Welcome to the Year of Baking!

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Cherry flaxseed muffins are a fiber-packed treat to help you wake up on cold January mornings. Photo by Laura Skelding for the Austin American-Statesman.

It’s an exciting food section day, my friends.

Today, we’re launching a yearlong baking project aimed to get you baking more than chocolate chip cookies and pecan pie for Thanksgiving. It’s inspired by my own desire to expand my baking skills and, frankly, just bake more. During the holiday season, I realized that I bake primarily during that quarter of the year. That’s unlike people like my friend and former co-worker Melissa Martinez, who bakes all the time, it seems. She’s written lots of baking stories for us in the past, so I asked her to compile her best baking tips, as well as a pantry list to get us started.

In coming weeks, we’ll start to roll out videos for each of the baking projects. In the meantime, check out this first dish, cherry wheat germ muffins from James Briscione’s new book “The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better” (Oxmoor House, $29.95).

I actually used flaxseed meal when I made these, which is easier to find and just as healthy as wheat germ.

Let us know what kind of baking dishes you absolutely love to make and what you’d like to learn how to make. I’m hoping to find some sweet stories, like this one a year ago from Sharon Bright, who bakes every week for the folks at Hospice Austin.

Cherry flaxseed muffins are a fiber-packed treat to help you wake up on cold January mornings. Photo by Laura Skelding for the Austin American-Statesman.

Cherry flaxseed muffins are a fiber-packed treat to help you wake up on cold January mornings. Photo by Laura Skelding for the Austin American-Statesman.

Cherry-Wheat Germ Muffins

Dried cherries add a hit of sweet-tart flavor and could be replaced with any other kind of dried fruit. Throw in a handful of nuts if you like. If you don’t have buttermilk, stir together 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes, then add to your recipe. If you’re weighing the flour, which I’m trying to do more myself, use 6.75 ounces.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next seven ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, oil, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups, and coat liners with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.


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