Why bake muffins in a cast iron skillet? When I get hungry for something baked, I figure out how to get around the obstacles that prevents me from baking! The obstacle: no working oven at my house and my barbecue is out of propane.
Several days ago, in my never-ending quest to not waste any food, I steamed some organic apples because they were no longer crisp and I was too lazy to make applesauce. I also had some frozen bananas that had been ripening faster that I could eat; I freeze them when they are full of brown spots. I usually use them in pancakes, fruit smoothies or banana bread and needed to use them up before they became freeze-dried.
For the past several days I have been opening the fridge to see these steamed apples and wondering what was I thinking when I steamed these apples? I was craving something sweet and warm to eat – like a warm freshly baked nutritious applesauce muffin.
Just how was I going to do that on my electric stove top? I have made pan breads like pita bread, biscuits and pancakes in my fry pan. I like the idea of using less energy; cooking on top of a stove must be more efficient than using an oven. During summer months, it’s too hot to bake inside but using a hooded propane barbecue outside will keep the added heat out of your house.
So I thought back to the early days of camping. If you’ve ever camped without a camp oven stove, then pancakes will be the closest you can get to a baked dessert. Experienced campers and hikers understand that you must make do with what you have and make what you have more than a one purpose item – who brings a muffin pan to make muffins once or twice on a camping trip? However, I can’t imagine going camping without a fry pan! So how was I going to make a coffee cake in a fry pan on top of stove? I put my campers thinking cap on!
As my craving for a muffin increased, I searched the web for and compared recipes for: cakes, biscuits, muffins, cupcakes, griddle cakes, brownies, coffee cakes, fry bread and pancake recipes. Even though some of these recipes used a fry pan, they all used an oven to bake the finished product. I wanted a recipe that was more like a coffee cake, brownie or muffin cooked on top of the stove, not in an oven.
Naturally, I started experimenting and looked closely at the vegan pancake, muffin and biscuit recipes. I wanted a thick batter, one that would not burn on the bottom and leave the top ‘half-baked’ so I focused more on muffin recipes and decided to make big muffin in a fry pan.
Lately I’ve been lightly steaming veggies so decided I was going to turn my cast-iron fry pan into a steamer for my muffin-cake. I placed a short steamer rack that my slow cooker came with into clean cast-iron 9″ skillet. Skillet must have a snug fitting lid and should not be flat; a flat lid will not allow the muffin cake to rise and will drip moisture on the muffin cake while it’s cooking.
After assembling all the ingredients and needed utensils , the first thing to do is put the skillet on the stove with the short steamer rack in the bottom and grease the 8″ Pyrex pie dish. It’s always best to make sure the skillet is heated before placing the Pyrex dish in the skillet. Heating the skillet is akin to pre-heating your oven. Heat about 1.5 cups of water in a sauce pan and NOT your skillet. The amount of water varies if you are using a skillet that is larger than the one I used.
While the water is heating up, mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup flax-seed meal
1 & 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Put the skillet on the stove and set the burner to medium. Mix all the wet ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.
3/4 cup cooked apples or applesauce
1/2 cup thawed frozen bananas, mashed
1/4 cup olive oil (and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to grease the pie pan)
1/2 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
1/8 cup unsulphered molasses
~ optional ingredients ~
1/2 cup: raisins, or craisins (to add to the wet mixture)
1/4 cup granola as a topping before cooking
1/4 cup sliced almonds as a topping before cooking
By now the skillet should be adequately heated; turn it down to medium low heat (the settings you use for pancakes – level 2 or 3 depending on your stove). The skillet must be hot, after all, no one puts a cake into an oven that is not pre-heated.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated – Do NOT use a mixer; use a wooden spoon or spatula.
Place the batter into a greased Pyrex 8″ pie dish and add your selected topping(s). Place it on the rack in the skillet with room to pour the water. Pour the heated water into the skillet careful not to drip onto the batter. Make sure not to put too much water in the skillet – it should be just slightly above the rack so when the water bubbles, it won’t bubble over into the batter. A lot of steam will rise and as soon as it subsides, center the Pyrex dish in the skillet using some long handled wooden spoons and put the lid on.
Cook/steam for about 30 minutes, until the Muffin Cake is browned; lightly tapping the center to see if it’s firm; if not, give it another 5 minutes. An inserted wooden toothpick in the center should come out clean.
Before you start making this recipe, determine how much water to pre-heat by assembling the fry pan, steamer rack and Pyrex pie dish. Poor some water in the fry pan until it reaches just slightly above the bottom of the Pyrex dish. Pour the water into a measuring cup – so you know how much water to add to the skillet before cooking or just pre-heat the water as noted above.
If you don’t have applesauce, add 3/4 more coconut milk.
If you are going to use berries, put half of the batter into the Pyrex dish and spread it evenly. Add most of the berries evenly – I usually drop them one by one and slightly press them into the batter. Add the rest of the batter using spoonfuls and spread that evenly – do not leave a dome in the middle. Now add the rest of the berries over the top before you add another topping such as granola or sliced almonds.
The first time you make this, keep watch over it while it’s cooking – your stove may be hotter than mine. If you want to make this when camping, mix up all the dry ingredients and store it in a container. Regarding the molasses, pre-measure it and bring it along in a suitable container.
©2014 afroditi katsikis
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