Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gratitude: Corn Blackberry Muffins

At last it’s blackberry season! It seems that perhaps they were later this year than in years past. Maybe as a result of the very cold spring and early summer we had here in the Pacific Northwest. But finally the brambles are showing the dark drops that are the blackberries we all love. I find it hard to complain too much about blackberry brambles; it seems a bit churlish and hypocritical to grumble and moan about them for ten months of the year, and for the other two revel in their gifts. So you’ll never hear me complaining about the blackberry bushes taking over the yard (besides, I don’t have to keep them under control; that’s Alex’s job).

I know I’m not the only one enjoying blackberries these days. Everywhere I go on the island I see people with plastic containers. Yesterday on my way home from dropping my son off at a friend’s house to play, I even saw a woman walking along the road, clearly headed somewhere, popping berries into her mouth that she’d picked from bushes along the way. Sure they’re an invasive weed, but how can you be mean about something that provides you with a free, portable snack?

This morning started out beautiful and sunny, just the perfect day for something blackberry. About 11 a.m. the clouds blew over, and the breeze kicked up, and as I type this I’m listening to the rain on the porch roof, and hearing it patter on the driveway. It may be October now, but this morning it was brilliantly August. My sons had some friends coming for a playdate, and their mom was going to be staying so she could get a house tour and chat over coffee. I am a firm believer that you can’t have coffee without something to nibble, and also that Sunday morning demands a little time spent in the kitchen making something special. Add to that the whole summer-blackberry thing, and I immediately went running for Sara Foster’s “Fresh Every Day” cookbook, which contains an admirable recipe for Corn Blackberry Muffins.

These are like sunshine in cake form, studded with blackberries. They’re August in a muffin. They can be made with frozen blackberries, but since my kids have been out picking blackberries with their nannies every day this week, we had a whole container of them in the refrigerator. They’re going to make cobbler next week, although my oldest son declared he didn’t like blackberries. “Then what,” I asked, “do you eat when you make the cobbler?”

“The cake part!” he declared. Of course. I don’t know why I ask these questions.

But I digress. These muffins turned out an outstanding product; the muffin has a slightly grainy quality, a result of the cornmeal, and the blackberries are folded in gently so that they remain whole and explode when you bite into them, releasing their juices and flooding your taste buds with summer. You could make them with any fruit, but since blackberries are free in my neighborhood, I can’t think of anything else I’d use. And, as Sara Foster says, cornmeal and blackberries just go together. The slightly corny flavor of these muffins does seem to marry beautifully with the sweet-tart richness of the blackberry.

I may be making soup for dinner if this rain keeps up, but earlier today we had summer for a few fleeting hours. So really, we have nothing to complain about.

Corn Blackberry Muffins
from Sara Foster’s “Fresh Every Day” cookbook
makes 12 large muffins--and I mean large; for a minute I was afraid they were going to do that overflow thing! They didn't.

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups yellow corn meal
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk
¾ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used way more than this; possibly as much as 3 tablespoons—I heart vanilla)
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blackberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 large muffin cups with liners, or spray with vegetable oil spray.

Stir the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla together. Gradually add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moist and no flour is visible. Do not overmix or muffins will be tough. Gently fold in the blackberries.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups with a 1/3 cup measure, or with an ice cream scoop. Fill tins to just below the top of the liner. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops spring back when pressed lightly and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Turn out on a rack to cool a little more. These are best fresh from the oven.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this recipe! Such a wonderful way to use up those fresh-picked blackberries!

I also love this recipe because of the variety of substitutes that work with it! It's really fun to play around with it! Here are somethings I've tried, all with success:

-Instead of white flour, whole-wheat flour
-Instead of cornmeal, bran
-Instead of buttermilk, two tbspns lemon juice + unsweetened soymilk
- Instead of oil, organic apple sauce

Sometimes I add 2 tbspns flax and/or poppy seeds. Sometimes I zest some lemon peel and add it.

I never alter the cooking temp. I just find that sometimes it takes a little less time to bake with the apple sauce.

Healthy, wonderful snack!