"The Muffin Lady," Linda Fisher

Pros: Absolutely incredible muffins
Cons: None!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 9/6/2000

Muffins make wonderful breakfast foods; they freeze well, so you can make a batch on Sunday and they’ll carry you through the week. Of course, we like a lot of variety in our food, and surprisingly, a lot of cookbooks don’t do a great job with muffins. The texture is wrong, or the taste is wrong, or any number of things.

“The King Arthur Flour Cookbook” has some good muffin recipes, as does “Muffins A to Z.” The Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection “Muffins” book, frankly, sucks (particularly in comparison to “The Muffin Lady”). That really didn’t leave us with enough variety to carry us through all of these weeks of muffins without one of us starting a revolution.

So I looked around epinions, and discovered good reviews of two cookbooks: “Mad about Muffins,” and “The Muffin Lady.” Then I happened to stumble across “1001 Muffins…and Other Quick Breads” when shopping from King Arthur Flour’s website. Um, well, what can I say…I got all three. I’m a cookbookaholic. (I don’t suppose there’s a cookbookaholics anonymous somewhere in the Boston area, is there?)

Not Entirely “Normal” Muffins

These muffins have a much wetter batter than I’m used to, and they bake at a lower temperature and for a longer time. They also don’t rise up like most muffins I’ve worked with – they’re rather flat on top. We find that the recipes make 18 muffins instead of the 12 the recipes promise. I think our muffin tin maybe be slightly smaller than the standard size, though. Just make sure you don’t fill the muffin tins all the way to the top with batter, and you shouldn’t end up with batter smoking on the bottom of your oven (ahem). (I plead early morning brain-fuzziness for that one. I should have known better.)

Warm Personality

The warm and generous personality of Linda Fisher, the “muffin lady,” really comes through. There are hints and tips (use frozen berries for the berry muffins), personal anecdotes, and family photos. With the occasional line like, “I think I’ve always done what I damn well please,” it’s really hard not to like this woman.

The Muffins

There’s a great variety of muffins in here. Next week we’re going to try the Strawberry-Cream Muffins, which have cream cheese in them (yum!). There are berry muffins – the raspberry muffins are sweet and cakey, with wonderful pockets of tartness. You’ll find Pina Colada Muffins, Peach Cobbler Muffins, Cran-Orange Muffins, Blueberry Muffins, Banana Nut Muffins, and Apple Nut Muffins. Then, you’ll find our favorite – Apple Dumpling Muffins. They have whole slices of soft apple in the middle, and the muffin around the apples comes out like an incredibly moist spice cake. Wow!

The Non-Muffins

You didn’t think muffins were the only thing in this cookbook, did you? There’s muffins, quickbreads, cupcakes and cakes, and cookies and pastries. Rather than being split into a section of each, the chapters are instead “Seeds and Nuts,” “Fruits,” “Vegetables and Grains,” and “Confections,” each subsected into the various types of quickbreads. Believe it or not, the muffins listed above are just from the fruit chapter! So here’s a random sampling of recipes from this cookbook:

  • Peanut Butter Loaf
  • Raisin Quick Bread
  • Orange Fruitcake
  • Raisin Apple Coffeecake
  • Blueberry Upside-Down Squares
  • Tomato Soup Muffins
  • Rhubarb Loaf
  • Zucchini Chocolate Cake
  • Burnt Sugar Muffins
  • Glazed Orange Muffins
  • Maple Walnut Coffee Cake
  • Crisp Toffee Bars
  • Gingerbread Cookies

…and on and on and on! New and unusual recipes sit side-by-side with fabulous renditions of old favorites. After playing with these recipes, I totally trust Ms. Fisher to show us the way to many, varied, and yummy muffins.

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