The Shopper Kitchen: Muffins that taste like summer

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By ANGELA MCRAE, The Shopper Kitchen

For years now, I have collected tearoom cookbooks. Some focus strictly on afternoon tea, but others represent more of the old-school type of tearoom, restaurants more likely to serve a meat and three than crumpets and tea. Still, whenever I hear of a cookbook with “tearoom” in the title, I start looking for a copy. I was surprised a few years back to find that the out-of-print cookbook from the Wild Plum Tea Room in Gatlinburg was selling for more than $100 online!

Not long afterward, my friend Ruth Schroeder serendipitously gave me a copy of this very cookbook for Christmas. Ruth has a son who lives in Gatlinburg, and she happened to visit the tearoom, and lo and behold, the books were back in print. On a whim, she got me one. She said she hoped I didn’t already have the book, and of course I told her how thrilled I was to receive my copy, which I definitely treasure.

Whenever I travel, I love to get a copy of a local cookbook as a souvenir. It’s a fun way to remember the destination, and cookbooks are such a great peek into the culture of a local community.

Because of the Wild Plum Tea Room’s name, I knew immediately that I wanted to make one of its signature treats—the famous Wild Plum Muffins. I laugh about it now, but shortly after I received the book, I was perplexed that I couldn’t find any plums in January, when I first got the urge to make these muffins. A produce manager I talked to very kindly informed me, as if he were talking to a dim child, that plums are not in season in January. So there’s that.

But plums and other stone fruits are in season right now, so I thought it would be a good time to share the recipe for these delicious muffins. The original recipe made dozens of mini muffins, but I wanted full-size muffins and not too many minis, so I halved the recipe. Here’s how I made these moist little treats with a delightfully plummy taste. And all because a thoughtful friend gave me a cookbook that she had a hunch I would like!

Wild Plum Muffins

1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup chopped pecans (the recipe calls for walnuts, but I prefer pecans)
1/2 cup drained and pitted plums processed in food processor (3 plums was nearly a perfect amount) PLUS 1-1/2 tablespoons applesauce*
1-1/2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

*Note: The book says you may substitute a small jar of plum baby food for the plum and applesauce mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, allspice and nuts. Add plums and applesauce (or the substitute), eggs and vegetable oil. Stir just until combined. Prepare a muffin pan with cooking spray or paper liners and fill tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tops are firm and edges are just beginning to brown. Yields 1 dozen regular-size muffins.

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