I was a young homemaker in the early 1980’s. There was a recession then and many people, especially young people just starting out and elders living on fixed incomes, found themselves hard pressed. Sound familiar?
The 80’s were actually a good time to be introduced to the art of household management. Frugal habits were not only desirable but essential, and the back-to-the-earth movement was still exerting enough influence upon the thinking of my generation that we were conscious of the importance of reducing waste. There was, among my contemporaries, a resurgence of interest in home gardening, in cooking, and in putting food by. Those lessons have served me well over the years.
There was not the foodie culture then that we have now. There was no Food Network, no internet, no smart phones or apps. Chefs had not attained the same level of fame as movie stars. We did still have access, though, to a generation of women who had lived through the Great Depression and through the rationing and shortages of the Second World War. We also valued the resources provided by cookbooks, our public library, and women’s magazines like Good Housekeeping and Family Circle.
Specialty food publications like “Cooks Illustrated” had not yet made their way to newsstands in the early 80’s—or at least not in my rural community—but the recession gave rise to special editions by women’s magazines that focused on smart shopping and on stretching the family food budget. As a young wife, I was especially grateful for these resources and some of the recipes they provided me are still a part of my kitchen routine, even today.
One recipe that has stuck with me all these years is the California Cocoa Muffin. I found it in this magazine,
which, although now tattered and taped together, still has a place on my cookbook shelf. I’ve made only a couple changes to the recipe over the years, replacing the vegetable shortening called for in the magazine with butter, and omitting the walnuts.
This muffin is simple to prepare and makes a wonderful breakfast or brunch treat. It’s sweet enough that it can serve as dessert should you find yourself in need of something you can put together in a hurry. The muffins are wonderful hot or cold, served plain or with a little butter but—if you want to fancy them up a bit—you can top them with some sliced fresh fruit and a sifting of powdered sugar, or a dollop of whipped cream.
To make California Cocoa Muffins, you’ll need:
- 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 eggs
- 1-1/4 cups milk
Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Cut in the butter or work it in with your fingers, until the butter is broken into small pieces about the size of a pea.
Add the raisins and stir them through the dry mixture.
Beat the eggs and add them to the dry mixture, together with the milk. Mix just until the wet ingredients are incorporated. The batter will still be lumpy.
Spoon the batter into buttered muffin cups.
Bake the muffins on the center rack of a 400˚F oven for 20 minutes.
Store the cooled muffins in an airtight container. They freeze very well.