Bâtard Boulangerie owner reveals popular bread muffin recipe

There's bread, and there's muffin. And then there's the bread muffin. Vancouver artisan baker Chris Brown reveals the recipe for a customer favourite.

Artisan baker Chris Brown used to bake 24 to 36 hours straight, but those days have come to an end

Muffins made from day-old bread are a specialty of Chris Brown's, co-owner of Batard Boulangerie Cafe Moderne. (CBC)

There's bread, and there's muffin. And then there's the bread muffin. 

Bread muffins are one of the artisan baked goods that Vancouver baker Chris Brown says he gets "non-stop requests" for, even though it's not yet a regular menu item atBâtard Boulangerie and Café Moderne, a new bakery cafe he co-founded with another Vancouver chef.

"It's just one of those things that's almost a love or hate, in the sense that if you like cakey little muffins, this is not for you," he told North by Northwest's Sheryl MacKay during a tour of the new cafe.

"This is solid. The ones I used to make — actually each muffin weighed a pound."

Brown is often credited as the pioneer who brought small-batch, artisan breads mainstream in Vancouver by co-founding one of the city's first artisan bakeries, Ecco il Pane.

Chris Brown is the co-owner of Batard Boulangerie Cafe Moderne. (CBC)

Until recently, he had been selling his creations at local farmers' markets. He says he would work 24 to 36 hours straight to ensure his bread was fresh for the morning and so they would entice people to spend that much more for a loaf.

"There were people, I remember, at that time, going, 'A five dollar-loaf of bread, oh my God,'" he said.

"It was horrifying, the thought of it, but you realize it's handmade with great ingredients, and slow-risen. The proof was in the actually eating of the product, and they just were like, 'Ok, its worth it.'"

Now that Brown is back in a shop and has staff helping him, he says he can focus on making a greater variety of things — including the popular bread muffin.

Chris Brown's bread muffins with ricotta centres 

(Makes about 6 medium-sized muffins)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of day-old good quality bread, cut into small cubes or shredded
  • 3/4 cup milk and 1/2 cup half and half cream (or any kind of cream)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (Reserve 1 tbsp. for filling)
  • 1/3 cup sugar or to taste
  • Dash of cinnamon and/or vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups fruit (such as apples, dice or shredded)
  • 1⁄4 cup raisins, cranberries or chopped nuts (if using raisins or dried cranberries, plump in warm water until soft and drain)

Filling Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup creamy ricotta (not the hard variety)
  • 1 tbsp sugar or to taste
  • Reserved 1 tbsp beaten egg
  • 1 tbsp half and half cream
  • Apricot jam diluted with a teaspoon of water and heated until it turns to liquid for glaze (Optional)

Directions

For the muffinsCombine milk, cream, eggs, sugar and cinnamon/vanilla and pour over bread cubes. 

Add fruit, raisins or nuts and mix thoroughly.If the bread is very dry, let it soak for an hour or so, constantly mixing the ingredients until the bread cubes feel moist and slightly squishy.

If it's still too dry, let it sit longer or covered in the fridge overnight, or add extra cream or milk if all the liquid is absorbed.

For the ricotta filling: Combine ricotta, reserved egg, cream and sugar, and set aside.

Assembling the muffins:

  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Use either muffin papers or approximately six 5 1⁄2 x 5 1⁄2 squares of parchment moulded into a muffin pan. Spray with cooking oil or butter.
  • Take a small handful of the bread mixture and place in bottom of muffin container creating a small depression, add about a tablespoon of ricotta mixture and then add another smaller handful of the bread mixture cupped over the top and press lightly but firmly to keep the shape. Repeat. The shape will be rough and not perfectly smooth which is what is desired and if a bit delicate that is fine as they will bake up well.
  • Bake in a 375 F oven for about 10 minutes and reduce to 350 F for another 10 to 15 minutes until the muffin is firm when prodded or lightly browned on top.
  • Remove and cool slightly. Brush with heated apricot jam and allow to cool on a rack out of the pans but still in the papers.

(Note: By removing the fruit, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and replacing with grated cheese and ham, bacon or olives with some chopped herbs or green onion, this will make a very nice savoury muffin. Omit the glaze and sprinkle cheese on top too.)

To hear the full interview with Chris Brown, click on the audio labelled: Vancouver artisan baker shares coveted bread muffin recipe. 

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