Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Strawberry muffins

Our summer CSA kicked off last week, which was the starting gun, of sorts, for summer cooking. Now, instead of beginning with a recipe and wrangling the necessary ingredients, the ingredients wrangle us. Imagine a benign but insistent band of curly cress, sunchokes, and sweet potatoes twirling and hurling a lasso at this family of four, because that’s kind of how it is. Funny salads are born, piquant green sauces evolve, spur-of-the-moment pastas and gratins equal dinner–and it's usually pretty delicious. 


What's headline-worthy right now are the glorious strawberries, the best we've had in years–I exaggerate not. They should be insipid and half-drowned from all this rain we've been getting, but instead they're concentrated and perky and sweet, the very essence of what a strawberry should be. I’ve followed Wilklow Orchards, our fruit CSA, to the Borough Hall and Fort Greene markets because we keep emptying our little green baskets of fruit and wanting more, more, more. I have a drawer full of those little red berry hairnets. As with the rhubarb, I’ve been compulsively hoarding and overstocking, because I know strawberries will be on their way out soon (This trait comes from Mom, who crams her cabinets with lotions, potions, and incandescent light bulbs, for fear her favorites will be discontinued).


I’ve been keeping this recipe for strawberry muffins up my sleeve for the past few years, and it makes nice use of the berries once the shine goes off them–which believe it or not happens very quickly if the berries last that long–because we're not talking about giant styrofoam strawberries here. The recipe somehow sprang out of one for blueberry muffins, from the Gourmet Cookbook (the big yellow tome), but it bears only a passing resemblance to the original. I did away with the suggested crumb topping (overkill), scaled back on the sugar, and substituted almond flour for some of the all-purpose flour, for a gentle nuttiness and tender consistency. The strawberries create fierce little pockets of fruit, and their juice runs a little bit into the nutty sweet batter; they remind me vaguely of the financiers I used to mix by the hundreds in a Hobart. 

There’s nothing exotic or mind-bending about this recipe, it just works and always, like strawberries themselves, aims to please. It makes a nice breakfast for those days we’re a bit late out of the starting gate, lying too long in bed listening to the birds outside, hearing the second wave of dogs go by on their walks. These muffins have rescued us on many a lazy morning. They’re not exactly health food, but they are pretty wholesome, tasty enough to tempt the most breakfast-averse among us to eat. And, since they're packed with fruit and a few almonds (almonds are a super food, right?), I don’t feel too guilty pressing one into a small, camp-bound hand and calling it the start of a day.




Strawberry almond muffins   
Makes 12 muffins
Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour   
  • ½ cup almond flour (a.k.a. almond meal or finely ground almonds)  
  • 2/3 cup sugar  
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder  
  • ½ teaspoon salt  
  • ¾ stick (6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing tins  
  • 1/3 cup whole milk  
  • 1 large egg  
  • 1 large egg yolk  
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract  
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries, in blueberry-sized pieces
Instructions:  
Preheat oven to 375°. Generously butter muffin cups. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a small pot, heat butter until just melted, and remove from heat. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then whisk in milk, eggs, and vanilla until just combined. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then carefully fold in strawberries. Fill the muffin cups about ¾ way full, dividing batter evenly. Place in the center rack of preheated oven and bake, rotating about halfway through baking, for 20-30 minutes–or until tops of muffins are golden and they pass the toothpick test. Cool at least 15 minutes before removing from tins (I run a blunt knife around the edges of the muffins, then give them a little twist).

8 comments:

  1. These look delicious! It's fantastic to be back in a season where the ingredients help you/lead you, versus forcing the ingredients to become something they aren't!

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  2. As I have another quart of strawberries coming in this week's CSA, I thank you kindly. It's the dill that's also coming that I'm trying to lasso in.

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  3. Hi Meaghin, I totally agree - and by the way am making the jam recipe you recently posted (I like the lemon rind in there). Molly: dill is a tough one! Let me know if you come up with any brilliant answers to the Iron Chef dill challenge, since I'm always kind of stumped there, as well.

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  4. What I wouldn't give for fresh strawberries. Your muffins must have been extra special with such beautiful fruit in them. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog till Monday night and I'd love it if you came by and linked your muffins up. http://sweet-as-sugar-cookies.blogspot.com/2011/06/sweets-for-saturday-22.html

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