See the darkness around the edges of these muffins? The caramelized crispiness? That’s thanks to a hot oven and brown sugar. Lots of it.
I mentioned these muffins in last week’s newsletter with the promise of finding the recipe. It traveled around our cottage community in the ‘80’s and eventually made it into the Trojan Swim Team cookbookprinted by a Halifax swim parent in 1986. I knew my mom would have that book somewhere, so last weekend I pulled out her step stool and reached to the back of the cupboard above the fridge where she keeps a basket of old cookbooks too tired and spineless to stand on their own. There, on the top of the pile, was the Trojan Cookbook. It was missing its cover, but the coil binding still held the yellowing pages together.
I remember packing a few of these muffins for class one day (a perk of living at home during university). It must have been this time of year, when the semester was coming to an end, students were broke and tired, and forsythia branches were barely blooming. I was standing in the stacks of the Killam Library, a building designed in the Brutalist fashion, with my classmate Kath. She looked particularly down and out, so I offered her a muffin. She took one from the Tupperware in my hands, stuffed it into her mouth and mumbled, “this is the best thing I have ever eaten.”
I copied the recipe onto a piece of paper around that time, carried it with me as I moved around, then eventually started making the muffins from memory. As years passed I wondered if I had drifted too far from the original. Did it really have two cups of brown sugar and two cups of milk? Was it two cups of everything? Unsure and worried about the excessive sweetness, I tried to cut back on the brown sugar. I halved it and substituted with other sweeteners. The result? Instead of caramelized crispness I got a gooey, damp surface. It was an edible and nourishing muffin, but an entirely different experience. I needed to see the original recipe, to go back to the source.
This week I made the recipe, verbatim, and the truth became clear: it was submitted to that little cookbook as a snack for hungry swimmers, but really, these muffins are little spheres of rich cake, studded with oatmeal for texture and endurance. They were the most loved recipe from the book.
The method begins by sifting the dry ingredients and in a separate bowl, mixing the wet. When the two are stirred together, the baking powder is activated by the liquid, producing carbon dioxide gas dancing throughout the batter. If you leave the batter for a few minutes, it will thicken and bubble away. It’s sweet, milky science, worth making when you’re in need.
Let me know how it goes.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip or Butterscotch Chip Muffins
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups of chocolate or butterscotch chips
Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the wet ingredients together and add the chocolate or butterscotch chips. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture; pour batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 400F / 200C for 15 minutes, or until tops are nicely browned and muffins are cooked through.
I was not a Trojan swimmer. I wanted to be, but practices were twice a day, five days a week, and my mom wondered, who would want to do that? So I ended up synchronized swimming a few mornings a week and Sunday afternoons. I can still eggbeater indefinitely, and we got the cookbook anyway. It was the right choice.
Ooohhh yes!! Just the recipe I need. Thanks for sharing it with us, Lindsay. They sound wonderfully delicious x
Definitely going to try these but wondering how they might turn out if I substituted the chocolate for fruit or nuts?