They call it comfort food–that particular brand of food that you equate with your childhood, that you picture when you think about your happiest memories, and that you crave when needing to find some solace.
I may live in St. Augustine, but for me, comfort food is almost always Pennsylvania Dutch–a bowl of potpie with fat yellow noodles, potato filling, pork and sauerkraut, funny cake…Oh, I’m sorry, I seem to have gone away for a couple of seconds there.
That is precisely what comfort food is all about–it takes you away from where you currently are and it plops you firmly back into a happier place.
I was starving for some comfort food the last few days…while we are recovering from Hurricane Matthew quickly, it is exhausting. Apparently, you can only live on adrenalin for so long–at some point, it drains away and you’re left feeling limp and ready for nap.
That’s where comfort food comes in.
Our beach properties were somehow spared during this storm, and they have been full of guests celebrating special events (we’ve had two weddings in the last week!), or just getting away from their own stresses.
We’ve been delivering a little breakfast in a basket each morning–a couple of pieces of fruit, homemade muffins, and our breakfast bread of the day (this morning it was banana bread with chocolate chips). Donna, our regular baker, and I have been splitting baking duties while our kitchen is being painted (and by splitting, I mean she’s doing 90% of it, and I’m chipping in 10).
So the other day, *needing* to bake some muffins for the next morning, and *wanting* to indulge in some comfort food from home, I decided to combine the two and make some shoo fly muffins.
Based on the Pennsylvania Dutch shoo fly pie (so named because–as the story goes–the sticky gooey pie was placed next to other pies to attract the flies), these muffins are rich and interesting, with brown sugar and molasses giving them depth. My neck of Pennsylvania always made wet bottom shoo fly, which means that there was a gooey layer of sugary excellence on the bottom of the pie, but these muffins are more like their dry bottomed cousins, with a flaky moist cake from top to bottom. I hope our guests enjoyed the muffins, because I certainly enjoyed making them.
Want to try them on your own? Here you go:
Shoo Fly Muffins
2 c. all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat over to 350F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add butter and mix with a fork or your hands until crumbly (if you happen to have a potato masher that works well too–it’s how I make most of my streusel toppings).
Reserve 1/2 cup mixture for topping.
Pour boiling water into flour mixture and stir. Add remaining ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter, or overfill them if you enjoy a larger breakfast. Sprinkle reserved topping mixture over batter, distributing evenly.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center of muffin comes out dry. Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Serve with cold milk. Preferably from a farm in Pennsylvania!!