Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day trip to Ithaca and Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

I was upstate for Memorial Day weekend. Lucky for me, the stars (and dates) aligned: I got to meet my newborn niece, I got to hit the last weekend of the Friends of the Library book sale in Ithaca and I got to visit the Ithaca Farmers Market.
The Friends of the Library book sale in Ithaca, New York is really one of the best organized book sales in the country. And, as you can see by the line, it's pretty popular. I "restrained" myself and walked out with only six trade paperbacks, including a virtually new copy of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (and some romance novels and chick lit - hey, I admit it. I like escapism).
After an hour browsing the shelves, it was down Rt. 13 to the farmers market and Macro Mamas. For $13, I got a huge sampler platter to share. Filled with polenta, braised asparagus and red peppers, steamed broccoli, a cabbage slaw, greens with a lemon poppy dressing, some sweet potatoes and a black bean and corn mixture (plus a scoop of the peanut noodles) it was more than enough for two. I also got to try their lemonade and peach-apple ice tea.
The market was really alive on Saturday with tons of people browsing the stalls, or just enjoying the live music and nice weather along the banks of the Cayuga inlet. Surprisingly, there was a good selection of produce in the stalls (even two hours before close). I saw green garlic, watercress, potted plants, wine, baked goods and a seasonal favorite: rhubarb.
One of my newest blog finds is "Eggs on Sunday," written by Amy who just happens to live in Ithaca. Last week, I read about her rhubarb muffins and was hooked. So when I saw a bunch at her local market, I knew just what to do with it.
While I basically followed Amy's recipe, I did make a few modifications:
-Out of necessity (e.g., what was in the cupboard) I skipped the flax and subbed 0% Greek yogurt for the sour cream, a 50-50 mix of white and whole wheat all-purpose flour for white all-purpose flour and the pastry flour and baking powder for the baking soda. Apparently, you can sub powder for soda but not the reverse. It worked, but the end result was rather dense as it did not really rise much in the oven.
-Since I wanted to use extra large muffin tins, I doubled the flour and leavener, and used one and a half times the oil and rhubarb. But I ended up using the amounts of the other ingredients as written (sugar, eggs, yogurt). I know baking is a science. I know it was a risk. I did get worried when the dough turned out really stiff, but it worked fine.
-Perhaps because I added one cup of strawberries to the rhubarb mixture (love the combination).
-For extra spice, I included a few tablespoons of finely diced candied ginger to the topping.
Even with all of the modifications, the muffins came together really well. The combination of the whole wheat flour, extra fruit and nuts made it very satisfying (as in, I could have stopped after one muffin but of course had two any way!). Try them yourself and see if you can resist.

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