For those of you who have been following along, this is part of my "Dinner and a Movie: White Christmas" series!
I wanted something to go nicely with the Vermont Parsnip Chowder, so I thought Vermont Graham Muffins would do very well, indeed. Graham flour is entire wheat flour (not to be confused with regular whole wheat flour, which is usually just white flour with some of the wheat germ added back in). Named after 19th century health reformer Sylvester Graham, it was one of the only parts of his largely unpalatable health and religious reforms, many of which were later adopted by Seventh Day Adventist prophet Ellen G. White and even later by John Harvey Kellogg, that was widely accepted by the general public. Graham pudding, graham gems, graham bread, graham muffins and eventually, yes, graham crackers (which would have appalled Sylvester), were all prevalent in cookbooks throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. And Kellogg used graham flour in his "Granula" cereal.
Graham flour came to be widely associated with New England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This particular recipe I found in the absolutely delightful The United States Regional Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer. My edition was published in 1947. It has a whole section on New England foods (among others), and "Vermont Graham Bread" is included in the chapter, "Breads, Quick Breads, and Pancakes."
Vermont Graham (or Rye) Muffins
The original recipe is geared towards a loaf of bread, but who wants to wait a whole hour for bread when you can have muffins in half the time? I should also confess that after all the rhetoric about Graham flour, I could not find any in the store, and I thought I had regular whole wheat flour at home. Wrong. So I substituted rye flour (an equally New England ingredient) and it was delightful. So feel free to substitute whole wheat, rye, or even spelt flour, if you like. I also made my own "buttermilk" with a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of whole milk, but this recipe would probably be a smidge more moist with real buttermilk.
This is my take on the original recipe, with the listed additions for muffins.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (feel free to use less)
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups graham flour (or rye)
4 tablespoons butter, melted (half a stick)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a standard muffin tin.
Whisk together the all-purpose flour, graham flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and brown sugar until well combined (try not to leave any brown sugar lumps, but don't worry if you do). Stir in the buttermilk and melted butter. Spoon into muffin tins (makes a dozen) and bake 30 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and spring back to the touch. Remove from tins and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with plenty of butter.
These muffins taste slightly reminiscent of bran muffins, but are more like bread and less like the sugary sweet breakfast cakes most of us associate with the word "muffin." They are a bit sweet, so feel free to cut back on the brown sugar a bit if you're looking for something strictly more bread-like. They are best when served warm with butter, but are perfectly adequate cold as well.
Do you think graham muffins go with White Christmas (1954)? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to follow the White Christmas tag or visit the original menu post for the rest of the White Christmas Dinner and a Movie menu.
Want to see more Dinner and a Movie posts? Make a request or drop your suggestions in the comments!
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.