'What do you mean?' he said. 'Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?'
'All of them at once,' said Bilbo.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Any morning I'm awake is a good morning, or so I tell myself as I shift from foot to foot impatiently, transfixed by the coffee machine. I wasn't always what you'd call a morning person. I was a dreamy kid, a lazer, a puller-of-the-sheets-over-my-own-head. There's a sunrise every morning, but I missed countless opportunities to see it for myself by staying in bed long past those early, rosy-streaked dawn moments. For a few years in my adolescence I swam competitively, an activity I loved in every sense except one: it meant pitch-black mornings spent training in a freezing pool, lined up head to foot to head to foot with other sleepy kids pounding out freestyle laps. Not at all coincidentally, this was around the time I started to drink coffee.
As an adult, I have become a morning person, mostly through grit and determination....and yes, coffee. I spent years feeling like the worst impostor of early risers, until finally one day, I didn't. What used to require large amounts of willpower and caffeine now seems much more natural, and I love being the first one awake and tiptoeing around the house. There's a kind of 'witching hour' feel to the early morning hours, before the day's responsibilities clamp down around me, I could spend that precious time doing anything. Read a book for a few stolen moments, meditate with a candle, sit outside and watch a pink sunrise creep upwards through the fragile stillness of early dawn.
Speaking of candles, I may have found the perfect companion for my morning escapades. This Roca candle ( by my friends at Northern Lights, who were kind enough to provide me with candles for this series of posts) combines spiced citrus notes with warm maple vanilla scent, all at once soothing and invigorating. This seems like a morning candle--warming with its hints of spice, meditative glow getting you ready to face the day--and so it deserves to inspire a morning treat. The scent (look for 'Crocus Flower & Spice') is as comforting as a warm, freshly baked muffin in your hand....so who was I to argue with that idea once inspiration struck? The result of this collaboration was my first batch of sweet, pillowy Maple Spice Muffins, and I'm so excited to introduce you to the recipe. Sweetened with real maple syrup, lightly spiced with cinnamon, fragrant with vanilla, and underscored with just a hint of orange zest, each muffin hits all the notes of my favorite candle in what turned out to be the perfect blend for a breakfast treat. A handful of ground almond meal went into the mix to convince myself that these muffins are less like cake and more like granola, but they are, essentially, a sweet morning indulgence. And that's okay. As long as you're awake for it.
(Makes one dozen muffins )
2 cups flour
1 cup almond meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
8 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest
For the maple glaze:
9 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease the insides of 12 cups of a muffin pan with extra butter, or line cups with parchment liners. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all dry ingredients: flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt & spices. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter and maple syrup until smooth. Add milk, then eggs, continue whisking until mixture is smooth. Add vanilla and orange zest. Slowly pour wet mixture into dry mixture, stirring as you go, until a smooth batter forms. Divide batter evenly among cups of your muffin pan (each cup will be about 2/3 full).
Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until muffins are lightly golden brown and an inserted knife tip comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely.
To make maple glaze, whisk together 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar with 3 tablespoons maple syrup until glaze is smooth. Apply to tops of muffins with a spoon or pastry brush, smooth & sprinkle lightly with nutmeg. Enjoy your muffins, and have a happy morning!
(Full disclosure: Northern Lights provided the candles that were the inspiration for this series of posts, but all opinions and recipes provided are one hundred percent my own! To find out more about the Roca and their other lovely candles, visit www.northernlightscandles.com)