Saturday, September 24, 2011

$16 Muffin...

Recently the United States Department of Justice has been vilified for apparently paying $16 (€11.90) apiece for muffins for a staff breakfast. Admittedly this $16 includes such vagueries as service charges, gratuities, and other hotel catering markups, but, c'mon, how can flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and butter add up to $16 bucks??? 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says, "The muffins were THIS big."
Well, Mary Cadogan, of BBC Good Food and Olive magazines, came up with a recipe for muffins that cost about $1.90 apiece, or €1.41.

She sweetens her very expensive muffins with Manuka honey from New Zealand, billed as "the world's most expensive". She also uses Extra Virgin Sunflower Oil at $6.14 a cup or €4.57 for 250 ml. Along with the finest flour, eggs and milk, this forms the batter, into which she carefully folds dark Chocolate, dried Blueberries, and Macadamia nuts, $7.58 for 4.4 oz. (€5.63 for 125 g.). She then spices the mixture with Tonka beans, the fragrant seeds of a a South American tree.

At about $1.90 apiece, or €1.41, this doesn't even come close to the nirvana that must be the $16 Muffin.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) thinks, "We need more Muffin funding..."
Food writer Stefan Gates suggested using a precious metal as decoration to up the cost and overall albedo of the muffin. "You could cover it in pure 24-carat edible gold leaf, although even that only costs $1.15 (€0.86) per sheet, and you'd only need one to cover it.", Gates said.

This method would bring the total production cost up to $3.05 apiece (€2.27), still not enough.

Enter British baking expert Dan Lepard.

Dan Lepard says, "This is only for the Muffin elite."
He suggests using soft imported Italian 00 flour to give the crumb extra-fine texture and AOC French unsalted butter from Echire or D'Isigny; "very expensive but with a rich, slightly nutty flavour", said Lepard. The eggs should come from British heritage flocks. "Don't go for brown or white eggs", Lepard explained, "go for blue hen's eggs as they're much pricier although the taste is no different." Also, Organic California Blueberries which are nearly "impossible to get here in the UK, but the return flight will make those muffins even more exclusive." Lepard concluded that one could "gild it further with chunks of Amadei or Valrhona chocolate stirred into the mix, and brush the top with gold leaf stirred through sugar syrup to finish." 

I suppose, while we're at it, we could use Wild Strawberries flown in from Switzerland at $3.43 a pound, €6.87 a kilo, or make a coffee flavored muffin using Kopi Luwak, the coffee beans that have gone through the GI tract of a Civet Cat (I'm not making that up), at $25 an ounce, €18 for 25 g.

Where's my Muffin?
But, when all is said and done, what you're really paying for is the packagaing, the shipping, the marketing, and the staff to get the muffin to the plate.


Mary Cadogan's
Luxury Muffins


  • 3/4 cup (175 g.) Organic Self-Raising Flour, $0.28 or €0.21
  • 1/4 cup (50 g.) Organic Oats, $0.15 or €0.11
  • 1/2 cup (100 g.) light Muscovado Sugar, $0.35 or €0.26
  • One (1) teaspoon freshly grated Tonka Beans, $1.40 or €1.04 
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda, $0.08 or €0.06
  • One (1) Free Range Chicken Egg, beaten, $0.38 or €0.29
  • Two (2) tablespoons Manuka Honey, $1.39 or €1.03
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml.) Buttermilk, $0.45 or €0.33
  • One (1) teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste, $0.48 or €0.36
  • Six (6) tablespoons Extra Virgin Sunflower Oil, $2.23 or €1.66
  • 1/2 cup (100 g.) Macadamia Nuts, chopped, $6.05 or €4.51
  • 1/2 cup (100 g.) dried Blueberries, $5.07 or €3.77
  • 1/4 cup (50 g.) Dark Chocolate or Chocolate Chips, $4.68 or €3.48

TOTAL (12 muffins) : $22.80 (€12)

EACH MUFFIN : $1.90 (€1.41)

In a large bowl, thoroughly sift together the Flour, Bicarbonate of Soda, and grated Tonka Beans.

In a second bowl, add the Sunflower Oil, Egg, Sugar, Honey, Vanilla Bean Paste, and Buttermilk. Stir very thoroughly until all of the Sugar has dissolved.

Slowly sift in the Flour mixture until a smooth batter is formed. Sprinkle in the Oats and gently stir to combine.

Fold in the Macadamia Nuts, dried Blueberries, and Chocolate making sure that each ingredient is evenly distributed.

Grease a muffin tin with sweet crême Brittany Butter or line with muffin liners. Place a spoonful of muffin mixture into each muffin case, filling each to just over half way. Stud each muffin with a few extra Macadamia Nuts, Blueberries, or Chocolate Chips.

Bake in the center of a 400°F (200°C) oven for about twenty (20) minutes, or until golden on top.

Recipe courtesy Mary Cadogan.

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