Ricki Cooks the Book – Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

I have, approximately, 1,882 cookbooks. I have cooked food from approximately five. I think it’s time to rectify that.

And to make myself in some way publicly accountable, I’m going to write about cooking from books I haven’t cooked from before! One recipe from each book, and I’ll report it here.

My first entry in this column will be the fig-and-goat-cheese muffins from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

Now, this is a little unfair for two reasons. One, it’s a brand-new cookbook. I’m 99.9% more likely to cook a recipe from a brand-new cookbook than one I was really excited to get but didn’t cook from immediately. Two, the reason I bought the book was to make these muffins. My friend got the book as a present – and it’s also been featured on many, many Best Of . . . lists – and I flipped through it at her house and I saw these muffins and I wanted them in my mouth right now. So it wasn’t, like, this great act of discipline that I brought myself to cook from this book or anything.

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals is a book that most people will buy in an effort to be healthy. The author, Maria Speck, does remind you in the beginning of the book that just because it has whole-grains doesn’t mean it doesn’t have other delicious and sinful things in it and these muffins illustrate that. Sure, one uses entirely whole wheat flour, and olive oil and buttermilk instead of, I guess, butter. But there’s still sugar and goat cheese and it’s not exactly health food, people. But it’s better for you than the average muffin and it’s totally delicious.

So here’s the recipe:


3/4 cup (3 oz) crumbled mild soft goat cheese, at room temp

(It should be noted that the goat cheese doesn’t have to come crumbled. You can just crumble it as you remove it from the package. You probably already knew that, though, right?)

2 tbsp honey

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

(I should probably also not have to tell you at this point that I wasn’t all that cautious about amounts here. It’s the filling; not the cake. You can be haphazard. So I had the amount of cheese right but I guessed on the honey and vanilla and I’m sure I grated more zest into the bowl than that. And it was definitely noticeable that I did in the final product, but in a delicious way.)

To make filling: Mix all that stuff up with a fork until it’s smooth. Let sit at room temp.


2 cups white whole wheat flour (though, having made them, I think standard whole wheat flour would have been fine)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp fine sea salt (or whatever good salt you usually use – not table!)

3 large eggs, at room temp

3/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (I used light but only because I couldn’t find the dark in my mess of a pantry. Next time I will use dark.)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I always only have extra-virgin olive oil but if you have regular olive oil I’m sure that would be fine.)

3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (Every recipe I’ve seen calls for lowfat buttermilk. I’ve never seen non-lowfat buttermilk in the store. Does such an item exist?)

1 cup chopped dried figs (about 10) (I used way more figs than this, I think)

3 tbsp turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling (I used Sugar in the Raw, which may be the same thing as turbinado sugar)

To make muffins:

1. Preheat oven to 4oo degrees F. Butter or spray a 12-muffin pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl. Make well in center.

3. In med bowl, whisk eggs. Add brown sugar and vanilla, then olive oil and buttermilk, until smooth. Add eggs to flour and stir with rubber spatula until just combined. The batter should look lumpy. Fold in figs.

(I messed up and just added the eggs to the flour right away, and then the sugar and vanilla, etc. I think it turned out okay but next time I will try not to mess up and see if they turn out better.)

4. Fill each muffin cup about half-full. Then put a little bit of the cheese mixture in the center of each. Then top with the remaining batter, such that the cheese is not visible. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

5. Bake until muffins look done, 13 minutes or so. (I think mine took fifteen.) “Looks done” = nice dome, browned edges, springy tops. Let cool 5 min, then remove from pan. Eat or save.

I have found these muffins to be totally delicious. Jason seems neutral. Zoe condescended to pick a few crumbs off of one.


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