Tag Archives: muffins

Love letter to the brioche

21 Aug

Dear brioche*,

I have always loved you. Since we first met, I knew you were vastly superior to the common croissant and its infinite variations (almond, chocolate, apple, and so on).

I love your substantial nature: since you contain eggs, you can be considered a meal in a pinch, to be consumed (head first) while walking down the street (preferably in Paris, but Montreal will do). Unlike  other viennoiseries, you are also low-maintenance: you leave no sticky residue on fingers or flaky shavings on clothing.

I love your size: you are just right, compact, a perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee. Bakers, take note: this is how big a muffin should be (well, unless they are adorable mini muffins). My poor brioche! You are dwarfed these days by cookies and muffins (and sometimes – gasp! – even croissants) seemingly made for giants!

I love your shape: your beauty is unique. You are instantly recognisable in a crowd, with your jaunty head perched on your crimped bottom. I think it’s sweet that you need your own fluted tin to be baked in. This may be your only high-maintenance moment, but you save it to have in the secrecy of your own oven. I thrill in your shiny egg wash.

Others may dress you up with a sugar dusting, or dried fruit, but I love you au naturel – your simple, rich taste should not be undermined or distracted from by empty baubles.

Even if the French Baker only makes a few of you each day, (apparently “people here don’t know what to do with a brioche”), and you haven’t yet found your way into every ubiquitous Starbucks or Second Cup, you are still my favourite.




*Or brioche à tête, to be specific.

Small is beautiful*

14 Jul

Pull up a chair, friend – we need to talk about mini muffins.

Mini Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Talk, you ask? Can’t we just eat?

Hold your hungry horses! The concept of mini muffins may not be new, but I think it merits some serious pause. Have you ever considered the possible appeal factors at work, here? After all, why would you want to make something so delicious any smaller? Doesn’t this mean less surface area on which to lather your butter, jam, honey, or (insert preferred muffin spread here)?

Maybe the attraction of mini muffins is akin to that of the dollhouse with its itty bitty furnishings; their cradle-me-and-coo cuteness tugs at our heartstrings in some primordial way and we just can’t help ourselves. I know I “aw”ed in a slightly high-pitched voice when I saw this pan at the grocery store, and I “aw”ed again in an even higher-pitched voice when I took my first batch out of the oven. I somehow felt fonder of these wee things than any other muffins I’d ever made, and I’d made lots of muffins. I wondered, with a particular glow about me and a swelling feeling in my chest, how anyone could not love these adorable little bundles of floury sweetness the way I did.

Perhaps you don’t identify with the maternal feelings I have toward these baked goods and the above musings are making you nauseous. We can discuss this again after you make your first batch. In the meantime, I propose an alternate explanation. Maybe the diminutive size of these muffins reassures us that we won’t bite off more than we can chew, a refreshing prospect in a world of bigger-is-better. Those Costco muffins are frightening. They’re huge. They’re dense. They overwhelm. Not these babies; you can eat one in a few small bites, or pop the whole thing in your mouth and be on your way, simple as that. Small is beautiful.

Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you that mini muffins bring joy not only to their makers but to all who consume them. This has been proven on multiple occasions in my very own kitchen. Admittedly, tea was always involved, which may have skewed the data. You had best serve some of that as well, just to be safe.

Now go get yourself a mini muffin pan and enjoy the only thing that could make cake for breakfast even better.

* with apologies to E.F. Schumacher, who tackled graver topics in his essays on “economics as if people mattered” in the 1970s