Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From my past to your table . . .

A couple of careers ago, over a span of about eight years, I co-owned three restaurants in Charlottesville.

My favorite was the first. It was in an old house on a dead-end street close to the University. There was a five-item blackboard menu that changed constantly. We were always cooking, so that when we ran out of one thing, we could offer something else. Each entree was served with a salad and bread. There were always 2 desserts--a fruit crisp and something else.

My partner and I ran it for five years, but it stayed open under the same name until just this year. I had great fun there while I stayed, and I stayed just long enough.

I'd never worked in, let alone run, a restaurant before co-opening that one. But I did love to experiment in the kitchen. My partner had cooked his way through law school at a pancake house, so why not give it a try?

The way I remember it, the night before we opened, I realized I needed to come up with a bread. And from somewhere came the muffin recipe that became the muffins, so popular we were never allowed to serve any other bread.

When thinking about what to blog about on this Christmas Eve Eve Day, the day that my family kicks off the winter holiday Ritual of Festive Eating, I thought it would be nice to pass that muffin recipe on to you. It's easy, the muffins store well, and they make a nice alternative to all the sweet breakfast breads that are around this time of year.

I had to call my daughter to get the actual recipe. I'd lost it through years of baking mostly by just throwing things together. Lizzie, who's a brilliant cook, is also an organized one, and so had kept up with it.

So, here 'tis.
Martha's Cafe Muffins

1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
.5 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
6 T melted butter
Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Mix together (don't beat, just mix). Spoon into muffin pans. Bake till done (20 minutes) at 375degrees.
I usually use a little less sugar and buttermilk, because I like a toothy muffin. You can also add bran, oatmeal, or raisins, if you take out a little of the flour.

General note: I love baking with buttermilk. It gives a tang and makes things tender. I recommend trying it in pastry, as well, for quiche or any kind of non-dessert pie.


  1. Thanks Martha! Great Holiday memories there. Having shared almost all those memories as well as those muffins with you all those many years ago, I agree that they are wonderful!! What I loved most, however, was watching you throwing stuff into a bowl while Lizzy and I watched with admiration and anticipation, and voila! Breakfast! Love to you and Lizzy on this very white Christmas. Kathy

  2. I well remember those muffins, Martha. Thanks for sharing! And have a very merry white Christmas. Kate

  3. Many are the delicious lunches --with muffins!--I enjoyed at Martha's Cafe. I worked just across the lawn in the Old Medical School and could slip over when time allowed. For many years it was the coolest place on The Corner. Thank you Martha---
    Denise Zito, Free Union

  4. Can't wait to try the recipe. Happy holidays!

  5. Spent one night a week at Martha's during my residency, entertaining future residency candidates. We had a room pretty much all to ourselves and the service was always great - no matter how much stress we put on the kitchen by bringing in large numbers of hungry docs. I miss it! The pumpkin cheescake was amazing. I can't wait to try the muffins. Thanks for sharing!!

    Dan L

  6. I was at a lot of those dinners with Dan L. We had the best times at Martha's. I remember a pumpkin tort that was a pretty fantastic dessert.

    James B

  7. I'm so excited! Thank you for this recipe. I'm going to try it out right away. Wish I'd been around to see Martha's cafe! Sounds like it was a great time.

  8. Thanks for the recipe, Martha - great muffins. They are a mainstay at my house, where we stuff everything we can think of into this basic recipe, which it turns out, is the same as yours. Thanks to you and your daugher for writing it down - I always have to search.