I love breakfast. Hands-down, it’s my favorite meal of the day. But that doesn’t mean I always have lots of time to prepare or eat it. Oh sure, on the weekends, it’s a leisurely meal, enjoyed slowly. But during the week…well, you know the routine…sprint out of bed, time for school, time for work, answer the phone, find the lost homework, walk the dog…oh yeah, and make breakfast.
Boxed cereal sure comes in handy sometimes, but for some memorable morning eye-openers, a bit of advance preparation over the weekend or the night before means you can enjoy freshly baked breakfast breads with almost no effort at all. The key here is quick breads – those muffins, biscuits and scones we all love. Most of the prep work can be done days, or even weeks, ahead of time, so all you have to do is pop them in the oven and tend to other things until the timer goes off. And your family thinks you’re a genius (not to be underestimated)!
Quick breads are also a great way to get the kids involved. If they are very young, let them stir together the dry ingredients or help pat out the scone dough. If they are older, they can do most or all of the mixing, portioning and baking. Guide them the first few times, and soon they’ll be able to do it solo, which means that in addition to warm from the oven breakfast, you’ll also have more time to yourself in the morning.More Breakfast ideas and recipes follow after the jump.
Muffin ingredients can be measured out the night before – all the dry ingredients in one bowl, left covered on the counter, and all the liquid ingredients in a large measuring cup in the refrigerator. Line the muffin pan with fluted papers, and everything will be ready to go for the morning. Turn on the oven after the alarm clock goes off, and 15 minutes later, mix and scoop. It’ll take about 2 minutes to stir the batter together, adding any fruit, nuts, granola or chips that strike your fancy. The kids can mix and scoop while you get ready, and 20 minutes later, breakfast is ready. A glass of orange juice or milk and a warm muffin starts the day right. Leftover muffins can be added to the backpack for a mid-morning snack, or wrapped and frozen in a ziptop freezer bag and warmed up another morning.
If you like scones for breakfast, you have two choices to get ahead for the weekdays. The first involves handling all of the preparation on the weekend - mixing the scones, cutting them into individual portions, then freezing them in ziptop freezer bags for the week. You can freeze the scones for up to 6 weeks, and it’s nice to have a stash on hand in the freezer. Then, the night before, simply pull out the number of scones needed for the morning and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then set it in the refrigerator overnight so they can thaw. In the morning, preheat the oven, then pop in the scones and in about 15 minutes, you’ve got a little slice of heaven for breakfast. Before they go in the oven, you may want to mist the tops with a little water or milk, then sprinkle them with a bit of sugar – granulated, brown, turbinado (raw sugar), cinnamon-sugar – you get the idea.
The alternative for getting ahead with scones is to mix the dry ingredients the night before, then cut the butter into them, just as the recipe directs. Don’t add the liquid until the morning. Instead, cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate overnight. Measure out the liquid and set it in the refrigerator. In the morning, all you’ll need to do is preheat the oven, add the liquid to the bowl, mix, pat it into a round, then cut the dough into wedges. A bit more work, but certainly doable in less than 10 minutes in the morning. Again, once the kids know what to do, they can handle this one all by themselves. I’ll admit, scones are slightly messier than muffins, since the dough needs to be turned out onto a surface, but a dough scraper makes short work of messes, and it’s good for the kids to learn to clean up after themselves. Remember, just because you mix the scones in the morning, that doesn’t mean you have to bake all of them. Bake only what you need, then freeze the rest for another day.
Popovers are perhaps the simplest of breakfasts. With just 5 ingredients, all of them pantry staples, you can throw a popover together in no time, whether it’s for breakfast, an after school snack, simple accompaniment to soup or stew, or cure for late night cravings. Measure out the ingredients the night before, then just whisk them together (or pop them in the blender) for a quick batter while the skillet heats up. Pour it into the hot skillet and when it comes out in about 20 minutes, it has ballooned into a gorgeous, deeply browned bowl. The simplest way to serve it is straight from the hot skillet. Let each person squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the top and dust it with powdered sugar. Or, fill the warm bowl with an assortment of fresh berries or other fruits that have been washed or otherwise prepared the night before.
