Cook Your Comics: Big Bertha’s Big Molasses Muffins
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As soon as I read Bitch Planet #3, the origin story of the indomitable Penny Rolle, I wanted the recipe to make the muffins that were such an integral part of the story. I also felt like crying and cheering and getting a “non-compliant” tattoo, but there’s a big part of my brain that fixated on the muffins right away.
That part of my brain is loud and persistent. I love to cook, and I love to eat. I always have. But there’s a lot of cultural baggage associated with those things, particularly for women. Penny Rolle was “born big,” and her society deems that unacceptable. Authority figures press her to conform and comply, to fit an arbitrary beauty standard, and to suppress the parts of yourself that others find less pleasing—Bitch Planet‘s setting might be sci-fi, but its overall society is not.
There’s baggage associated with cooking, too. “A woman’s place is in the kitchen” became shorthand for the whole concept of sexist notions about gender roles. I’ve never been one to reinforce outdated gender politics, but I really do like to cook. It’s my natural inclination. Not because I’m a woman, but because it’s a creative outlet, and after a lot of practice, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
So anyway, I wanted that recipe and Bitch Planet writer Kelly Sue DeConnick graciously provided it via the book’s official Tumblr. It says the recipe was adapted by Mallory Murphy Viscardi of Country Mouse Confections. You can go read the recipe at the link, and it’s worth it for the commentary provided. I’m going to give you the ingredient list and basic instructions with my own notes here. This recipe makes 12 regular-sized muffins.
Big Bertha’s Big Molasses Muffins
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp molasses (I used blackstrap for the fullest flavor)
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange (optional and to taste)
1 1/2 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
big pinch of salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit, optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, vegetable oil, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
3. In a separate bowl, put in the wheat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and salt. Mix to combine.
4. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixture as you stir them together. (The original recipe says to add the wet mixture into the dry mixture, but I’ve had things clump up on me in the past, so I prefer to do it like this. My muffins turned out fine.) You don’t want to stir any more than you absolutely have to, because over-mixing will make the texture of the baked muffins less tender and too chewy. We want bold flavors with a delicate texture.
5. When the wet and dry ingredients are just combined, gently fold in the cranberries if you’re using them. I think chopped candied ginger would be really good in these if you want something other than cranberries or other dried fruit.
6. Put liners in the cavities of a 12-cavity muffin tin. Scoop batter into each cup, doing your best to get the same amount of batter in each cup.
7. Put the muffins in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 11 more minutes. Now your kitchen smells like the kitchen of a grandma in a TV commercial. It’s an aroma that makes you feel one with the universe, and that world peace is possible. Now snap out of it before your muffins burn!
8. Pull the muffins out of the oven and test the doneness of one of the muffins by inserting a toothpick in the middle. If a few crumbs are on the toothpick, they’re done. If the batter is still wet, put them in for another 2 or 3 minutes. Don’t let them get overdone. Set the muffin tin on a cooling rack and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Then you can remove the muffins from the tin to let them finish cooling. OR you can eat one with some butter right away, while it’s still hot.
The muffins are ideal for breakfast or an afternoon snack. They taste great, but they aren’t too sweet. These muffins are real food. They have nutritional value (Lots of fiber! Like, seriously a lot of fiber), so they give you some real energy and not just a sugar rush. Use that energy to take care of business and smash the patriarchy.