Winter berries

My mother, ever the optimist, always breathed a sign of relief on Groundhog Day, even if she wasn’t happy with the forecast. “February is a short month,” she’d proclaim, her eyes on the prize that lay roughly six weeks ahead. She also took issue every time someone said, “After the 4th of July, the summer is shot.” She absolutely hated it when people wished the summer away. Like mother, like daughter.

However… February is a real drag. It’s a good thing it has two holidays and the dog show to perk it up.

One of the things I grow weary of about now is my resolve to eat with the seasons. We have roasted root vegetables, often with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower thrown into the mix, almost every week. And we love them. But one does grow weary.

The same is true of fruits. All winter long, it’s apples and citrus, which is fine. But every now and then, even though I try very hard to stay local and seasonal, I need a pick-me-up. This week, it was blueberry muffins.

One can make muffins with frozen blueberries, and I do freeze a few bags during the summer for later use. One can use the canned wild blueberries from Maine—I personally prefer those for winter pies. Or one can succumb, occasionally, to the South American berries that appear in the stores. I don’t typically do that, but this week Hubby did—and then decided they weren’t sweet enough to suit him. So, today, I made muffins.

My Auntie Betty up in Maine makes astounding, delicate blueberry muffins. I love them, I truly do; but recently, I found a recipe that I like at least as well, if not better, that does not require you to separate the eggs. It’s from Lora Brody’s Cape Cod Table. Lora Brody’s Cooking with Memories was an 80s family favorite. How can you not love a cookbook with a chapter entitled, “The Velveeta Cookoff”, or a brisket recipe that contains everything but the kitchen sink? Cape Cod Table is a little less casual in tone, but the recipes are great and the photos just lovely. I’m sharing the muffins with you, but the rest of the book is worth a look for sure.

Except for my notes, I’ve copied the recipe word-for-word. You’ll note that the directions are very explicit, which is helpful for less experienced bakers. This recipe calls for a LOT of berries, compared to others I’ve used; and the process of mashing the first cup with a fork is an interesting twist. Unless you really over bake them, they’ll never be too dry.

The Best Blueberry Muffins (Note: 12 regular or 6 jumbo)

For the muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour (Note: I’ve used part white whole wheat without affecting taste or texture)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2½ cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and shaken dry in a sieve, or 2½ cups slightly thawed frozen blueberries
2 extra-large eggs
½ cup milk (Note: I use buttermilk if I have it on hand)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 medium orange (Note: Don’t leave it out!)

For the topping

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup finely chopped walnuts (Note: You can leave these out, but they really are a great addition)

Preheat the oven to 400° F, with the rack in the center position. Line either a 12-cup muffin tin or a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin with fluted paper liners, or coat the cups and flat part of the tins generously with butter.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Place 1 cup of the blueberries in another bowl and use a fork to mash them roughly.

Add the eggs to a larger mixing bowl and whisk to break them up. Whisk in the milk, melted butter, vanilla, and orange zest. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to fold in the mashed berries. Fold the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine. There should be some dry lumps showing. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to combine all the dry ingredients. Gently, fold in the whole blueberries.

Spoon and scrape the mixture into the prepared pans without smoothing the tops, filling them slightly more than halfway. Make the topping by mixing the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts together in a small bowl. Sprinkle generously over the batter. Bake the regular-sized muffins for 18 to 20 minutes and the jumbo muffins for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and dry. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning them out onto wire racks to cool completely.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Winter berries

  1. Joy says:

    Angela, I love reading your daily writings. They are wonderful and also make me feel
    like I am enjoying a little bit of your lives even though we live far apart and don’t see each other very often. Thank you! And much love to you and Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

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