- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2004

My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but that never kept my sister and I from doing something special for Mother’s Day.

We would get up very early in the morning, before our mom was awake, and sneak into the kitchen to bake a treat for her breakfast.

Our favorite thing to make for her was kugelhopf, a traditional Austrian coffeecake that started with a sweet yeast-leavened dough, which we then layered with almonds and raisins in a fluted ring mold to create a delicious swirled effect. Our mother loved it, and there would always be enough left over for her to cut into slices later that afternoon, top with generous spoonfuls of freshly whipped cream, and proudly serve to visitors along with steaming cups of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

To tell you the truth, I can’t really imagine most children nowadays getting up at dawn to prepare a yeast dough and let it rise before baking it as a Mother’s Day treat. But that doesn’t mean they can’t bake for Mom. The solution is for them to make muffins.

Muffins are so simple to prepare. Just measure and stir together the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then, add the moist ingredients and stir again to make a batter, being careful not to overstir so the muffins will stay nice and tender. Then, spoon the batter into the cups of a muffin tin and pop the tin into the oven. Only 20 minutes or so later, the muffins are ready to be served. (Teens could easily make muffins for Mom all by themselves, though Dad should help younger children with the work, especially with the part of the recipe that involves hot ovens and bakeware.)

In fact, the muffin-making process is so easy that it takes almost no effort at all to add an extra-special touch. In the recipe that follows for Chocolate and Orange Swirl Muffins, the batter is divided into two batches, each differently flavored, which are then put into the muffin cups in alternate spoonfuls to produce a beautiful swirled effect that reminds me of that kugelhopf my sister and I used to make. Chocolate chips in both batches are an extra treat. Of course, you could also add or substitute your favorite chopped nuts for the chocolate; or use different flavorings, such as lemon zest or vanilla or sweet spices.

You could also easily double the quantities in this particular recipe to make a dozen muffins instead of six. That way, later in the afternoon, Mom can cut the leftover muffins into slices to serve to friends while she brags about her children’s incredible creativity in the kitchen.

CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE SWIRL MUFFINS

Makes 6 muffins

1-1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk

1/2 cup (125 ml) orange juice

1/4 pound (125 g) unsalted butter, melted, or 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup (125 ml) bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Line six 4-ounce (125-ml) muffin tin cups with paper muffin liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, orange juice, melted butter or vegetable oil, vanilla extract and grated orange zest.

Pour the egg mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. With a fork or a whisk, stir them together just until they are combined, forming a uniformly moist batter. Do not over stir; it is OK if a few streaks of flour remain.

Pour or spoon half the batter into another bowl. Stir all of the cocoa powder and half of the chocolate chips into one bowl of batter. Stir the remaining chocolate chips into the batter in the other bowl.

A tablespoonful at a time, alternating spoonfuls between the two bowls to produce a swirled effect, transfer the batters to the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Then, open the oven door and rotate the tin so the muffins at the back of the oven are now toward the front, for more even baking. Close the oven and continue baking until a long wooden toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 5 to 8 minutes more.

Remove the muffin tin and place it on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before unmolding and serving the muffins.

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s new TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY. 14207.)

2004 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC.

DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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