Grammy (Virginia) was an avid collector of recipes. She had boxes galore of recipe cards and magazine clippings. She would also collect recipes from local Memphis restaurants. She was known to sometimes write the food writers at the Commercial Appeal to ask for a favorite restaurant recipe. I think I inherited this need to know these recipes because of a) frugality (I refuse to go out to eat every time I have a craving and I have a feeling Grammy felt the same way) and b) a desire to constantly add more recipes to her own personal repertoire. I have embarrassed my dear husband by asking the waitstaff for a restaurant’s recipes on numerous occasions. I am always trying to crack a code when it comes to cooking. I think I inherited that trait from my dear grandmothers.
I honestly don’t know the entire backstory of how Grammy procured this muffin recipe. The Peabody Hotel is a Memphis landmark (it was once called The Hotel Peabody when it first opened). It embodies grandmother chic in a way that no other local hotels can try to match. Old school swank is the only way to describe The Peabody. So, I’m sure, if Grammy saw this recipe printed in the paper she took note. Who wouldn’t want to replicate the muffins at the world-famous Peabody? Or, Grammy sampled these muffins and asked the kitchen for the recipe. Both scenarios are likely.
I don’t recall ever having these at Grammy’s house, but I just may not remember. My mom doesn’t remember them either but she found them when we were compiling our wedding favor cookbook. They seemed like a good ode to both my Grammy and to a beloved Memphis legend.
These muffins are nowhere near sexy. They’re unassuming and classic. They’d likely make a delicious base for any add-ins you might dream up, but today I made them just as the recipe stated. Finishing the muffins was a pat of soft and spreadable salted butter and a cup of black coffee. Nothing could be more perfect on a cloudy day.
These muffins taste downright grandmotherly, and you know I mean that in the best possible way. They aren’t a trendy combination of flavors. They’re classic and simple. They aren’t too delicate to pair well with a dark coffee, but are just dainty enough to feature in an afternoon tea. They’re vanilla for heaven’s sake! VANILLA! Isn’t that the most grandmotherly and comforting of all extracts? They’re simply perfect.
These muffins employ a technique you’re probably more familiar with when making traditional southern cornbread. You’ll preheat your muffin tins and place some butter in them to melt in the oven for a minute or two. This step gives the muffins a really nice exterior that almost has a nutty, browned butter flavor. It gives a very simple and pretty sweet quick bread a different dimension and depth of flavor.
The very best part of this recipe is that you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right now.
Go forth and muffin, my friends.
Hotel Peabody Vanilla Muffins:
2 Cups granulated sugar
4 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Cups of milk
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract (this isn’t a time to use the cheap “vanilla flavoring”)
1 Stick of melted butter (1/2 Cup)
(1 Stick of butter cut into 36 cubes for greasing muffin tins.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and preheat 36 muffin tins while prepping the batter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar until lighter in color and thick. Then add the other ingredients and mix until incorporated.
When the oven has preheated, drop the 36 cubes of butter into the muffin pans and allow to melt in the hot oven for 1-2 minutes.
Drop ice-cream scoops of batter into the hot, buttered, muffin tins and bake for 15-18 minutes. Or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly and serve warm with softened butter.