I had big plans of making these muffins ever since this time last year. The recipe was clipped out of one of those home decorating lady magazines that’s secretly (or maybe not so secretly) geared towards women over 60 featuring Santa embroidery patterns and homemade potpourri ideas. It was something I found myself picking up at the midwife’s office while waiting to get my uterus measured and urine tested (might this be the very first time those things have been mentioned on a baking blog?!?) Thinking back on it now, it seems a little strange that a magazine for such a mature crowd was even offered as interesting reading material to women in the 20-40 year age category frequenting such an office.
But that’s all besides the point. And the point being, that this recipe been sitting up in my cupboard for an entire year now screaming to be baked. Of course, being that this is a very Christmasy recipe, it became necessary to wait until the next December rolled around before it could even be considered. Which is where we find ourselves now.
Pepperkake muffins. You all know what a muffin is. And (I’m simply taking a wild guess here) about 50 percent of you know what pepperkaker are. For the other half: pepperkaker are the quintessential Scandinavian Christmas cookie. Thin, crisp, full of warming spices, a dark syrupy flavor, and cut into quaint little hearts, trees, reindeer, pigs, and men with short limbs and long hats. You’re bound to find them everywhere in Norway this time of year since every bank, church, store, library, and Grandma’s house has an endless supply to help you maintain that Christmas spirit. I love them. So much that the idea of a pepperkake-flavored muffin seemed like the best flavor combination in the world.
Which they pretty much are. I know they don’t look real fancy, but they’re plenty moist, not too sweet, and have a good dose of clementine zest and juice to help perk them up and offset their spice just enough. Perhaps the new perfect Christmas morning muffin? Even better than one filled with cranberries or walnuts or imported Turkish dates. Certainly better than one slathered with cream cheese frosting, because we both know anything with frosting isn’t really breakfast. Then again, that would transform them into a pretty nice little dessert after Christmas dinner...
*makes one dozen muffins
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick (4 oz/115 g) butter, softened
1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
1/3 cup (55 g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
juice of two clementines (about 1/4 cup (60 ml)
zest of one clementine
1. Preheat your oven to 375F/175C.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt (if using unsalted butter), and spices into a bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugars well. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then add the vanilla extract. Mix well.
4. Stir in half of the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture. Mix in the milk, juice, and zest, then add the remaining flour mixture. Mix well.
5. Scoop the batter into your 12 muffin cups- they should be filled about 3/4 of the way up. If crunchy pretty muffin tops are desired, sprinkle the tops with a little sugar (I like to use raw sugar cane).
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins just start to turn golden, but not yet brown. Eat warm or at room temperature. Freeze any that you do not eat on the day-of.