We’ve entered an exciting time at the homestead – the blackberries are in full swing and yielding anywhere between half a cup to a cup a day of berries. It may not sound like much, but considering that we only have three producing brambles (that is, three plants that we planted last year, that are now fruiting on last year’s wood), that we have several new canes we intend to move and fruit next year, and that a pint of good, no-spray blackberries runs anywhere between $6-10 around here (for good reason), we’re pretty stoked to have this much of our own berry supply.
Other than eating them straight from the brambles or (more responsibly) washed and out of hand, I’ve been able to use them in some baked goods, including some tasty mixed berry muffins I made last week, as well as some of the scones I sold at the West Asheville Tailgate Market yesterday (which sold out, mind you – we love our blackberries around here!). I’ll likely be making more blackberry honey scones for Friday’s East Asheville Market, so if you’re a local and you missed them, fear not and come on by!
For those of you a bit farther away, and/or those of you with a plethora of summer fruit, or with just a love of muffins, I’ve got a recipe for you today. I do love a good muffin for many reasons. One, they’re an excellent way to use up sour milk or leftover whey from cheesemaking. (You can also use orange juice or other nondairy liquids if that’s your bag, which is pretty cool, too.) Two, they’re a great medium for just about any fruit, or fruit preserve, fresh or frozen. The pictured batch is a mixture of blueberries and blackberries, because why not? Three, it’s easy to sub in other sweeteners besides sugar, and experiment with mixing flours, etc. I’ve been on a honey-swapping kick lately, and muffins and scones have been great experimental tools in doing so.
But most importantly, they’re easy and fast. The key to good, fluffy muffins, like any quickbread, pancake, or biscuit-like treat, is not to overmix the final dough. The more you mix, the more gluten develops in the flour, which will make your baked good more like a dense bread than a light treat. Sure, you may have a few dry spots of flour, but these usually work themselves out by letting the mixture rest a bit. In either case, a lump or two of flour is better than biting into a tough muffin.
Also, make sure you mix your dry and wet ingredients separately, then combine them in the end. Doing so ensures even distribution of ingredients (e.g., leaveners like baking powder, eggs into milk, etc.), especially as you’re trying not to overmix in the final step before baking. I’ve always mixed wet ingredients into dry ones (I find it makes overmixing more challenging, which is a good thing), but I may do further experimenting, as the jury’s out on the order of operations.
Anyway, I ramble. Let’s get to the good stuff – the muffin recipe! You can sub in a plethora of different fruits (just make sure, if they’re larger fruits, they’re chopped into pieces), as well as sub in nuts, oats, and other tasties. For extra-decadent muffins, you can also top them with a crumble – a mixture of flour, sugar, butter or oil, and spices and nuts. Mmmm.
Basic Berry Muffins
I default to berries here, but feel free to use whatever fruit or goodies you have on hand. I also like to sub in honey for sugar. Variation below the recipe.
you will need:
- 2 c all-purpose flour (you can sub in up to 1 c whole wheat flour)
- ½ c white sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp neutral oil or melted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1-1 ¼ c milk, buttermilk, whey, or other tasty liquid
- ½ tsp grated lemon or orange zest (optional)
- 1 c fresh or frozen berries or chopped fruit
- ½-1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or a combination (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin lightly with oil or butter, or line with paper liners.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices (if using) in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, egg, milk, and zest (if using) in a bowl or large measuring cup. Make a well in the dry ingredients (as in, push them to the sides of the bowl so there’s an empty space in the middle), add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix with a spatula until the mixture is just combined. The batter will be lumpy; however, if the batter is super dry with large pockets of flour, or is not coming together, add in milk, a tablespoon or so at a time, until combined. Fold the berries into the batter.
- Scoop batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups about ⅔ full (any more than this may cause the batter to overflow in your oven. Not fun). Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until the outside is browned and a toothpick or knife inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
- Remove pan from oven onto a cooling rack, and allow to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan onto the cooling rack (or your facehole). Store in an airtight container for up to a few days, or freeze when cooled completely.
Honey Variation: The trick to subbing in honey is remembering two important factors: firstly, honey is sweeter than sugar, so you’ll need less of it than a recipe calls for (about half). Secondly, honey will add moisture to your final batter, so consider reducing your milk slightly at first to accommodate this change. To sub honey for sugar, omit the sugar in Step 2, and add ¼ c honey in Step 3 to the wet ingredients. Proceed with recipe.
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