusty cookbooks and did not find a recipe. So I went online and found a promising looking recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website. I have seen Williams-Sonoma ceramic mixing bowls, usually chipped, in junk stores. What told me this was the recipe to use was it was designed by Beth Hensperger for the Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Muffins (2003). I do not think Hensperger has ever developed a bad muffin recipe.

I used a frozen three-berry mix of blackberries, blueberries, and red raspberries. This worked fine. Following the recipe was simple. The recipe called for maintaining the structure of the berries. The berries only need to be stirred three times after adding to the batter. This keeps the white quick bread white. I prefer to mash part of the berries up and swirl within the batter. When I make this recipe again I will mash all the berries so there are no empty spaces within the muffin where the berry has cooked then collapsed. Mashing the berries is my preference for an everyday muffin. Keeping the berries whole looks pretty and would work for a holiday brunch or breakfast.

I like the pecan crumb top to the muffins. The crumb topping adds sweetness and finger-licking goodness to your breakfast. Even though the muffins do not need the crumb topping, I encourage you to keep it.

A close up of the topping on four berry muffins still in the pan.

A close up of the topping on four berry muffins still in the pan.

Another reason to incorporate mashed berries into the batter is it keeps the muffins from sticking to a well-greased and floured muffin tin. I was not expecting the problem of removing the muffins from the pans. I had to leave the muffins in pan until the next morning after the muffin pan spent the night in the refrigerator. I dislike using paper cups because I just do. For this recipe I would recommend silicon muffin baking dishes or decorative muffin paper cups, if you have them. The biggest problem was the muffins sticking to the pan.

The recipe said it made twelve muffins. Here are all the muffins still in the pan.

The recipe said it made twelve muffins. Here are all the muffins still in the pan they did not want to leave.

I will be making this recipe again. I will be using the crumb topping in recipes that do not call for it. This is a fun recipe to make for family because the finished muffin is pretty as well as tasty.

The recipe is located online at:


Chime by Franny Billingsley was a finalist for a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (US) in 2011. It is a beautifully written, if slow at times, “growing up” story. The protagonist “came of age” before the book started, I think. I cannot tell you the “coming of age” backstory without spoiling the a gorgeously written book. In the first scene she is presented at the train station by her village pastor father as a child, but she does not have a child’s “voice”. By the end of the story she has grown into that adult voice we met in the first chapter. Check Chime out from your favorite public library, or purchase it from a local bookstore, or from your favorite online retailor.

In Addition: Besides the story of the Devil falling into the bramble, stories also include Pan and other satyrs fouling the berry vines after Michaelmas.

Recipe Review: Morning Glory Muffins by Pam McKinstry

“Merry Christmas, little daughters! I’m glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little new-born baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there; and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?”

They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke; only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously,—

“I’m so glad you came before we began!”

“May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children?” asked Beth, eagerly.

I shall take the cream and the muffins,” added Amy, heroically giving up the articles she most liked.”

From “Little Women” (1868, 1869), Chapter II A Merry Christmas by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

“[European] Muffins. good, but indigestible…” from “Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals, Volume II: (1877-1883)”

For several years I was making muffins all the time. It was not the muffin fad that came and, for the most part went in the last ten years, but Beth Hensperger’s “The Best Quick Breads” (2000) cookbook I think I acquired through an art-and-craft book club. I enjoy quick breads, but storing and freezing muffins is an easier way of eating quick bread when you live on your own alone.

I found no mention of the word “muffin” or “crumpet” or any alternate spellings in Samuel Johnson’s 1785 Dictionary of the English Language. An English muffin, also called Yorkshire muffin, or rock bread is a yeast bread cooked on a griddle in the kitchen, or a flat rock over hot embers. Documentation of English muffins goes back the 13th century. According to etymonline.com the word “muffin” first made an appearance in 1703. “Crumpet” can be found in written use in the 1690s. Jane Austin would have known what a muffin or crumpet was, but it may not have been socially acceptable for her, or her characters, to consume such a working class food. I have not studied Austin’s letters or other writing to know either way. Muffin men were 17th century through early 20th century English street food vendors who cooked the bread on griddles fresh for their customers. So, the food trucks that specialize in modern muffins and oven-fresh cookies are continuing a culinary tradition possibly dating back to the time of England’s Elizabeth I.

