Some years ago, a woman I know wrote a really crumby cookbook.
It was about crumbs: how to waste not/want not by crumbling or crushing days-old bread, dried-out cake or sad cookies to make crumbs for use in a variety of ways.
While this isn’t exactly stop-the-presses culinary news, crumb cookery is neither a bad idea nor a silly one. This is especially true if you, like me, suffer from eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome in the supermarket or bakery. Or if you live in a small household and can never quite get through baked goods before they begin to lose their fresh-made appeal.
And if you like to bake from scratch, you’ll find that cakes, cupcakes and muffins have only about a 24-hour yum life. Cookbooks from the early 20th century, before baking mixes were invented, routinely included crumby ideas that appealed to frugal cooks.
Commercially baked muffins, like Uncle Wally’s, fare better than home-baked due to various baking tricks and modern transport techniques. But even Uncle Wally’s muffins, like cookies, will eventually crumble.
If you can’t bear to throw food away, don’t go to bits. Tear the muffins to bits instead. And try one of these ideas:
Break muffins into chunks. In a deep, clear glass trifle bowl or other container, layer muffin chunks, fresh or defrosted fruit (well-drained), plain custard (homemade or use Bird’s, an English brand found in specialty food stores, British shops or markets that cater to Hong Kong expats) and whipped cream, sealing top with whipped cream. While layering, drizzle the muffin chunks with sweet or dry sherry or kirsch. Suit the fruit to the flavor of the muffins.
Roll up some chocolate truffles
Lightly crumble chocolate chip muffins with fingers. Place crumbs in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with a little strong coffee, kahlua or other coffee liqueur, chocolate-flavored coffee creamer, chocolate or coffee syrup. The goal is damp crumbs, NOT soup. Pinch up sufficient crumbs to make a firm, nickel- or quarter-size round, rolling tightly between fingers. Refrigerate or freeze until firm. Roll in good quality Dutch process cocoa or cover with melted chocolate. (Line counter with foil or waxed paper, place a rack on top and place the cake balls up on rack; pour chocolate icing over.) Chill again until firm.
Try frosting bites
Combine muffin crumbs with a suitable flavor of soft, prepared frosting (homemade or from a plastic tub). Process in food processor or blender to smooth batter consistency. Spoon rounds, roll between hands and freeze 20-30 minutes. Dip in melted chocolate, if desired.
Cut muffins into 1-inch cubes or thereabouts and bake at 350 degrees into sweet croutons to serve with chunks of fresh or baked fruit and a little syrup.
Make a crumb crust
Crumble plain muffins into thickish crumbs. Lightly stir in melted butter and press into a pie pan and bake at 325 degrees to use as a pie crust for an ice cream or other unbaked pie.
Make a pudding
Use bread pudding technique. Break muffins into chunks. Make an egg custard with vanilla extract and nutmeg, if desired. Pour custard over muffin chunks and allow to soak 20 minutes or so. Add raisins (soak them in rum, brandy, fruit juice or water to soften, if desired; drain) or other dried or fresh fruit. Bake in buttered casserole dish at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. If you like, first sprinkle with a crumb topping (see next recipe).
Attempt a crumb topping
Combine 1/3 cup crumbs with 1/3 cup each brown sugar and softened butter and a goodly sprinkle of ground cinnamon. Sprinkle the topping generously onto muffin or coffee cake batter on the pan just before baking.
Bake a crumb cake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine 2 cups muffin crumbs with 2 eggs and stir in 1/2 cup cream or fat-free half and half. Throw in 1/2 cup each chopped nuts and golden raisins. Prepare a cake pan with butter and flour or spray with baking spray. Pour batter into pan. Sprinkle top with a little fine sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes. Top with slivered almonds and a little more sugar while still hot. Serve with ice cream.
NOTE: Stockpile crumbs for recipes that call for a lot. Place crumbs in a zippered plastic bag and add additional crumbs until it’s time to bake something.
Do you have a favorite recipe for muffin crumbs? Share them in a comment. We’d love to hear from you!