Tomorrow is the annual Tree Streets Sale in Johnson City. It’s a big deal. Homes in area of about 6 blocks square heave from their innards an amazing assortment of bauble, bric-a-brac and bits and pieces, while others haul themselves around in cars, carts and bikes, looking for the “great find.” And since Brother Michael lives smack-dab in the middle of it, we get to witness the spectacle first hand. Over the years I’ve noticed people – churches and organizations, usually – will set up little vendor tables and sell food items. Last year someone a block or so away was selling sausage and egg biscuits. Up the hill on Pine, the Little City Roller Girls were selling crepes filled with Nutella. It’s how thy roll. Every other house has a cooler with cans of soda and bottled water. And I know that somewhere in there is someone selling funnel cakes. Blurgh.
This year, I have decided to jump in and offer my own viands. I’ve made muffins. 170 of the darn things. I would have made more, but there is an expectation of rain; I don’t know what the turnout will be in rain. (It’s usually hotter than blazes, although last year was just about perfect.)
I learned a little trick back when I baked at a little coffee house/restaurant in Nordeast Minneapolis. I discovered that I could make large amounts of muffin batter, leaving out the flavorings and most of the milk of a typical recipe. With that base batter I was able to make just about any kind of muffin I wanted, based on what I had on hand. With very little milk in it, the batter could hold up to the juiciest fruits or extracts and would keep for a week, at least. Here’s the “Master recipe:”
1 pound of unsalted butter
4 cups of sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 cups of all-purpose flour
12 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
milk or buttermilk
As with most batters, you start by creaming the butter and sugar, then add the eggs. (The whole recipe just fits in a 6 quart KitchenAid stand mixer.)
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add about 2 cups of dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, and combine on low speed. Add a splash of milk or buttermilk: Skim, 1%, 2%, whole – it doesn’t really matter. Since moving to the South, I find that I really love buttermilk in my batters. Give it a quick mix on low again and add another two cups of dry. Add another splash of milk. Really, no more than a quarter-cup. In all, you will want a cup or less of milk for the whole recipe.
That’s it! Scoop the batter into a container – I find those 5-quart ice cream buckets are perfect for one batch – and use it as you need it.
Today I made two kinds of sweet muffins: strawberry-pineapple and one of my top sellers from the restaurant days, peanut butter-banana. For 24 PB-Bs, I used about half a cup or so of peanut butter (I used some freshly ground stuff from Earth Fare, but the cheap stuff works well, too.) and two thawed bananas. By the way, everyone should have a ready supply of frozen bananas for emergencies. It’s pretty easy to figure out how much batter to pull from the master recipe: figure 1/4 cup of batter for each regular-sized muffin. That, along with your flavorings should give you a nice, full muffin.
Mix the flavorings and the batter in a clean bowl and then use a level 1/3 cup to scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with some nice turbinado or raw sugar, or a mix of sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon, or nothing at all. It’s up to you!
Bake at 350°F for about 27 minutes.
I used the rest of the batter for the Strawberry-Pineapple muffins. I had a couple cups of whole Scott’s strawberries in the freezer, and half of a pineapple. These babies were LOADED with fruit, but because I used very little milk in the batter, they baked up nice and firm. Not quite as firm as the PB-Bs, but still delicious. And the house smelled heavenly!
All told, the full batch of batter made 57 regular muffins.
I am not one to like a lot of sweet carbs in the morning. I still love my carbs, but I want them to have to work a little before all of them become sugar. So, I made some savory muffins as well. I knew I was going to make some sausage biscuits (more on that, below), so I had gotten 5 pounds of hot breakfast sausage on sale. (I love those “use today or freeze” sales.) And then there was the other half of that pineapple. And a bounty of jalapeños from the garden. Sounded tasty!
I browned one pound of the sausage, chopped the pineapple and peppers and added these, along with some fresh basil just for fun. I used a batter base that I sometimes use for herb, onion and cheese muffins. Here’s the basic batter for savory muffins:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk (again, I went with buttermilk)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
For that amount of sausage filling, I tripled the recipe. Again, the process for making the batter is simple. Mix the liquids in a small bowl. Mix the dry in a large bowl. Add the liquid to the dry and combine to remove lumps. Dump in the sausage filling and fill muffin cups 2/3 full. This made 46 muffins.
Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes.
AND THEN THERE WERE BISCUITS
I started making sausage biscuits out of desperation. I had intended to make biscuits and sausage gravy one morning when Brother Michael and family were over. Then I realized I only had half a pound of sausage. And only buttermilk. It was a simple transition from standard buttermilk biscuits to sausage biscuits. In place of the shortening, I simply threw in the half pound of sausage, added some finely diced onions, peppers, garlic, and who knows what herbs, and plopped that dough on a cookie sheet. Those fresh, savory biscuits, along with a quart of peaches canned last summer, and we had a whiz-bang breakfast.
So I made a bunch of these Buttermilk Sausage Biscuits – about 80 of them – with the 4 pounds of sausage I had left.
Now, if the rain will just hold off, we’ll have some fun tomorrow!
And if it rains, and I have a bunch of muffins and biscuits left over, they’ll end up at Sunday’s Dinner on the Grounds at our lovely little church in the woods. And in either case, we’ll have breakfast in the Tree Streets tomorrow!