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Beer muffins have great depth of flavor

By Newsday
McClatchy Newspapers
Muffins made with beer have a pleasantly malty flavor and bubbly texture.
Beer and muffins -- now there are two words you don't often see in the same sentence, let alone in the same recipe. Most muffin batters, even savory ones, are moistened with milk or buttermilk. But beer will do the same job, adding flavor and bubbly lift.Beer is more often used in quick bread. Its carbonation helps the bread rise, and its yeasty flavor mimics the flavor and aroma of "real" bread in a fraction of the time it would take to make a yeast-risen bread.I will never turn down a loaf of beer bread, but I like muffins better. With no slicing, and no crumbs, they are easier and neater to serve. They are also easy to save. Leftover bread goes stale quickly, but you can keep leftover muffins fresh by wrapping them in plastic and freezing them. Defrost on the countertop, warm up in a 300-degree oven for five minutes, and they will be indistinguishable from a freshly baked batch.For my beer muffins, I started with the simplest beer bread recipe, adapting it to fit my muffin tin. I added some baking powder to lighten up the dough. I filled each muffin cup just halfway, and the combination of baking powder and beer caused my muffins to rise impressively. For the tallest muffins, get them into the oven as soon as you mix the dough and before the beer's bubbles have a chance to pop.Some shredded cheddar cheese and melted butter, mixed into the batter and sprinkled and drizzled on top just before baking, lend richness to the muffins. Take care to grease your muffin tin well for an easy release. If the cheese sprinkled on top has melted onto the pan, to remove from the cups run a sharp paring knife around each muffin to loosen.Blue Point Toasted Lager gave my muffins terrific flavor. The beer's warm, roasted malt taste became concentrated during baking, and stood up well to the assertive flavors of the cheddar cheese and chopped dill. Using different beer, cheese and herb combinations would give you an entirely different effect. With some imagination and what you have in the refrigerator, you could come up with a custom muffin for every night of the week.Here are a few variations using beers of different styles and from around the world to get you started:
  • Guinness, cheddar, a little bit of sautéed onion and a tablespoon of caraway seeds.
  • Corona or Dos Equis, Jack cheese, scallions and a chopped chipotle chili pepper.
  • Peroni, Italian Fontina, Parmesan and basil.
  • Pumpkin ale, cheddar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon mustard powder and 1 tablespoon mustard seeds.
  • Sweet muffins benefit just as much from the bubbly flavor of beer (and hard cider). For breakfast or teatime, try one of the following combinations:
  • Hard cider, cheddar, chopped apple and 6 tablespoons sugar.
  • Raspberry ale, some crumbled goat cheese, 3/4 cup frozen raspberries and 6 tablespoons sugar.
  • Stout or porter, grated orange zest, 6 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.
  • Beer Muffins with Cheddar Cheese and DillMakes 12 muffins.     2    cups unbleached all-purpose flour     2     tablespoons packed light brown sugar     2     teaspoons baking powder     3/4     teaspoon salt     1    cup lager-style beer     6     tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, divided     1    cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided     1 1/2     tablespoons finely chopped fresh dillHEAT oven to 375°. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.WHISK together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the beer and 4 tablespoons of melted butter until a rough dough forms. Stir in 3/4 cup cheese and the dill.DIVIDE the batter among the muffin cups. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over muffins. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top.BAKE until the muffins are golden and toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out dry, about 18 minutes.COOL in the pan for 5 minutes, invert onto a wire rack, reinvert, let cool another 5 minutes and serve warm.
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