Time in the kitchen has taken a backseat lately due to a major distraction. Back in September, a set of plaster mould was made from my feet by one of the best speed skating bootmakers in the industry. Carbon fibre and leather were used to make these custom boots which finally arrived last week. With this shiny new toy within arms’ reach, I can hardly concentrate on anything else. I dream of skating in these light and responsive boots in balmy warm weather over smooth long stretches of asphalt.
Alas, it is December and I am in Toronto. Even though it’s been unseasonably warm recently, daylight is scarce and rain is aplenty. Since the boots arrived at my doorstep, I only skated on them twice at an indoor roller rink. They are perfect in every way and I cannot wait until my mid-winter skating vacation in South Beach. Yes, that is my name embroidered on the boot. The other one appropriately reads SKATE N BAKE.
Even though I am distracted, the smell of holiday is in the air. I crave that sweet fragrance of sugar and spice in my kitchen! I want a mountain of assorted cookies gracing my kitchen counter. I want boxes upon boxes of homemade candies. I want every platter to be filled with cake. And that vision is a lot of work. I am not sure my scattered brain can handle the logistics at this point so I took a baby step this morning to reignite my baking mojo.
Muffins! They are perfectly simple and perfectly delicious. I adapted an old Gourmet recipe for Oatmeal Muffin to create a batch of Browned Butter Oatmeal Cranberry Muffin. Toothsome old fashioned rolled oats are soaked in tangy buttermilk to help create a thick batter. The depth of flavour comes from generous amount of nutty browned butter and brown sugar which give these muffins a toffee undertone. The richness is punctuated with tart dried cranberries and contrasted with either streusel or pearl sugar topping. These muffins straddle the line between wholesome and rich.
As much as I love to bake, I realize that my passion takes second place behind skating. Good food brings people together but the draw to train and to compete is more compelling to me. I smile when I bite into a tender muffin fresh out of the oven. But I grin ear to ear when I have a good training session. Skating promises rewards that cooking cannot offer. It’s a good thing I don’t have to choose between the two.
I am glad that these browned butter oatmeal muffins came out so beautifully even though my hands were rusty. When they emerged from the oven, my kitchen confidence also soared. Good timing too because I have plenty of holiday baking to tackle next week and a big Winter Solstice party to host later this month!