Sunday, October 9, 2011

Adaptability in terms of muffins and falling stars

Another note on the weather: though my friends here have some incredibly bizarre ways of forecasting the weather, it seems to be working much better then the actual weathermen in Italy, who have yet to be right. About one thing. This weekend I was gearing up for fall - googling rain boots and unpacking the 4 sweaters I brought from the U.S.A., but today I'm sitting onthe balcony under a cloudless blue sky squinting at the glare of the silver sun off the still ocean. There is a wedding reception at Restaurant Miky, which we are some 147 steps and 20 feet above, so I'm also treated to some Italian wedding music. Many songs are traditional Italian ones that are now famous in American pasta commercials, but there is also Vasco Rossi, etc. I'm holding out for the national anthem, however, which is fantastic. I'm not sure if it's wedding appropriate, but it's now beat out "Oh, Canada" for catchiest anthem in my book. Weather-wise, though I'm thankful for their error, it's a little difficult to know what to expect. It IS cooler now, I'll say that, and fortunately, though their meteorology skills might not be top notch, their astrology is on point.Last night, for reasons unknown to me, was a "night of the falling stars" - the stelle cadente. At about 10 pm, right on time (unheard of here), Manuel and I made our way out to the chilly and deserted beach and saw 5 falling stars in 10 minutes. And yes, we did time it. However, the wind was strong and the sand was cold, so 10 minutes was the limit we gave it, considering our "beach towel" was a tablecloth from the restaurant. I wrapped another tablecloth around myself, cursing the weathermen for reporting rain and not frigid cold (exaggeration, it was probably like mid-40's F). I never saw a shooting star before. I'm that girl who looks at the sky eagerly and the second I turn my head, hear, "Oh my god, a shooting star, did you see that???". Story of my life. Until last night.
Everyone then asked me if I made a wish, and as I was responding that yes, I did, they hurriedly "shhhhhhh-d" me, afraid that I didn't understand I can't actually tell them my wish, as if this "wish rule" was different in America. When I assured them, that, "Sì, lo so, non posso dirti il mio desidero" - Yes, I know I can't tell you my wish, they nodded satisfied, as thou
gh something was done correctly in the U.S.
After an eventful night at the Cantina which was, absolutely positively full of Americans (and 3 tables from New Jersey), I woke up this morning to sun, wedding tunes, and my second muffin experiment of the week. Now, baking wise, I've run into a few hurdles here. There i
s no brown sugar, no chocolate chips, no vanilla extract, and that pesky metric system and degrees C oven. Having overcome most of them with a laugh, a smile, and a conversion table, I was suprised (as was my tasting panel) by my latest discovery. Salt in Italy is, well, saltier. When my recipe for chocolate chip muffins, which I jazzed up with Nutella, called for a 1/4 tsp. of salt, I measured and baked, thinking nothing of it. I brought my muffins to the Cantina, and was treated, one at a time, to Andrea, Silvia, Leo, Henri and Manuel, saying in succession, "Cri, they are good...but are they supposed to be salato?"
So, learning from my mistakes, I'm doing batch number 2 with 3 salt specks, and playing around with carmelized apples now. It's apple season in the Northern part of Italy, and Trentino-Alto Adige is known for their apples. I found a huge array at the market yesterday and sauteed them with some butter, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg before whipping them
into my muffin mix. When life gives you apples, make apple muffins, I suppose. And when you wish upon a star, bring a jacket.

Chocolate Chip Nutella Muffins and Carmelized Apple Muffins

To the following recipe, I added less butter (about 1/4 stick less), about 1/4 c more flour and rounded the sugar to a full cup. For nutella muffins, reserve a small portion of the batter and mix 1/2 cup of nutella into it. After you fill the muffin tin with the plain batter, then take the batter/Nutella mixture and swirl in. This prevents the heavy Nutella from sinking to the bottom of your muffin.
For apple muffins, I used the plain batter without chocolate chips and modified as above, adding one apple, chopped and sauteed with 2 tbsp of sugar, a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 stick of butter. I mixed into the batter and baked as usual, and didn't use the "topping" for either recipe.
Another note: this batter is really "liquid-y" as opposed to most muffin batter's I've used, but makes a great, fluffy muffin. And it's easy to make by hand, too, which is great for me since I don't have a dishwasher OR an adaptor for my American mixer. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Muffins: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Position rack in center of oven. Butter, or line with paper liners, 12 - 2 3/4 x 1 1/2 inch muffin cups.

In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.

In another large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. In a small bowl combine the topping ingredients and then sprinkle a little topping on each muffin. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 18 - 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Makes 12 regular sized muffins.


Spaull, Susan & Burrell, Fiona. 'Leith's Baking Bible'. Bloomsbury Publishing. London: 2006.

Rombauer, Irma S., Rombauer Becker, Marion, & Becker, Ethan. The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking. Simon & Schuster Inc. New York: 1997.

Chocolate Chip Muffins:

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs

1 cup (240 ml) milk or cream

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour

2/3 cups (135 grams) granulated whitesugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (170 grams) milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips


1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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