A Christmas Reunion

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last night was our annual Baker/Woolner family Christmas reunion.  With a maiden name of Baker, it was probably pre-determined that I’d eventually blog about my desserts.  (The title of Most Talented Baker of the family, however, goes to my cousin Ruth Anne, who has won Baking Queen honours at both the Rodney and Wallacetown fall fairs.)

My mother's farm, taken from the house
My sister and I live in the Toronto area, and my cousins each live on a farm near where I grew up in southwestern Ontario.  So we really treasure the times that we’re all together.  And as so often happens, after we talked about our kids, our spouses and the weather, we got on the topic of food.

Those of you who’ve been following my blog since the beginning will remember that my first post was about my Grandma Baker’s gingersnap cookies.  No matter how many cookie recipes I try, these will probably always be my favourites.  Gwen and Judy both remembered her oatmeal cookies as being the best.  But we all remembered Grandma pulling the cookies out of the freezer when we came to visit, from the bread bags in which she stored them.

Opinion was divided on why she kept them in the freezer.  Maybe it was to keep them longer.  Maybe she preferred the taste of frozen cookies.  Carol suggested it might have been to keep them out of the sight and mind of Grandpa Baker.  Carol does the same to keep her cookies out of the sights, if not the minds, of her three tall sons.

She may be right.  When I make these muffins, I’d be best freezing them, if only to keep them out of my husband’s sight.  It’s a Dorie Greenspan recipe that was adapted by Valerie on the fabulous blog, Pixie Baker.  The only major change I made to Valerie’s version was using a cup of brewed chai tea instead of the coffee.  I’m not a coffee drinker, and I thought the gentle spice of the tea worked perfectly with the muffins.

I know my dad would have liked these muffins.  Today would have been his 79th birthday.  Although he’s been gone for over twenty-four years, it means a lot to me that I’m still blessed with the company of his sister, my Aunt Lois, and her wonderful family.

Streusel Muffins with Maple Glaze
(from Dorie Greenspan, by way of Pixie Baker)

Streusel ingredients:

½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
5 Tbsp butter (cold and cut into bits)

Muffin ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp kosher salt or sea salt
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup brewed chai tea (cooled)
½ cup (1 stick) melted butter (cooled)
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract

Maple glaze:

¾ cup sifted icing sugar
6 Tbsp pure maple syrup


To prepare the streusel, put the flour, brown sugar and allspice in a small bowl and whisk to blend.  Add the bits of cold butter and toss to coat, then work the butter into the dry ingredients until you’ve got irregularly shaped crumbs.  Cover and refrigerate while you make the muffins.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter or line a regular sized muffin tin (twelve muffins) and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Stir in the brown sugar, making certain that there are no lumps.  In another bowl, whisk the tea, melted butter, egg and vanilla extract together.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir the mixture just until blended.  (Do not overmix.)  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Sprinkle the streusel mixture over each muffin, gently pressing into the batter.

Bake for 16 – 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool muffins for 5 minutes before removing from the tin.

Combine the icing sugar and maple syrup in a medium bowl.  Mix until smooth and drizzle over cooled muffins.


Carol said...

Your dad left you way too soon! Those muffins look fantastic, they'd definitely be on my favorite list from the looks of them!

I freeze cookies, I just like them frozen!

Katerina said...

Food will always bond family members, because it is there in all our family moments. Your dad left so young. I am so sorry. But you are blessed with a beautiful family and relatives and that makes his absence less painful. Those muffins sound like the best idea for the holidays.

GratefulPrayerThankfulHeart said...

I could have a muffin for breakfast every morning! These look really good! I store muffins in the freezer to keep them just-baked fresh. 12-15 seconds in the microwave is just about right.

Sounds like you all really enjoy each other and continue with the genetically inherited BAKER genes. :) I think your dad would be happy with this tradition.

Valerie Gamine said...

Chai sounds like a delicious variation on these muffins!
I think food is a great way to celebrate those loved ones who are no longer with us. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm 100% positive that with maple glaze, there's no way that you can go wrong.

I freeze baked goods like crazy so that they don't go bad (I can't eat them fast enough) and then I can enjoy a variety of treats at any given time.

Ann said...

I love muffins and these look so fantastic. thanks for posting them!

Emma said...

These muffins are just my thing, especially with a cup of chai, lovely.

I always freeze muffins and breads, they freshen up beautifully in the oven and you always have something sweet on hand.

Anonymous said...

I am decidedly not a coffee drinker, either. I never miss a morning cup of chai, though, in which a drizzle a bit of real maple syrup. These muffins sound like my morning ritual.

Zoe said...

The maple glaze look delicious. With streusel will be extra yummy :D

Sue said...

That glaze sure looks GOOD! My mom always made Christmas cookies weeks ahead and froze them to free up her time during the busy season(I did that too this year)! Glad you had a fun time reminiscing with your extended family:)

Pam said...

I am loving these muffins... especially with the maple glaze. YUM.

Anonymous said...

Tea would work perfect with muffins! mmmm :) Its so nice that you are able to get together with your family and reminisce!!

