Two old Bachelors were living in one house; One caught a Muffin, the other caught a Mouse. —Edward Lear
Families across Europe and North America celebrate the arrival of warm weather with berry-picking expeditions. First luscious strawberries, then dusky blueberries, and finally fragile raspberries and plump blackberries later in season. Sprinkled whole over ice cream or sandwiched between layers of cake or a countless variety of ways, berries are among the easiest fruits to enjoy.
Every morning, I enjoy a bright and colorful array of mixed berries over a bowl warm or cold cereal. As this has been my son’s first summer eating solid foods, it has been such a joy to introduce him to seasonal berries and see his delightful facial expressions as he discovers their flavors.
You may have already noticed that blackberries are often quite tart, but when ripe to perfection they are so sweet and filled with so much flavor, they just melt in your mouth. It’s not always easy to find sweet blackberries, so if you find yourself with some tart ones, you can always sweeten them by making a dessert, and that’s just what I did recently.
While reading the NY Times last week, I came across a fabulous recipe for Blackberry Crumb Muffins. The article described them as being more like rich, tender and buttery cupcakes in disguise. It piqued my interest, curiosity and appetite and, without hesitation, I decided to try the recipe. I was so pleased with the results that I wanted to share them with you.
The muffins are as tender and tasty as the article promised and their cinnamon-scented crumb topping is divine. I love the crumb texture and its hint of sea salt gives a nice balance of flavor. These muffins can easily be served with brunch or a nice cup of afternoon tea, and based on the enjoyment my friends, family and I had while eating them, they’re certainly good for your soul.
If you try this recipe, I’d love to hear about it. Until then, enjoy your berries while they’re in season!
FOR THE CRUMB TOPPING
255 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
75 grams granulated sugar (about 1/3 cup)
105 grams dark brown sugar, lightly packed (about 1/2 cup)
6 grams ground cinnamon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 gram ground allspice (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 gram fine sea salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)
170 grams unsalted butter, melted (12 tablespoons; 1 1/2 sticks)
FOR THE CAKE
170 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature (12 tablespoons; 1 1/2 sticks)
200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
325 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
10 grams baking powder (about 2 teaspoons)
3 grams baking soda (about 1/2 teaspoon)
3 grams fine sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 pint fresh blackberries (or use raspberries, blueberries or diced strawberries)
Heat oven to 350. Grease or line 24 muffin cups.
Make the crumb topping: whisk together flour, sugars, spices and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Pour in melted butter and stir until crumbs form.
Prepare the cake: using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, then scrape down sides of mixer. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and zest.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in berries with a spatula and make sure batter is completely mixed.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans, filling each cup only halfway. Pinch large crumbs from topping mixture and scatter evenly on top of the batter.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until muffins are golden and their centers spring back when very gently pressed with a finger. (A cake tester will come out with crumbs attached, but it shouldn’t be wet.) Transfer muffins to a wire rack. Serve warm or let cool completely and freeze.
Martine’s Notes: Blackberries seem to work better than other berries in this recipe. Break apart the blackberries into smaller pieces before folding them into the muffin batter. I baked a batch in liners and a batch without liners. I used a pastry brush and softened butter to grease the pan and I preferred the look of the baked muffin without the liners. Also, I used coarse sea salt for the topping but stuck to the recipe and used fine sea salt for the cake/muffin batter. I suspected the coarse sea salt in the sweet crumb topping might give a nice and subtle balance of flavor and it turned out very well. Again, I was quite pleased with the result!