Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Grilled Muffin: A Recommendation

You eat your muffins plain, baked once. And you enjoy them. I can appreciate that. I did just the same for many moons... a muffin batter was concocted, filled with all sorts of fillings: berries, cinnamon, chocolate chips. banana mash, what have you. Then it was ladled into baking cups and thrown in an oven, allowed to rise with the heat, cook up into a fluffy yet firm approximation of a mushroomed dome of dough. Yummy when still-warm; very good after being cooled. Nibbled at whole, split down the middle, broken into chunks--The muffin is hard to eat incorrectly.

But there is a better way. To nosh on the once-baked muffin is to enjoy french bread by its lonesome. Certainly, at times this is the preference. Some want their Vanilla, while others opt for the Chunky Monkey. But if you've found your muffins wanting recently, I plead you to consider the Grilled technique.

Split that muffin in half. Spread each side with a thick coat of butter, OR drop a slice of butter in a warming skillet, over medium heat. Or do both. Then, when the pan is hot or the butter is bubbling liquid, place each half cut-side down onto the pan. There will be a tiny sizzle; this is the sound of greatness elevated. An already superb food is slowly transcending its original state, and becoming something much more than the sum of its part. The butter is crystallizing, browning and crunchifying the surface of the cross-section, seeping into the body, infusing the whole with a richness often baked out of the already-butter-rich batter. Your kitchen fills with the pleasant smell of butter and _________ (insert muffin flavor here: sweet banana? apple cinnamon? blueberry crumble? hearty bran? decadent chocolate?). When ready, the cut-side will have developed the deep golden brown of french toast, or grilled cheese. Slide those bad boys into a shallow dish, ideally with a bit of a volume to it, the better to encase the muffin and retain some of its own heat. If heat-retention is a priority, place a bowl over the dish while eating the first half, allowing the rising steam to coat the bowl and keep the muffin warm with its own condensation.

Each bite promises a different sensation. The grilled bits will be buttery, crunchy, hot; the portions kept away from the griddle will be softer, moist, a delightful contrast to the harshness of the grilled edge. Altogether, the Grilled Muffin offers something both accessible and complicated: for me, a delicious newness to a baked good I had enjoyed yet taken for granted in my years of simple-bake consumption. So please, eat your muffins how you wish. But if you haven't already, I implore you to try this revelation of secondary cooking--split, butter and grill, then eat, then swoon over what you've been missing for all these years.


Unknown said...

two years too late, i know, but i just happened upon this entry after googling "grilling muffins"--it was a technique i had heard of, but never practiced personally. seriously, it's changed my life. now, i no longer over-look bags of day-old muffins, and instead transform them into *^^%$*^ delicious, warm breakfasts. double chocolate muffin grilled in cinnamon butter? yes please.

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