Cherry Almond Muffins
i don't think baking gets its due as an art form. maybe because it has to do with the vaguely sinful pleasure of eating, or maybe because food is something essential to life and so making it gets put in the category of 'work' rather than a more leisurely 'art.' but whatever the reason, i think this is deeply, deeply wrong. baking is not only an art, it is the best art!
not only is there the obvious benefit of involving multiple senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, you name it). it is also blissfully ephemeral! that is, it doesn't pile up. i have corners full of paintings, and closets full of stuff i've sewn (okay, not CLOSETS full, but still). i loved doing all of it, but now it's just...gathering dust.
now if you're a professional and it sells that is one thing. but if you're ME, and it doesn't (not that i've tried), it's a different story.
but baking! you eat it and it's gone! and it tastes lovely! and even if it doesn't get completely eaten, guess what? you can throw it out! give it to the birds! i couldn't throw out a painting without feeling awful about it, even if i knew it was terrible.
it beats performing arts as well (at least for me, who never got over her crippling stage fright), since it is far less terrifying than singing, acting, or doing other musical what-nots in front of a crowd. if you flub a baked good, you just quietly throw it away (what a joy!), and start again another time. and don't post the pictures.
no one will ever know.
baking. it's the best.
Cherry Almond Muffins
(from The Taste of Home Classic Cookbook, submitted by John Montgomery)
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c plus 1 T sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 c cold butter
1 egg (or egg substitute, as I used - hooray my baking has caught up with my diet!)
3/4 c sour cream
1 t almond extract
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 egg (substitute)
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c cherry preserves
1/3 c all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
2 T cold butter
1/3 c chopped sliced almonds
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In another bowl, beat the egg, sour cream, and almond extract until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (batter will be thick [QUITE thick, i discovered]).
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. In a saucepan over low heat, warm the preserves.
For topping, combine flour and sugar in a small bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in almonds.
Fill greased (or papered) muffin cups half full with batter. Divide cream cheese filling and preserves evenly between muffin cups; swirl gently. Cover with remaining batter. Sprinkle with topping.
Bake at 350 for 20 - 25 minutes (30 - 35 if doing jumbo muffins although frankly i like to stay away from things labeled 'jumbo') or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, remove to wire racks to finish cooling.