Monday, January 15, 2007

Pistachio & Apricot Muffins, Again

You can see the other two posts in this "series" here.

When I started the second batch of these muffins, I thought I would do a series. Each month, I would try changing a single ingredient, hopefully different results each time. Maybe good, but more importantly, show how changing one ingredient affects things. My own little kitchen laboratory! These muffins were perfect as a test subject. The first batch was not so good but it had potential. The flavors were there but they were trapped in a cast of flour. I couldn't help thinking, you had these flavors to work with and yet this is the recipe you published?

Last time, I sweetened the muffins with honey instead of sugar. This month the plan was to just reduce the flour. But I stopped to think about all the other things I want to do and I asked myself, do I want to make a batch of these muffins every month?

No, I do not.

So my plan changed. I did more than just reduce the flour. I added baking powder to provide more lift. I don't think the self-rising flour was doing a good job on its own. A couple people who tried the previous batch of muffins said they couldn't really taste the pistachios. Well, the honey was partly to blame for that but still I ground some pistachios and added that to the flour so there is a slight hint of pistachio throughout without turning these into mini-nutbreads. I kept the brandy in and it was much easier making the apricot puree this way. The glaze adds some shine and a touch of sweetness.

OK, this time I think I've got it. I like how these turned out. Still not light as air but definitely not the hard flour biscuits they were before. You can taste the pistachio throughout and it was the apricot supplying the sweetness this time. The chopped pistachios gave it a little tooth also. This is a good recipe to end this "series" on.

Pistachio & Apricot Muffins
even more remotely based on the Pistachio & Apricot recipe on page 274 of the 500 Cupcakes: The Only Cupcake Compendium You'll Ever Need by Fergal Connolly.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

1 1/3 cups (8 oz) + enough for decorating dried apricots
4 tbsp. brandy
3 cups (12 3/4 oz) self-rising flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) + 1 oz. + enough for decorating shelled pistachios
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. water

Give the apricots a rough chop and soak them in the brandy for about a hour. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Using a food processor, grind the 1 oz. of pistachios into a meal, as fine as you can get it. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the ground pistachios, flour, and baking powder together. Place the apricots and the brandy in a food processor and puree them until smooth. In another bowl, beat the eggs slightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar, buttermilk, and the apricots and mix them together. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Combine all the ingredients into the bowl with the flour and butter and stir until everything is just combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into baking cups. I use a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop to measure and place the batter in the cups. Decorate with a bit of apricot and some pistachios. Bake for 25 minutes, checking after about 20 minutes. These are done when a cake tester or toothpick comes out cleanly. Let sit in the pan for 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack. While they are cooling, mix the honey and water and warm a bit to make it easier to combine. Brush a light coating of the glaze onto the muffins.

OK, all said and done, if I do make these again I would probably swap out the buttermilk for a full cup of whole milk. Oh, and I also started thinking the dryness comes not only from the amount of flour but dried apricots soaking up liquids which hindsight being 20/20, I should have thought of sooner. All right, I'll stop.

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