(What is Dacyczyn doing now? Well, it seems that she just went ahead and retired. Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar did an interview with her in 2014, for those that are looking for an update, but I can't promise it's very exciting.)
Now, at the risk perhaps of copyright infringement (but I have a feeling she wouldn't care), I'd like to share the single most useful recipe I have ever encountered, courtesy of this fine and resourceful writer. The "Little Multigrain Herb Muffins" I just posted are based on this recipe, as are pretty much all other muffins I make. (I literally keep her 959-page tome in my household for this sole purpose-- pp. 466-468!) As the primary cook for a new family in 2002, the very concept was earth-shattering: a "recipe" that did not require you to go out and buy special ingredients, but which gave you a blueprint for transforming whatever you already had lying around into something delicious. You can find the entirety of her article here; the crucial text, to me, reads
Instead of sharing a single muffin recipe, I wanted to share the process of creating muffin recipes. This will allow you to use ingredients that are cheap in your part of the country, use up odd leftovers, and accommodate dietary restrictions.
2 to 2 1/2 c. grain
1 c. milk
up to 1/4 c. fat
up to 1/2 c. sweetener
2-3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
up to 1 1/2 c. "additions"
Each of the components above gets some discussion from Dacyczyn (again, see here), but here are some notes from me (some of which overlap with hers):
*It is easiest if at least 1 cup of the grain is white all-purpose flour. The rest can be pretty much anything you want: whole wheat flour, other grain flours, oats, cornmeal, breakfast cereal (I've done this), stale baked goods. Usually I use 3 or 4 things. I think one time I used Grapenuts, because nobody likes them, including me. They worked fine.
*You can substitute other interesting liquids for milk.
*fat can be anything but it is obviously desirable to liquify it before adding to the muffins. Besides butter, oil, shortening, etc., I have also used things like sour cream and peanut butter.
*If you choose to use a liquid form of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, that corn syrup that's been in the back of your cupboard for five years, Torani raspberry Italian soda syrup), reduce the quantity of milk/liquid by 1/4 c.
*Use a full 1 T. of baking powder if you have any significant quantity of additions. Dacyczyn's universal recipe actually just reads "2 t. baking powder," but I usually go with 3 t. unless the muffins are very tiny.
*You can add a little more salt than this if you like, especially as the trend has gone towards sweet+salty baked goods
*Be creative about additions. I have added many different fruits (fresh and dried), nuts, coconut, chocolate, herbs, cheeses, vegetables, and more. Or, if you don't have much in the way of additions, you can simply create an interesting texture and taste through mixing grains and adding spices or herbs. Just use what you have. It is so easy.
Whatever you have stirred up: grease muffin tins, or use papers, fill cups about 2/3 full, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool another 20 minutes before consuming.
The universal muffin recipe should never be allowed to die. Please, if anyone knows any more great universal recipes, I would love to hear about them.