Saturday, March 16, 2013
I love pistachios. Actually, I love most nuts (this is not a reflection of my personality). Out of all the nuts out there, I wonder why the pistachio has it's own muffin? I mean...you never hear about peanut muffins, or almond muffins...or even cashew muffins. hmmm...interesting. (sorry, I don't have an answer for this. I can't even find anything about the origin of pistachio muffins. And yes, I did Google it).
It wasn't until very recently that I even tasted a pistachio muffin. I mean...within the past few months. You know when you hear about or see a certain food and you have a mental idea of what it's all about? And for some reason it just doesn't mesh with your mental taste buds? That's how it was for me. I thought it was odd that the muffin is green. Mentally, I assumed there were artificial flavorings involved. Some things, I just can't do artificially. Nut extracts are among them. Thank God that's not the case here. Once I tasted them...and discovered that the "green" is for looks only (induced by food dye), and not necessary, and the only nut flavor is from the actual nut itself...and some spices are added in there for a very nicely orchestrated pallet experience...well, my confounded predetermined opinion of pistachio muffins changed.
I did a lot of searching to find a recipe that matches my culinary style/taste. I found a lot of them that start off with a cake mix. Then there were tons of them that included pistachio pudding mix (THERE it is! The artificial flavoring in full motion right there! Ya, it's a good thing those recipes were not my first experience). Ok, if that's not an issue for you...and you desire a stronger, bolder pistachio flavor...then maybe one of those recipes would be better for you. Anyway, the recipe I found, that inspired me was at ScarlettaBakes. I made a few changes. Going green was one of them. I almost didn't add the dye but since St. Patricks Day is tomorrow....well, I couldn't resist. If you don't want them green...leave the dye out. You might even "feel healthier" eating them in their natural state.
These muffins are nice and moist (is there another word I can use to get that point across?). I love the combination of pistachio, cinnamon and nutmeg. I used roasted pistachios. Raw would be perfectly fine too. Actually, I would've preferred raw but I didn't have any on hand. I think if you were to use the nut in the raw...you'd end up with more of the oils and a more pure pistachio flavor.
One of the things I like about this recipe is that you take some of the nuts and puree them into a paste...well...a nut butter actually, leaving the rest of the nuts to be roughly chopped. I believe this method infuses more of the natural flavor in the muffin rather then having to rely on....say.....pudding mix?
Before I get into the whole recipe spiel, let me share what I did for the muffin cup. I just couldn't put these muffins in a little frou-frou paper cups. Besides...the firm crust, contrasting with the moist insides is one of the muffin qualities that appeals to me. And those store bought paper liners tend to peal off some of it.
What I did was cut some parchment paper into 5 1/2" squares and then pressed them into the muffin tin with the bottom of a glass
Just a little heads up here....the paper doesn't stay down very well, so make them as you need them...one at a time.
The weight of the dough will force the paper to the bottom of the cup then you can continue on to the next.
Yes, it's a tiny bit time consuming, but the results are cool. And...if you find that you don't have any store bought liners on hand....bazinga! Now you can just make your own. And don't be surprised that the round shape is not perfect. You will end up with some grooves and indents and bulges. But hey, that just adds to its rustic appeal. (funny how imperfections are made acceptable..and oftentimes desirable just by calling them rustic. OMG...I AM RUSTIC!! HA! Oh wait...never mind. That just makes me sound old. Really, really old).
Somebody stop me now.
Makes 24 standard sized muffins
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped (more if you want to sprinkle some on top of the muffins)
3/4 cup pistachios, pureed (instructions below)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Green food coloring (optional)
Preheat your oven to 425' F
Line 24 standard sized muffin cups
In a food processor, process 3/4 cup of pistachios in 30 second increments until pureed, scraping down the sides as needed. This should only take 3 or 4 increments.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. While the mixer is still running, add the eggs one at a time then add in the vanilla extract and green food coloring, if desired. I used a few squirts of the gel kind, eyeballing it until I liked the shade. Beat until just combined. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
With the mixer on low, add the sifted ingredients to the creamed butter, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat until just incorporated. Beat in the pureed pistachio nuts. Fold in the chopped nuts.
Fill each muffin cup with the batter. I used an ice cream scoop for uniformity. If you have any left over pistachios, give them a rough chop and sprinkle them over the muffins.
Bake for 20 - 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool slightly before enjoying
Happy St. Patrick's Day!