Recipes for what Americans, coffee house, and muffin enthusiasts would recognize as a “muffin” possibly first appeared in the USA’s very first cookbook “American Cookery” (1796) by Amelia Simmons. Simmons’ “American Cookery” was the first to include as an ingredient a very refined potash or pearlash, a native-to-North America alkali leavening agent. Through the generation of carbon dioxide while baking, including pearlash caused the bread to rise as seen with modern baking powder. This was the birth of the modern quick bread. Identifiable muffin recipes appeared in US cookbooks in the early 19th century along with the entry of muffin pans into the marketplace and kitchen.

The recent muffin fad was not the first muffin fad. When I was little in the 1980s there was a muffin recipe that was all the rage. When we visited my aunt in the Kansas City area (Kansas side) she made Morning Glory Muffins which she loved. The recipe came from Nantucket Island which in the Midwestern imagination was the playground of the rich and famous. When I was ten years old I did not appreciate what a Morning Glory Muffin was or what it represented to the larger American culture.

From what I have been able to find, Morning Glory Muffins were first put together by Chef Pam McKinstry  in 1978 for her Morning Glory Café on Nantucket Island, a 3-by-15 mile long island about 30 miles off of the coast of Massachusetts. The original Morning Glory Muffin recipe appeared in Gourmet magazine in the reader submitted recipe section in 1981. Appearing in the reader submitted recipe section of Gourmet was like winning an Olympic gold medal. The muffin recipe ‘went viral’ by 1981 standards. In 1991 the recipe was selected by readers as one of Gourmet’s twenty-five favorite recipes published in the previous fifty years (1940-1990 or 1941-1991).

The Morning Glory Muffin is a catch-all recipe that uses lots of odds and ends that can be found in a busy bakery and café. The crushed pineapple, two cups grated carrots, grated apple, raisins, shredded coconut, and pecans are all in amounts that look like to me Chef McKinstry had enough to make something, but not enough of any one ingredient, except maybe carrots, to make anything in particular. The results are wonderful, rich, sweet, and freezes well muffins.

Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory Muffins

This is a very easy muffin recipe. You spend more time grating and chopping the ingredients than you do mixing. Use canola oil as directed or another flavorless cooking oil. A more forward flavor cooking oil will negatively interact with the oils in the nuts and other botanical compounds in all the fruit and vegetable ingredients.

I would strongly recommend hand mixing in a large glass mixing bowl. The batter is thick and heavy. A hand-held electric mixer would be overwhelmed by the heaviness of the batter. A hand-held electric mixer works great to mix and aerate the liquid ingredients, mixing the eggs and oil until almost double in volume. With a stand mixer it would be very easy to overmix the combined dry ingredients and wet ingredients. Overmixing is a danger when making quick breads. Overmixed quick bread is heavy because the gluten in the flour activated while mixing and the bread does not raise while baking. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and hand stir until the mixture is just combined, and the flour only just moist. Gently spoon the batter into paper-lined or well-greased muffin pan cups. Place in hot 350°F (176.7°C) oven and leave the door closed for thirty minutes. No Peaking (Mother!Jamie!Dad!Sam!). The muffins are done when the tester comes out clean after being inserted into the baked muffin.

Morning Glory Muffins made from the original recipe by Chef Pam McKinstry.

Morning Glory Muffins made from the original recipe by Chef Pam McKinstry.

The muffins would be good for a Sunday or holiday brunch. They really do need to sit for at least overnight to reach their best flavor and texture. Make the evening before the brunch or breakfast and allow to sit overnight in a storage container. Butter spreads well with the muffins as well as plain cream cheese. These muffins freeze extremely well for up to two months. A muffin reheated after frozen for longer than two months is not as tasty.

The Morning Glory Muffin recipe has been around almost forty years. It has become a dependable recipe for me. For a little bit of work you can get a great result.

Below is a link to Pam McKinstry’s original Morning Glory Muffin recipe, via Earthbound Farms’ website. I have, yet, to find a copy of the original 1981 Gourmet magazine. I will keep looking.


Below is more information about “American Cookery” (1796) by Amelia Simmons. I have read repeatedly that “American Cookery” was the first American cookbook written by an American for Americans. The Spanish settlers arrived in the Western North America as early as the 1530s so I am not comfortable making that claim until I have proof the Spanish settlers and Catholic missionaries were not writing cookbooks for their American mission settlements on how to use local ingredients, too.


