Eggs, breads, cereals and cakes. Marion Cunningham has carved a career from such foods, first with a revised version of the "Fannie Farmer Cookbook," and later, "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book." This fall, the California native will introduce what she considers her most personal book to date, simply titled "The Breakfast Book" (Knopf, $17.95).
Not surprisingly, Cunningham considers breakfast the most important meal of the day -- but not just because it makes good sense nutritionally. "It's almost a rebellion against so much that is cute and fancy and artistic," says the author of breakfast. "It's the last meal that hasn't been tampered with."
Cunningham's compilation of almost 300 home-style recipes reflects the simplicity and purity that she says attracts aficionados to breakfast in the first place -- who wouldn't be easily coaxed from bed with the promise of a table set with the likes of Cunningham's ginger pancakes, fruit fritters or fluffy caramel coffee cake? What's more, Cunningham guides readers from yeast breads to griddling foods to custards and condiments with the kind of homespun approach you'd expect from, well, Fannie Farmer herself. In a few cases, she's updated old favorites -- her raw fresh fruit jams require only 30 minutes to prepare and require no cooking. And for those who fear deep-fat frying, Cunningham's devised a recipe for oven baked doughnuts.
But most of all, the comforting collection is a source of inspiration for cooks tired of the predictable: Among other things, Cunningham demonstrates how simple it is to make breakfast sausage at home, and she gives staples like oatmeal new meaning in the form of a souffle', as a coating for fish and in a pudding, flavored with maple syrup.
From "The Breakfast Book" comes the following recipe for ginger-lemon muffins, a delicious alternative to coffee and corn flakes, and just about as easy to whip up. Before going through the Express Lane, make sure you have sugar, butter, eggs, flour and salt on hand at home.
Express Lane list: fresh ginger, lemons, buttermilk, baking soda
BRIDGE CREEK FRESH GINGER MUFFINS
(Makes 16 muffins)
4- to 5-ounce piece unpeeled ginger
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 lemons), with some white pith
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Grease muffin tins.
Cut unpeeled ginger into large chunks. If you have a food processor, process the ginger until it is in tiny pieces. Otherwise, hand chop into fine pieces. You should have 1/4 cup.
Put the ginger and 1/4 cup sugar in a small skillet or pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot. Don't walk away from the pan -- this cooking takes only a couple of minutes. Remove from the stove and let the ginger mixture cool.
Put the lemon zest and 3 tablespoons sugar in the food processor and process until the lemon peel is in small bits. Or chop the lemon zest and pith by hand and then add the sugar. Add the lemon mixture to the ginger mixture. Stir and set aside.
Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat a second or two, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the buttermilk and mix until blended. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat until smooth. Add the ginger-lemon mixture and mix well.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins so the tins are 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Serve warm