As weird as this sounds, there are some days that I don't feel very creative. "But you play the flute, bake and figure skate!" my friends would say. Yes, but what they don't realize is that all those hobbies are very disciplined and precise. A flute player must play the exact notes on the sheet music, as the composer has written, using the proper technique and expression. A figure skater must be on the correct part of the blade and extend one's feet and arms perfectly while gliding on the ice. One slight misstep and you could fall and injure yourself. And a baker must follow instructions to a T, or else that otherwise perfect baked good may turn out to be hard as a brick or grossly underdone.
So you see, I don't have much creativity. I had been ogling over these cinnamon sugar donut muffins that my friend Kim at Just Baked posted. They were donuts - in muffin form. I wish I had the creativity to come up with that. But I didn't. I finally got a copy of the cookbook that Kim used and knew it was one of the first things I had to make. Alas, I didn't have whole milk or buttermilk, and to my disappointment, neither did my grocery store.
Rather than run to a different grocery chain (and waste another 20-30 minutes), I decided to improvise and get creative. This isn't something that I do very often since it's not in my comfort zone, but I tried it. I had some extra half and half in my refrigerator and about half a container of plain Greek yogurt. I decided to sub these for the whole milk and buttermilk in the recipe.
What do you know - my substitutions paid off! The muffins indeed tasted like a donut, but more of the thicker, (baked) cake variety than the light and crispy version. The Greek yogurt helped prevent the donuts from drying out, and the cinnamon sugar topping provided a nice crunchy contrast to the dense muffin.
I guess I learned a lesson today - I am more creative than I thought, and I need to take more chances!
Cinnamon sugar donut muffins
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 4 TBSP (half a stick) butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar mixed with 1 TBSP ground cinnamon
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 liners (alternatively, you can skip the liners and use baking spray to grease the muffin wells).
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a separate large bowl, cream the butter for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Turn the speed down to low and slowly add the sugar. Keep mixing until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs individually and mix until just combined. Alternately add the dry ingredients with the half and half, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Once the mixture is almost fully incorporated, add the Greek yogurt. The mixture will be very thick.
Using an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, drop the batter into the prepared muffin tins and fill them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are firm to the touch and slightly golden.
Set up two bowls for dunking - one for the melted butter and one for the cinnamon sugar topping.
Once the muffins have fulled cooled, dunk them first into the melted butter. Then dunk them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Shake off any excess cinnamon sugar.
Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. They can also be frozen for about 2 weeks.
Yield: About 14 muffins
Source: Inspired by Just Baked and adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, by Cheryl Day & Griffith Day, page 20