If you like “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott or have not read it before, you can download a free e-book. Please, feel free to leave a donation for the Gutanburg.org efforts. There are other free copies of “Little Women” available online. Or, you can support your favorite local bookstore and purchase a hard copy. Or, you can visit your public library and practice your social skills with the librarian behind the circulation desk.


Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals are available through Google Books.

www.etymonline.com provides a quick glance at the evolution of words we use every day

Recipe Review: Oat Scones with Apple-Pear Butter in The Best Quick Breads (2000) by Beth Hensperger

oat scones fresh from the oven

oat scones fresh from the oven

Oats: “A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” — Dr. Samuel Johnson’s (1709-1784) ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ (1755)

Rolled oats as oatmeal drizzled with real maple syrup is my breakfast food of choice when it is not 90°F (32.2°C) at 7 AM. Steel-cut oats is my first choice for cooked oatmeal, when I have access to it. Doctor Johnson is correct as he defines oats in the first important dictionary of Modern English. Until the Oxford English Dictionary (starting in 1884) came along, Johnson’s Dictionary literally defined use and spelling of the English language. I have fed oats to horses, cattle, goats, sheep, and songbirds. Some people I have met over the years refuse to eat oatmeal or any oat product because they see it as livestock feed. I have met Germans who feel the same way about corn (maize). Oats and maize are the foods of folks living in poverty. Oats is a high fiber food and good for your physical heart, and I would argue, too, your soul on cold winter mornings.

The Oat Scone recipe is one I have wanted to try but was daunted by the instructions for incorporating the oat flour. Whole wheat flour is not something I keep on hand, either. My parents have a Vita-mix® and grind their own whole wheat flour for bread. While my father processed the wheat berries one evening, I thought “Hey, he could grind whole oats into flour, too.” So, he did. We processed rolled oats with the whole wheat flour, as called for in the recipe. I used freshly ground whole wheat and oat flour for the scones.

This scone recipe went together quickly. This recipe is probably the simplest of the scone recipes in this cookbook. I mixed the ingredients in order and made no changes to the ingredients. I did not cut in the butter into the flour until it resembled coarse crumbs but stopped when the butter was still what I would call chunky and thinking “Oh, that’s to big.” While watching a Julia Child episode with a bread baker from California, the baker guest convinced me you don’t want to cut the butter into small pieces or what I usually stop at garden pea size. Keep the butter pieces larger for lighter bread, if I remember correctly.

The wetness of the dough surprised me. Adding additional flour would have made a heavier dough and scone. The need to pat into a round and use a cookie cutter as directed was easy to understand once you handled the dough. Cutting into triangles would not work. The scones would not bake well as a triangle, you need a round structure and not one with corners (chemistry and physics at work). The dough was wetter than, and not as adhesive as I would have liked. The seemingly not adhesive quality to the rounds concerned me, but the scones baked well.

The scones baked to a pretty, golden color. They were light in texture, and not at all heavy and hard like I feared when I placed the wet, firm, cement-consistency rounds on the baking tray. When I put them in the over I predicted the outcome to be golden hockey pucks. They were sweeter than I expected with only three tablespoons light brown sugar.

The recipe includes an apple-pear butter which I also made. The apple-pear butter was very good. Apples and pears dehydrated or dried for this recipe were sweet with no added sugar and tasted good on toast and in peanut butter sandwiches. I could taste the pear which I was not expecting because pear to me has a very faint flavor except if you pick the past-ripe pears off the ground as the wind is blowing the pears off the tree. Beware of the falling pears if you should do that.

The scones I did not eat within a couple of days I froze and forgot about them. Mom pulled the sealed plastic bag out one morning when looking for a frozen orange juice can and asked: “What’s this?”

To thaw and heat from frozen I place a scone wrapped in aluminum foil in a cold oven and set the temperature to 400°F (204.4°C). Heat the scone for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is long enough the scone to be hot and moist in the center but not dried out or over-brown.

I would describe this as an excellent autumn or winter recipe for breakfast, brunch, or with a hearty soup. The dehydrating or drying of fresh apples and pears for immediate use in the apple-pear butter intensified the flavors and sugars and compliments the sweet nuttiness of the whole grains. The scones freeze well, but freezer burn might set in if left in the freezer for more than 6 months.

