While we were in our long, long lockdown in New York this past spring, my toddler discovered an insatiable desire for muffins. He didn’t just want muffins. He NEEDED muffins, like Bismarck needed a united Germany. It was not negotiable.
I mashed bananas until the smell of overripe banana made me sick. I searched in the back of cupboards for forgotten cans of pumpkin puree. I tried making blueberry muffins without blueberries (this being in the days when fresh fruit was hard to come by and we were all in pioneer housewife mode, making last and making do and waste not want not and all those fun and uplifting stiff upper lip sort of sayings).
And then I stumbled on accidental oatmeal muffins. They were an accident because I was trying, in a rather clumsy and sleep-deprived way, to follow someone’s recipe for oatmeal muffins that I’d made a few times before to okay if not wildly enthusiastic reviews and accidentally put in the wrong thing– so I had to put in a few more wrong things to make it right and suddenly I had everyone’s New Favorite Muffin.
These take roughly fifteen minutes to make: five minutes to mix together and ten minutes to bake.
— Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
— Take out your favorite mini-muffin tin (not full size, if you’re going full size, double the recipe and the cooking time). Go wild with the cooking spray.
— Whisk 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup milk, and 1 egg.
— Add 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 packet maple flavored Cream of Wheat, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/8 tsp salt.
— Fling in a generous handful of oats. For normal, organized people who use measuring cups and aren’t making these in their nightgowns with their contact lenses not in yet, this probably equates to roughly 1/2 cup of oats, give or take.
— Fling in a generous handful of raisins. Again, probably roughly half a cup, although it depends on your personal raisin preferences. Depending on what kind of day you’re having, raisins can be replaced with chocolate chips.
— Unlike most muffins, you don’t have to worry about overmixing. The batter will be very soupy. That’s fine.
— Glop your batter into your mini-muffin tin. This should make 12 mini muffins.
— Bake for ten minutes at 400 degrees. These tend to burn quickly, so ten minutes usually does it, or twelve minutes at the very most. (Unless you’re like some people I could name who like the burned ones, in which case set the timer for fifteen minutes for a hard, burnt crust.)
Why Band of Sisters Accidental Oatmeal Muffins? Well, partly because flinging muffins at the toddler kept him occupied long enough for me to work on the book, and partly because it seems like the sort of thing the Smith Unit might have mixed up. Their cooking tended to be a combo of whatever came to hand (because in the war zone, you made do with what you had), with a lot of it being shelf-stable staples. They would have completely understood grabbing a packet of dried breakfast cereal and raisins because you didn’t have the ingredients to make blueberry muffins and throwing it all together and hoping it would turn into something largely edible. Or grabbing the wrong packet from the cupboard because you were so tired you hadn’t realized you’d mixed in the wrong thing– and just going with it because there was no way you were going to scrap everything and start over.