When you are a hardcore tea geek, people often bring you back interesting teas from far off places. I have gifts in my tea cabinet from Sri Lanka, India, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Spain, England, Ireland, Hong Kong, Japan, Copenhagen, France, Amsterdam, New York, Iowa, Illinois, North Carolina, San Francisco, Seattle…and now Alaska.
My sister, Liz, brought me a classic cinnamon, orange, and clove flavored tea from The Kobuk in Anchorage, Alaska. Samovar Tea is what they call it. It’s spicy, rich, smooth. And for me it completely invokes nostalgia for crisp fall mornings and chilly winter nights, snowflakes and cookies, oatmeal and slippers, and the holiday magic that starts making its way into our lives this time of year.
For me, this tea conjured up images of cinnamon raisin muffins. I adapted a healthy pearled barley and buttermilk muffin recipe from my favorite brunch cookbook and infused the tea into a few key ingredients for the muffins. I steeped the tea leaves in melted butter with maple syrup and I soaked the raisins in the strong brewed tea.
These muffins freeze well. They didn’t last long in our freezer, though, as we’d grab one each morning for an on-the-go breakfast. I’ll make a double batch next time!
Happy cooking and sipping!
Cinnamon Tea Infused Raisin & Barley Muffins
Adapted from the Buttermilk-Barley Muffins in Molly Katzen’s Sunlight Café cookbook.
Makes 12 muffins
2 tablespoons loose leaf cinnamon tea, divided (I used Samovar Tea from The Kobuk)
8 ounces water
1/3 cup raisins
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup cooked pearled barley
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup toasted blanched almonds, minced
1. Place 1 tablespoon of the loose leaf tea in a coffee mug and set the raisins in a small bowl. Bring water to a boil, pour it over the tea leaves, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain the steeped tea into the bowl with the raisins; discard the tea leaves. Let the raisins soak in tea while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2. Meanwhile, place remaining 1 tablespoon loose leaf tea in a small saucepan with butter and maple syrup. Over medium heat, let butter melt and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once mixture is simmering, remove pan from heat, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain infused butter into a new bowl and discard the tea leaves.
3. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir in sugar; use your fingers to break up any clumps if necessary. Add barley and stir to combine.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, egg, and almond extract together. Pour into the bowl with dry ingredients. Add the tea infused butter and use a spatula to fold everything together until just combined; don’t over mix. Strain the tea soaked raisins and add them to the mixture. Add almonds and stir batter a few more times.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Divide batter among the muffin tins, filling each about half to two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the muffin tins for 5 minutes then remove from tins to cool on a rack. Let cool completely before serving.