| One of my first restaurant jobs was in super trendy restaurant snuggled between Nob Hill and The Tenderloin district of San Francisco ... an area lovingly referred to as the "Tender Nob". It was an area precisely in the center of high end buildings and picturesque views, magnificent churches and dirty grime, crime, filth and flarn. I was 18 years old and I was a baker. My day began at 3:30 AM, where I'd roll out of bed and walk to work ... in and amongst the other people wandering around that area at 4:00 AM. An interesting place and time to be strolling along the streets, I tell you!|
In any event, the place I worked was a bit unusual, even for a 1991 hot spot. The chef loved food, but seemed to have a special place in his heart for bread, baked goods and sausages. Arrival at this restaurant was greeted with the single most magnificent basket of bready treats I've ever seen, then and since. The bread basket was an evolving blend of paper thin foot long sheets of seed covered cracker, golden parmesan crusted breadsticks ... thin and majestic 4 foot long strands of dough, twisted into the shape of a silly straw and baked. Herbed and dried fruited scones, or roasted garlic and olive stuffed hushpuppies. Every day it seemed to be a new floury concoction, lovingly kneaded, cut, baked, steamed or fried and gracefully stacked in a warmed basket. The bread basket would arrive at the table with a variety of infused oils, flavored compound butters and spreads.
That was my job. I baked those treats every day, for 6 months. Aside from the handmade croissants and pinwheels, I also created steamed buns, golden baguettes and every kind of muffin under the sun.
I've never had much of a sweet tooth, but ... that 6 month stretch really cemented the idea that dough and batter, filled with a sea of chopped, dried, grated, flaked or otherwise lovingly manipulated goodies is fun, varied, delicious and people love it. It's a strange point of pride that one of my favorite restaurants in my history is largely memorable because of the way each meal began ...
In other news, this simple muffin recipe would've been right at home snuggled up in there, warm and fresh with all its little buddies. Give it a shot! Or, simply use the base recipe to fold in your own goodies? Try different cheeses and herbs, or little flecks of diced pepperoni and sundried tomatoes, or grated carrots, orange zest, bacon bits and rosemary! It's a spectacularly simple and easy to throw together muffin batter ... waiting and wanting ... your creative twists.
Chia Seeds Note: I've become a huge fan of chia seeds, both on their own as breakfast puddings, but also ground and used as a flour. It's easily my favorite new ingredient. I grind my own with a cheap coffee grinder and just have a tub of it floating around my kitchen. If you don't have the chia, you can replace the chia by adding 4 more eggs and reducing the almond milk from 1 cup to only 1/4 cup (remove 3/4 of a cup).