Way back in the 1980s, I made a Tarte au Citron for the first time (bear with me), from a friend's recipe book when I was staying with him in NewYork. Ever since then, I've been labouring under the delusion that the book in question was Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins' The Silver Palate Cookbook, an American classic of the time. A few years later, I bought another of their books, the equally lovely Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, and finally last year I got around to buying the book that I thought the recipe was in. And guess what? No Tarte au Citron. There is a lemon tart but it's definitely not the one I made all those years ago, which contained apples and was absolutely delicious.
So I'm still no further forward in my quest for the original recipe. I should probably just ask the person whose cook book it was, but then that would mean I'd have to stop buying random cookery books, which would be no fun at all. However, I'm now the owner of two cookery books that are among my favourites. Rosso and Lukins were onto the idea of the cookery book as bedtime reading years before Nigella's How to Eat. A few of the recipes do have a rather 80s vibe, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and if it is, there are plenty more timeless things in there to make up for it. These are such charming books - pretty illustrations, cute little panels of ideas for ways of serving things, just lovely.
Almost lovely enough for me to overcome the sinking feeling I have every time I read the words 'a cup of butter'. I mean, really? Is this the best way you can come up with to measure butter, America? Flour, sugar, OK, but butter? In a cup? And putting in brackets afterwards 'one stick' doesn't help me either. And, if I may say so, simply proves my point. What is wrong with scales, for goodness' sake?
Anyway, all of this to say two things: 1. have a look at the books if you get a chance 2. the recipe I've chosen is adapted from the maple-walnut muffins from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. As you'll see from the recipe, the main change I've made to the original is to substitute pecans for the walnuts, mostly because I love pecans, especially with maple syrup. The cream makes the recipe a bit naughty, I grant, but you could probably substitute buttermilk, or even milk for a healthier option. Muffins are accommodating that way. The maple syrup gives a lovely flavour and means no additional sugar is needed, and the oats, the dates and the walnuts make this all quite substantial and breakfasty. The maple syrup means that the muffins aren't tooth-ache sweet either, but have that lovely smoky maple flavour. And note - only 3 tbs of butter, so no cups to scratch your head over.
makes 18-20 muffins
1 1/3 cups pecans, broken into bits
3 tbs butter, at room temp
1 cup double cream
1 1/3 cups maple syrup
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (try to get the more robust, less powdery ones - maybe jumbo oats)
1 tbs cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup chopped ready-to-eat dates
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line muffin tins with cases.
2. Toss the pecans and butter together and spread on a baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes in the oven, stirring occasionally. keep an eye on them - nothing worse than burnt nuts <ahem>.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, cream, and 1 cup of the maple syrup.
4. In another bowl, mix together the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and bicarb.
5. Add dry bowl to the wet bowl and mix until they are just combined and no dry flour is showing. Mix in the dates and 1 cup of the pecans with the last few strokes.
6. Fill the cases about 3/4 full then sprinkle the rest of the pecans over and then drizzle the last 1/3 cup of maple syrup on top.
7. Cook for about 20 minutes - check with a skewer - if it comes out clean they're done. Note that these muffins don't puff up quite as much as most, so don't worry if they are a wee bit flat on top.
8. When they are cool enough to handle, remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.
Best consumed fresh and warm, but you can freeze them.