The cookbook is available through your local library, an independent books store, or online through the publisher. You can also publish through your favorite online retailer. The cookbook ‘The Best Quick Breads: 150 Recipes for muffins, scones, shortcakes, gingerbreads, cornbreads, coffeecakes, and more’ by Beth Hensperger is full of recipes for every season and appetite.


The Oat Scone and Apple-Pear Butter recipe reviewed is from an edition published by The Harvard Commons Press in 2000. The edition the publisher sells on their website has a May 2012 date.

I am also including a link to Johnson’s Dictionary with his definition of oats which is great. In the Johnson’s Dictionary, he defines, with the 1755 spelling, oats as:

“A grain, which in England is generally given to horfes, but in Scotland fupports the people.”


Recipe Review of “Perfect Baked Eggs” by Celeste Rogers, in Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2012

Figure 1 A baked egg in a cream-spinach bed in a 10-ounce ramekin.

The recipe and article “Perfect Baked Eggs” by Celeste Rogers (no relation to me that I know of) in Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2012 is an attempt to demonstrate how to bake an individual egg with a spinach filling (Fig 1). For the most part this is about as good of instructions on how to bake an egg without overcooking it that I have seen. The ingredients are basic ingredients already in the kitchen and freezer.

I have looked for a recipe to successfully make little, single egg dishes for years. I have tried several recipes including Scott Peacock’s “Eggs with Cream, Spinach, and Country Ham” in Gourmet, January 2008. Peacock’s “Eggs” recipe should work but never has. I have since traipsed along tinkering with the egg dish every fall and winter looking for something I can use as a contribution to a holiday breakfast. Rogers’ “Perfect Baked Eggs” worked well so that I would not have to tinker with it if all I wanted was a simple egg dish. I will have to jazz it up to make it Christmas Morning material.

What I will criticize is the size of casserole recommended for the dish. Rogers recommends “6-ounce ramekins with a 3 ¼-inch diameters, measured from the inner lip.” I think this is to small. I only have 4 6-ounce ramekins and had to use 2 10-ounce ramekins in order to fill out the six servings the recipe made. The difference surprised me (Fig 2). The 10-ounce containers did not overcook the eggs after the 6 minutes in a 425 degree oven followed by the ramekin siting 10 minutes on a wire rack. The eggs in the 6-ounce dish are firm after cooling and will be fine to eat, but with the 10-ounce casseroles the soft egg will nicely mix with the spinach filling.

Figure 2 Side-by-side comparison between the baked egg cooked in a 10-ounce ramekin and a 6-ounce ramekin.

I recommend the use of Parmesan cheese. It is a dry cheese that will not make the dish greasy or watery like cheddar or any other generic cheeses in the dairy section of the average grocery store. If you can spend the money to purchase the good Italian Parmesan cheese, do that. You will not be disappointed.

The oven time Rogers recommends, 6 to 8 minutes at 425 F if using a metal pan to hold the ramekins and 500 F if using a glass backing dish, is to long. The 6-ounce ramekins were overcooked. Temperatures are correct, I think. Since the demise of Gourmet I have had to look to Cook’s Illustrated for good recipes. I have noticed Cook’s Illustrated recipes tend to recommend times that will overcook the dish. I have wondered if this is an effort to make sure the food is fully cooked, even when the writer and recipe recommend checking the internal temperature. This is a recipe where, in order to prevent overcooking you will be standing or kneeling in front of the open oven door watching the eggs cook until the egg whites are just full white.

I will make the “Perfect Baked Egg” recipe again. I will also tinker with it. What I have found with these egg casseroles is 5-ounce spinach and 5-ounce finely chopped “woodsy”-tasting mushroom is good. What I like is adding, per ramekin, a half slice home-smoked bacon, frozen firm then sliced into 1/8-inch slivers with kitchen shears, then fried with grease discarded (bacon grease does not add anything good to the taste of the egg casserole no matter how fresh the smoked bacon is so stick with Rogers’ 2 tablespoons butter to cook the shallot in at the beginning) and two large, cooked shrimp, frozen firm then sliced into less-than ¼-inch pieces added to the spinach/mushroom/shallot/half-and-half/Parmesan mixture.

Recipe and demonstration video can be found at the Cook’s Illustrated website if you are a online member by searching for “baked egg” .

I served the baked egg with French Onion Soup (Gourmet magazine recipe), milk, and for dessert Chocolate Pudding Cake.