Reeni said...

These sound really yummy for Christmas morning! I love that you used chai - one of my favorites! I bet your family loved them.

Val said...

These look and sound amazing. My dad passed when he was 55 and sometime's I will make his favorite foods and it makes my heart feel full. Happy Monday!

Faith said...

I love how food plays always an essintial role in getting friends and family members all together! Those muffins look fantastic Beth! I love the addtion of maple glaze on the top! It makes it even look and taste more delicious.

Have a great week ahead.

julie said...

These muffins look perfect and I love the addition of chai tea.

My husband is always hiding his reeses in the freezer to protect them from the likes of us, so I'm betting she was trying to stash a few for you all when you arrived.

Have a wonderful holiday week!

A Canadian Foodie said...

Your mother's farm looks just like it could be in Alberta. And made me ache for my childhood days on my grandmother's farm. How lucky for you that it is still in the family!!!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Great post, Beth! I had to smile at the cookies stored in the freezer in bread bags. My mother always used to save hers to use again too.

Wonderful recipes and Baker tradition!

Anonymous said...

With the Dorie Greenspan/Pixie Baker provenance, these muffins must have been pretty darned sensational to begin with. Love your idea of a chai tea variation on the original!

Anonymous said...

I love the shot of your mother's farm. I want snow so bad! The muffins look utterly delicious, too. I can just imagine how nice they tasted warm and fresh out of the oven in that lovely winter wonderland. :)

Georgia | The Comfort of Cooking said...

What a lovely farm and what sounds like a lovely family! These muffins are the perfect treat to you bring you all together again. Thanks for sharing a bit of your family life and this wonderful recipe. Happy holidays to you, Beth!

Claudia said...

I love the photo of the farm and the image of your grandmother pulling cookies froma bread bag in the freezer. My mother-in-law who grew up on a WI farm did much the same!

And those muffins - every ingredient is special. Yes, I'd give one each to the family and then hide them (freeze them in a bread bag) for a special time.

Krista said...

What lovely memories! The streusel muffins look and sound wonderful too. I also enjoyed your picture of the farm. My family journeyed to a farm in Ontario when I was young (staying the night in Toronto on the way) to pick up a load of sheep for our farm. That picture brings back memories!

Kristen said...

Thank you for sharing such fun memories. Family reunions and food memories go so well together. The muffins sound good. Anything with streusel is sure to catch my attention.

Joyti said...

I hope you and your family have a lovely time together, and a lovely holiday.
and your muffins sound so good.

FOODESSA said...

Today, I added two more recipes from you. The first one was that Kentucky Derby pie I had known very little about. LOL

I love these ingredients in these muffins and of course Gingersnaps are always a pleasure to bite into.
Well, off I go getting your Grandma's recipe ;o)

Beth, here's wishing you all the very best for the Holidays going forward,

Angie's Recipes said...

That's a great shot of your mother's farm! My husband is a huge fan of streusel treat, and these muffins would be perfect for him.

Joanne said...

What a sweet post! I love how the holidays bring families together. That, along with all the good food, is truly the best part.

These muffins sound fabulous! I would have to hide them from myself, for sure.

Diana's Cocina said...

These muffins sound divine, and what a special treat. By the way, I would love to try Grandma Baker’s gingersnap cookies. Love the pictures of your family farm.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Thanks for sharing your family story. It's anecdotes like this that makes food interesting:-)

Rita said...

Your muffins are spectalcular. I used to always freeze my cookies; with 4 sons, they disappeared; funny thing is they found my hiding spot and still talk about eating my frozen cookies.

cocoa and coconut said...

What a delicious sounding recipe! I tend to think that anything with 'maple' in it is perfect for the cold.

Sweet And Crumby said...

I am walking away from the computer right this minute to go bake these! I love your Chai Tea addition, but I am sad I don't have any! Coffee will have to do. Have a very happy holiday!

Barbara Bakes said...

How nice that you are so close to your family. The muffins look scrumptious. I love a streusel topping.

Kayte said...

Love the photos, the farm looks like I remember farms of my childhood...a comfort to see them always. Your food always looks tasty. Now, about that maiden name...my maiden name is Baker as well. And while it led you to believe you should share your desserts...it led me to finally learn how to bake in the last couple of years...lol! Before that, I had no interest at all. My Granny Baker loved to bake cookies for my boys when they were little...I never made them (I know, I know...) so they were in awe of watching her do it and seeing the results. From the time they could talk they always thought her name was Granny Cookie Baker. Until the day she passed, that is what they called her. She loved it. She also made cakes, pies, cinnamon rolls, bread, noodles, any number of things but for some reason they always associated her with cookies.

Amie Kaufman said...

These sound incredible. I'm so excited about my kitchen renovations in February--I'll have an oven that has even heat, instead of an oven that only radiates heat on one side. I'll be baking up a storm!

I love sharing family recipes and hearing about family reunions. My family's huge and full of tradition... I think I might be stealing yours and hiding things in the freezer from my rampaging husband!

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