Outside of my food writer life—in my real, scrambled, messy life—you will not catch me making muffins. Or hand pies, or stuffed peppers, or mini-quiches, or most other things where each serving requires its own pampering, its own zone to clean. This is why we have cake.
I recognize there are plenty of cooks with more time and passion for tucking undergarments into muffin tins and scrubbing them clean, for scooping each portion and jimmying it out at the end—many of them apparently also parents of young children. (How? How do you have time to muffin a corn dog, friends?)
But for the rest of us, food stylist, photographer, entrepreneur, and James Beard Award–nominated author Jerrelle Guy created a punchy muffin recipe that is swift and rewarding enough for even the tired and rudderless, with a surprise ingredient propelling the batter (and you) in ways you might have thought unimaginable—until now.
In her first cookbook, Black Girl Baking, Jerrelle built chapters based on senses, and recipes based on moods and memories. This one, in the Touch chapter, was inspired by both the Irish soda breads in Boston where she was then living, and kombucha, the fizzy, sweet-sour tea drink with hazy but likely origins in China that she was drinking as a quenching daily pick-me-up.
“I crave the feeling of that cold, carbonated liquid hitting my chest, giving me the sensation it’s opening my lungs for the first time that day,” Jerrelle writes in Black Girl Baking. “I thought I could use the carbonation and acid to make some kind of quick bread or breakfast muffin.”
She was right. In our throats, kombucha slakes and energizes. Poured into batter, it foams reactively with baking soda, adding incomparable lift—similar to beer in some cake and bread recipes, but with more sweetness and tang.
In practice this means that—without even pausing to whip egg whites stiffly or let butter soften until creamable—you can whisk six simple ingredients together, watch them fizz and expand, then pour into tins, a process so fast and mesmerizing it defies monotony. And because the batter is so foamy and light, the muffins bake in about half the time of your average bran or blueberry. (In my fierce oven and petite muffin tins, they’re done in under 10 minutes, but yours might take a few more.)
Which means you’ll be popping them warm into your mouth soon, perhaps hand over fist like my daughter. You’ll stop not to press in a tiny quiche crust or reposition a sinking hot dog, but only to blow puffs of cooling breath and smear on more butter.
Kombucha Muffins From Jerrelle Guy
Makes 12 muffins
• 3 cups (360 grams) white whole-wheat flour or spelt flour
• 4 teaspoons (10 grams) baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup (112 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or neutral oil, plus more for greasing the pan
• 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) agave or honey
• 1 (16-ounce [470-milliliter]) bottle plain kombucha
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