Although I do from time to time dream of the day when I’ll set a grand table and serve a Norman Rockwell-inspired meal amidst oohs and ahs from family and friends, most of the dishes and desserts that come from our kitchen are served to a gracious though not unusually enthusiastic audience — until last week, that is, when Beany learned her latest trick.
Last week, Beany (who has become quite the little cookie monster, cupcake monster, anything sweet monster as of late) made the all-important connection between the kitchen timer and desserts. All at once, the onset of beeping sets off a series of events in our little girl’s day: stop what you’re doing, say “uh oh” while running toward the kitchen, stand by the dishwasher (our designated “safe” zone just out of the oven’s reach) and yell “yay, yay, yay” as loud as you can while clapping as quickly as possible. Talk about a receptive audience.
The greatest part is, it almost doesn’t matter what I bake or whether she gets to try it right away. She’s just excited to be a part of it. And by the time I reach my third batch of cookies, when I’m burnt out from baking, ready to hang up the oven mitts and call it a day, there’s that Beany, still two big eyes under happy claps and cheers. I bet she’d cheer for the laundry if I turned the buzzer on the dryer. She’s pretty much the greatest that way.
Of course, I can’t expect the claps to continue forever and ever if I don’t reciprocate with cheer-worthy treats, and Beany was a happy camper with these cherry maple muffins. Sure, she gave them rave reviews before they even made it out of the oven, but the love continued well into the tasting phase.
Cherry Maple Muffins
Adapted from Rivka, Food52.com
• ½ cup grade B maple syrup
• ¾ cups plain yogurt
• ¼ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 3 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• zest from 1 orange
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup canola oil
• 2 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted and halved (if using frozen, make sure they’re thawed completely)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 12 muffins tins with parchment liners.
Mix together the syrup, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and orange zest until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking power, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir gently to incorporate. Add the oil, and gently fold it into the batter until it’s completely absorbed. Then gently fold in the cherries (Note: I like to reserve a few cherries to sprinkle on top of the batter once it’s poured into the parchment liners so the finished muffins have pretty cherry pieces right on top.)
Pour the batter into the muffin cups until they’re about ¾ cup full. Drop the last few cherry pieces on top (if you saved any), and then sprinkle the tops with a light dusting of sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick just comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan as soon as you’re able, and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
Who’s your best kitchen cheerleader? Do you have a favorite recipe that always elicits happy squeals from the diners in your life? I’d love to hear about it!