Tassajara Spice Muffins

February 24, 2014

Every other week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Carey Nershi of Reclaiming Provincial shares a spice muffin recipe that stood out in a house always full of treats.

If there is one motto my mother lives by above all others, it’s that a home should always be flush with treats. A bowl of popcorn that isn’t large enough to feed a family for several days is pointless. An empty cookie jar is a serious problem. The old wooden highchair that once held much tinier versions of my brother and myself now sits in the corner of the dining room, always occupied by a stack of tins containing extra cookies, brownies, and muffins. Options: That’s how we roll.

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Given my mother’s religious baking habits, it’s no surprise that she has a number of go-to recipes in her repertoire. The sort of recipes that friends and family have come to count on for holidays and gatherings. For instance, our Easter and Thanksgiving tables are never without a basket of these spice muffins.

Mom has been making this recipe since I can remember. Even as a young, picky child, they were one of my favorites. I’d always insist that at least half be made without raisins -- a request that annoyed (and continues to annoy) my father to no end. The recipe comes from an old, well-used copy of the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. They are surprisingly light for muffins made entirely from whole wheat flour, with a lovely sweetness from the honey and a hint of warmth from the spices. Enjoy them for breakfast, with dinner, or at any and all snack times in between.

Tassajara Spice Muffins

Makes: 12 muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 egg
1/4 cup oil (coconut or organic canola are ideal)
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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  • AntoniaJames
  • belfman
  • lanalovesfood
  • susan g
    susan g
  • alice
Lover of simple food and cocktails served with a single giant ice cube. Raised in the NY Schoharie Valley; currently residing in Burlington, VT. Blogger at


AntoniaJames February 25, 2014
As many of the other commenters here no doubt know, Edward Espe Brown was also a founder of Green's Restaurant and co-author of the eponymous cookbook, with Deborah Madison (another culinary guiding light throughout my adult life). Brown's personal story of how he came to love good bread -- and how it changed his life -- is enchanting.

(His brother's comment about Smithfield ham, by the way, is utterly perplexing. But then, I hail from the great Commonwealth of Virginia, so I guess that's not surprising.) ;o)
Carey N. February 26, 2014
Thank you so much for sharing, Antonia. :)
belfman February 25, 2014
I grew up in SF and lived in the Marina as a young woman. This was my go to cookbook as well. I just moved and will have to track down my copy. This brought back great memories!
Carey N. February 26, 2014
So happy to hear it!
lanalovesfood February 24, 2014
these look amazing and I really enjoyed your writing. where'd you get the pan with those awesome shapes?
Carey N. February 26, 2014
Thank you! The larger muffins were made in a John Wright cast iron pan. (My mother has a number of them in various shapes - vegetable, shell, and balloons.) They're a little bit harder to find now, but there seems to be a decent selection on eBay and the like.
susan G. February 24, 2014
I'm another one who had to go to the shelf and take out the book. Great memories of learning to bake, with yeast and unyeasted (Carob Date Bread). And the best directions for braiding a loaf. Bookmarks: a 13 cent stamp, receipts from 1973, and a drawing by one of my kids, now 40+. It was a book that opened doors. Carey, thanks for the stories. You've taken me back to a book I've close at hand, and now want to cook from again, frequently -- starting with the muffins.
Carey N. February 26, 2014
This comment warmed my heart, Susan. Most especially the bookmarks — so wonderful. <3
alice February 24, 2014
I have the cook book as well! It's a paperback and I had to make a new cover for it!
Carey N. February 26, 2014
A sign of a well-loved book!
Marian B. February 24, 2014
The Tassajara book is so very high on my wish list! I keep meaning to make their Cardamom Lemon Soda Bread that Luisa Weiss wrote about last year. These muffins look beautiful!

Also "flush with treats" is my new favorite phrase.
Carey N. February 26, 2014
YES, that bread! I remember seeing Luisa's post and thinking "oooh that's the old bread book my mom has." And then I forgot about it. Not making that mistake again.
Marian B. February 26, 2014
And it's about to be soda bread season! I'll have to keep you posted on how mine turns out.
Greenstuff February 24, 2014
I think we'd all like your mother, Carey! I just pulled my own old (and admittedly dusty) copy off the shelf. We were all so into the basic Tassajara yeast bread method that I'd completely forgotten all the other gems. Time to put a few new splatters on its newly dusted pages.
Carey N. February 26, 2014
Thanks, Chris! So happy to hear you're dusting off your copy. :)
drbabs February 24, 2014
Have you seen "How to Cook Your Life?" It's a movie about Edward Espe Brown.
(I have a falling apart copy of the book, too.)
Carey N. February 26, 2014
Ooo, I have not, but it's now on my Watch ASAP list.
AntoniaJames February 24, 2014
I suspect my well-worn copy of "The Tassajara Bread Book" resembles your mother's, Carey. One of the first cookbooks I bought (not long after it was first published), it has been and will always be a favorite in my kitchen. I've never tried that spice muffin recipe, though, so I look forwarding to using your version, soon. Thank you! ;o)
Carey N. February 26, 2014
I bet it does! Hers has been loved for many, many years. :) I hope you enjoy the muffin recipe, Antonia!