The stars must surely be in alignment because:
- our markets are now bursting with berries;
- we all need to get out of our ruts and treat ourselves and loved ones to something special; and
- this “something special” needs to be easy-to-make but delicious.
And the inevitable result is... muffins! With fresh berries I recently snagged at the farmer’s market, I was able to bake two batches - a red raspberry cinnamon streusel and a lemon-blueberry. So, come Saturday or Sunday morning, grab a strong cup of coffee, your newspaper of choice and savor a delectable muffin for sheer bliss.
Muffins are considered a quick bread which basically means they don’t require yeast for leavening (and hence no resting time). Muffin leavening is enabled by baking powder, or a combination of baking powder and baking soda, combined with liquid and heat. That said, make sure your baking powder is fresh and hasn’t been sitting in the back of your cupboard for too long.
The easy-peasy nature of muffin making starts with the combining of ingredients. Muffin batter only requires a quick blend - no beating. The crumb of a baked muffin should be loose so lumps in the batter are not a bad thing. There is no shaping of muffins either; the batter goes directly into well-greased muffin tins. Paper liners or silicone pans make the process even more of a breeze. Last but not least, you can make muffins in advance since they stay fresh for about 3 days in an airtight container and can even be frozen to last longer.
Of course, muffins can have many add-ins besides berries, including chocolate chips, seeds and nuts, chopped stone fruits and dried fruits. But since we’re zeroing in on berries in this early summer season, make sure to use fresh, ripe berries. If you wash them, spread them out on a dry cookie sheet and allow to dry completely before proceeding with the recipe. The flavor of berries is always enhanced by citrus zest in quick breads. Blueberries and raspberries combined with lemon zest in these recipes is a sure winner.
You should also toss the berries in some of the flour that you will be using for the recipe. This can prevent bleeding of the juices, sticking to the sides of the muffin tins and can also mitigate gravity by suspending the berries in the batter (as opposed to falling to the bottom of the muffin tin). To further prevent this issue, you can fill each muffin cup with a small amount of “plain”/berry-less batter as a “cushion” to lift the berries up if desired.
Following these tips will make for delicious and eye-appealing muffins - the perfect way to greet the day. And don’t forget to post the fruits of your labors to our private Facebook group. Let’s see how many different kinds of muffins we can count out there!
Raspberry Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
Makes 1 dozen muffins
adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook
For the muffins:
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
For the streusel:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugars, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
3. Place the egg, melted butter and milk in the well. Stir with a wooden spoon just until ingredients are combined. You can add a tablespoon of additional milk if the batter is too stiff.
4. Quickly and gently fold in the berries and lemon zest.
5. Fill each muffin cup three quarters full with batter.
6. To make the streusel topping, combine the pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon zest in a small bowl.
7. Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine into a crumbly mixture. Fingers work best here to obtain the proper streusel texture.
8. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of each muffin.
9. Bake until lightly browned and firm, 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan for about 5 minutes before removing muffins from tin. These muffins are best served warm but you can store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or wrap well and freeze up to 2 months.
And for a peek at the Lemon Blueberry Muffins I made:
Or give our recipe for Lemon Blueberry Streusel muffins a try. Let's see what you come up with to rise to our muffin challenge!