I don't understand the American aversion to prunes. I think that they have become so linked to constipation that people don't realize how wonderful they are; instead they seem to raise the "eeewww" reaction as often as that other much-abused produce item, the beet (of which I am also a champion). Those of us with a bit of eastern European culinary indoctrination swoon at the idea of prune-filled pastries. If you ever want to buy me a punzki in Hamtramck, please get me prune-filled.
I'm going to do a little celebration of the prune, starting with a pretty conventional usage, in a muffin. Still to come in this prune fest: a chevre prune salad, prune stuffed pork loin and possibly a chicken dish cooked with olives and prunes.
These muffins are from Dorrie Greenspan's latest book Baking: From My Home to Yours. I've tried 4 recipes from this book and this one is the best of them. I also tried the lemon cream tart--excessively unctuous, pumpkin muffins--not pumpkiny or spicy enough for me, and a cookie called a chocolate chunker--which was overwhelmingly rich. All three were OK, but not recipes I'd make again.
But these muffins are fantastic. I want them for breakfast; I want one at tea time (especially with Earl Grey tea because the bergamot in the tea brings out the lemon in the muffin) and I sometimes have another muffin instead of dessert. Greenspan calls them "Great Grains Muffins" which is accurate in terms of ingredients, with the oats, cornmeal and whole wheat flour, but a little inaccurate in terms of the taste that you get. When I think Great Grains, I picture something darker and more bran-muffin-like than these. These muffins don't look like they are good for you. There is only 1/3 C of cornmeal in the recipe, and yet the corn flavor is quite prominent. I've made a few tweaks (added lemon zest, replaced some butter with canola oil, used white whole wheat flour instead of regular whole wheat) and I prefer to call them "Lemon Prune Muffins". They are good plain, but my favorite way to eat them is with a chunk of sharp cheddar cheese and, if you really want to go over the top, butter and marmalade.
Lemon Prune Muffins
adapted from Dorrie Greenspan's Great Grains Muffins in Baking: from my home to yours
1 C all purpose flour
1/3 C white whole wheat flour
1/3 C yellow cornmeal
1/3 C old-fashioned oats
1/4 C sugar
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
finely grated zest of one lemon
1 C buttermilk
1/3 C maple syrup
2 large eggs
4 T butter melted and cooled
4 T canola oil
3/4 C prunes, cut into quarters
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (or 375 degrees if you use a convection oven). Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. In another bowl whisk together the wet ingredients.
Pour wet into dry and stir gently. When about 1/2 combined, add the prunes and continue stirring until there are no more dry spots. Divide the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes until the tops are golden. Cool for 5 minutes and then carefully remove muffins and put on a rack to cool.