There are some dynamite recipes in the book for easy morning muffins, scones, biscuits and popovers, and below are a couple of new ones as well. Choose one and try it once a week for a month. Soon you’ll realize how easy – and pleasurable - it is to have fresh-baked breakfast in the midst of the morning countdown. And it’s a truly loving way to connect with family members before everyone races off in a different direction. Those few moments can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels the rest of the day. Rise and shine!
EASY MORNING MUFFINS WITH RASPBERRIES
Makes 12 Muffins
If you measure out everything the night before, these can be tossed together in no time, even on a weekday morning (a great project for kids). A couple of tips: Don’t mix the batter until perfectly smooth – it should still have a few small lumps in it; and remove the muffins from the tin after 5 to 10 minutes out of the oven, or condensation will build up and the bottoms will get soggy. And, of course, you can customize this recipe by leaving out the lemon zest and raspberries and adding fruit and flavorings of your choice. A batch of batter that fills 12 muffin cups can hold about 1 cup of added flavorings, such as fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolate chips, chopped toasted nuts, etc.
- Preheat the oven to 400F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the muffin tin with melted butter, oil or high-heat canola-oil spray. Place the flour, 2/3 cup of the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the large bowl. Whisk to blend thoroughly. In the medium skillet, melt the butter with the lemon zest (this will help to bring out the flavor of the zest and distribute it evenly in the batter). Turn off the heat. Add the buttermilk to the melted butter and let the mixture sit for 1 to 2 minutes, just until it is tepid. Pour the butter mixture into the medium bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk until well blended.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the butter mixture into the well and stir gently with the rubber spatula. Mix only until there are no more streaks of flour or pools of liquid and the batter looks fairly smooth. A few small lumps scattered throughout are fine – they will disappear during baking. Gently fold the raspberries until evenly distributed in the batter.
- Use the large ice cream scoop or 2 soup spoons to divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle it over the tops of the muffins.
- Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, until the tops feel firm and a skewer inserted into the centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin tin to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently run a thin knife or spatula around each muffin to free it from the pan, lift the muffins out, and transfer to the rack to finish cooling (careful, these are tender while hot). Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Storing: When completely cool, the muffins can be stored, wrapped in plastic or sealed in a resealable plastic bag, at room temperature for 2 days. Reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 325F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until warmed through.
The muffins can also be frozen for up to a month, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then sealed in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Thaw, still wrapped, for 30 minutes before reheating.
OATMEAL AND CURRANT SCONES
This is as close to a big, warm oatmeal cookie most of us will allow ourselves to get at breakfast. The fact that it’s so deliciously comforting is a selling point, but it’s also got protein and whole grains to keep your energy level constant until lunch. Feel free to try different types of dried fruit – I sometimes substitute dried cranberries for the currants. I’ve been known to add 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips for a special occasion, but that’s usually a bit much in the morning…for me, anyway.
Equipment: One baking sheet lined with parchment paper, Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl and a pastry blender), Whisk, Chef’s knife.
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Place the flour, oat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of the standing mixer (or a large bowl, if you’re making these by hand). Whisk to blend. Add the cold butter pieces, and with the mixer on medium-low, cut in the butter until it resembles “peas and cornmeal” in the flour mixture. (If you are doing this by hand, use a pastry blender or your fingers to get to the same point). Add the rolled oats and currants and blend just until they are disbursed evenly.
- Add the buttermilk and continue to mix on medium-low until the dough holds together in large, thick clumps. Use a spatula to scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently squeeze or knead the clumps together until they form a cohesive dough.
- Pat the dough into a circle 8-inches in diameter and about 1-inch thick. Use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into 8 equal wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. If the butter feels like it’s getting warm at this point, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Beat the egg with a fork in a small bowl, just to blend it evenly. Brush a thin film of egg over the top of each scone and the sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until firm and golden brown on top. Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Tools of the Trade:
- Chicago Metallic Nonstick Muffin Pan
- All-Clad Stainless Steel French Skillet
- Things Cooks Love Straight Spatula
- Cooling Rack
- Wusthof Classic Chef’s knife
Recipes and Photos are reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. The Art and Soul of Baking © copyright 2008 by Sur La Table, Inc.