Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Mini Muffin Pan

Dear Mini Muffin Pan,

You are also one of my original wedding gifts, which makes you a decade-and-a-half-old!  And, without a doubt, you are one of my favorite pieces in the kitchen.

I love to bake and eat homemade baked goods.  It's no wonder where my kids get their "sweet tooths" from.  But I am also a portion-control kind of girl.  I have to be.  We middle-aged people just cannot afford calories in excess, no matter how good the food is.  This is why my mini muffin pan comes in handy.  I use it to downsize sweets I bake, but also for a few other unconventional ways of baking and cooking.

We have all seen brownies on the market called Brownie Bites in the shape of a mini muffin.  We have also seen cupcakes downsized to this volume, making less room for frosting and thus sugar (which is better for kids' birthday party treats).  At our kiddos' favorite restaurant, Sweet Tomatoes, we also see mini fruit muffins and mini corn muffins.  Likewise at home, I bake these brownies, cupcakes, and muffins in my mini muffin pan on a regular basis.  But that's not where the fun ends.

I originally registered for my Calphalon non-stick mini muffin pan to make my petite, elegant, and very yummy Cheese Tarts.  I have been making these for so long (since high school) that I don't even remember where the recipe originally came from.  I've also modified it over the years, and the recipe has just imprinted in my head.  Originally, the recipe had a graham crack crumb crust.  I did away with it.  It made no sense to take up more space in these tiny muffin wells leaving less room for cheesecake!  If you're interested in trying bite-sized pieces of cheesecake heaven (instead of eating a large slice of calorie-attack cheesecake), here is the easy recipe:

  • 2 packages of 8 oz cream cheese, softened or at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar (can be reduced to 2/3 cup)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites, beaten until soft peaks form
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease mini muffin pan.
  2. Beat ingredients for filling in order listed.  Fill each well 3/4 full with filling.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. 
  3. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Meanwhile, prepare topping by mixing ingredients together with a spoon.  Place a dollop of topping onto the middle of each tart (the middles of tarts will deflate after it cools).  Return to oven for 5 minutes to set the topping.
  4. Cool for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove tarts from the wells.  (This part determines if you greased the pans well enough).  The tarts will have a nice brown crust made of cheesecake instead of graham cracker crumbs!

Another interesting way I use the mini muffin pan is to bake chocolate chip cookies in them.  I love Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies, or, as Phoebe Buffay would say, "Nes-Le Tol-louza" chocolate chip cookies.  I make the cookie dough as directed on the bag of chocolate chips, and then grease the mini muffin pan wells before placing dough in them.  I fill the pans just less than full, and bake for about 5 minutes longer than the recipe calls.  (Ovens and pans make baking time vary; a great rule of thumb is looking at the edge of the cookies -- a nice golden brown edge means it's done).   These chocolate chip cookies come out moist and chewy on the inside, and you don't get any odd-shaped cookies!  They are all the same size, shape, and color.  It's a great sight for the OCD in me.

Lastly, another great way to use the mini muffin pans is to make rice crispy treats in them.  I make rice crispy treats according to the recipe on the cereal box, and instead of filling a flat pan with it, I grease the mini muffin pan and put gooey rice crispy spoonfuls into them.  I press down with a spoon while it is still warm so that they are shaped into the wells.  When I run out of wells (I have 24), I put the rest into my silicone baking cups (love these as well -- no greasing necessary!).  When the rice crispy treats cool down, they come right out the pan -- so no cutting required.  They are each shaped alike, in small portions, and great for little fingers and hands!

My next new quest with these mini muffin pan is to make Brazilian cheese bread, Pao de Queijo.  If you've ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you have probably had these awesome cheese bread poppers that are so delicious it's almost criminal.  I wanted to take the leftovers in our basket to-go the last time we went to such a restaurant, but they wouldn't let me since it's an all-you-can-eat kind of place (and apparently they have rules).  Well, I'll make my own, and I'll show ya! 

The one thing I do have to remember about these yummy treats is my original mantra -- portion control.  And since everything is made smaller, having two is like having one regular-sized treat.  But the kids are always happier to hear that they can have two instead of one, so it's a win-win for me!

So mini muffin pan, I hope to continue to find new ways to use you, as well as new treats to make with you!  In fact, I'm even tempted to buy you a twin sister soon so that there will be less wait time to get to the yummy treats!



  1. I love my mini muffin pans and I have so many I don't even remember. Besides portion control, everything looks cuter when small. I have used them to make mini crustless quiches too, in my catering career.

    You reminded me that I haven't baked a kid treat in a while.

  2. Laura, I'm no pastry chef, so I only have one lonely mini muffin pan... =) Your kids are practically grown, so I bet they enjoy more grown-up, elegant desserts like the ones in your most recent blog post! Maybe I've planted a seed in your head for you to create a twist on a kid treat for your next post!?