There are quite a few food associations of mine that are inexorably linked to the holidays: beef burgundy, Danish pastries, sand-tarts (elsewhere called Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cookies), and rum cake all come to mind. These gingerbread mini-muffins are certainly make the list as well. This recipe comes to me by way of my maternal grandmother. Grandma (or Mugsy, to everyone else) had a way with baking and was damn good at it (her pie crusts remain legendary), but honestly, she was such a force of sheer kindness and goodness in this world, that her prowess with the oven has been eclipsed in my mind by the warm and gooey feelings that I remember when I think of her. The recipes that she left behind are all that serve to jog my memory in the baking-department.
So I love when I come across memories that have been written down on her recipes. It’s plain that my mom has been eating these spiced delights on or around Christmas every year since she can remember — and thus, they’ve woven their way into most of my memories as well. Sadly, it had been several years since I made them myself, but I found myself with an excellent excuse to dust off tradition and make them again this year (as holiday pot-lucks are an ideal venue for mini-muffins). And even though The Bun won’t be eating them this year, it’ll be nice to know that I started baking them again the year she joined our family.
So here’s to passing a family tradition down to the next generation: perhaps these can find your way into your own family annals too!
Mugsy’s gingerbread mini-muffins
From an old family recipe
Makes at least 6-dozen mini-muffins
If you’d like to make these well-ahead of time, prepare the recipe through step four. Place the batter in a glass jar and refrigerate for up to four weeks. When it comes time to bake, bring the batter to room temperature and proceed with step five. Or, I suppose, you could bake it cold, but the cooking time will need to be increased slightly. If you do this, please let me know how long you baked it.
The recipe implies that you can certainly make full-sized muffins if you choose, but gives no hints as to what the baking time should be. If you decide to make large ones, please let me know how long they take to bake!
When mixing in the flour, it’s ok to leave some uncoated flour because they’re muffins and will turn out more tender that way.
To keep sticky ingredients like molasses from stubbornly remaining behind in the measuring cup, coat it with a thin film of neutral oil or cooking spray before you pour in the molasses.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g/7oz) granulated sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk
4 cups (480g/17oz) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1 cup chopped pecans (preferably toasted at 350 until toasty and fragrant, then cooled)
1 teaspoon freshly-grated orange zest, chopped fine
Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare 1-inch muffin tins for baking by brushing them with a neutral oil or spraying with cooking spray.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Remove about 1 cup of the flour-mixture, place in a small bowl, and pour in the raisins. Mix well, breaking up clumps of raisins and coating them with flour so that they won’t stick together in the batter. Sift this flour back into the rest of the flour, reserving the raisins.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light- and fluffy-textured and light-colored. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Pour in molasses and mix well.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk in parts until both are combined. Stir in the raisins, pecans, and orange rind.
Fill the muffin tins with 1.5 tablespoons of batter. Bake until the center of the muffin-top is just done, about 12 minutes. Pop out of the tin and cool on racks.