previous monthly muffins
It is, as of last Monday, officially summer, and berries are in abundance.
I’ll admit, I used to hate summer with a burning passion (#pun.) The humidity that makes it feel as if you’re swimming every time you step outside your door, the mosquitoes throwing parties more lavish than the Great Gatsby’s (and always booking their events on my ankles without calling ahead), and the heat. The oppressive heat.
That’s all changed gradually over the past few years. For the first two years out of college, I lived in a country where houses were not insulated (it’s an earthquake country, so the lighter the building material, the safer the home), and in a city where bikes were the norm. In fact, I was not even allowed to own a motor vehicle. ‘Twas explicitly forbidden*. As a result, I experienced the seasons as I had never experienced them before: exposed and vulnerable on my city bike for at least half an hour a day, for over 800 days, and in a place where the difference between extremes was moderate (from below freezing in December, to nearly 100 F in July.) Home was no sanctuary, either. In winter, I had to wait an hour for my space heater to make my kitchen warm enough that I could get naked and take a shower (the door to the shower was in the kitchen), and in the summer I was never not blasting my air conditioning (the reason I had hardly any money when I moved back to the U.S., my air conditioner.)
*Most apartment complexes didn’t have a lot of parking, and because we lived in a small city, all but two of the people on my program were not allowed to own cars.
All of this led to me hating the winters and growing accustomed to the summers, or at least learning how to deal with them.
Now that I am back in a country where 1) I am allowed to own a car, and 2) houses are insulated and centrally-conditioned, I can enjoy the best of the seasons and forget about the worst of them, usually.
So now I love summer. I love being able to let my legs breathe, picking out a pair of shorts for every occasion (swimsuits that double as casual daytime shorts, athletic shorts that look nice enough to be worn as casual daytime shorts, shorts that are specifically meant to be casual daytime shorts, and evening khaki shorts), and not having to hide inside a poofy, gray parka every day.
But most of all, I love the fruit. Don’t get me wrong, I am so here for peppermint mochas and gingerbread lattes, but last winter, I was running out of ideas for monthly muffins and pastries, because North Carolina is not known for winter fruits. Now that berries are in season, though, I can get lost in blueberry buttermilk muffins, summer fruit pies, raspberry macarons, and dark, ooze-y cobblers.
And let’s not forget: berries are fruit and fruit is healthy and absolutely nobody can tell you otherwise when your face is smeared with almond and dark cherry compote.
While I was at the restaurant job, there was never enough time, or I never had the energy, for baking for myself. Most of the previous season went into that kitchen’s Thermodor oven, but as of Memorial Day, I’m free, and I can get back to what I do best: muffins.
I may have missed out on the spring, but summer has only just begun. I don’t start school until late August, and summer doesn’t end until mid-September, so we’ve got the whole hot season ahead of us, and it’s crumbles, crostatas, and cupcakes as far as the tongue can taste, y’all.
By far my favorite flavor in the world of sweets is almond, and I’ll find any excuse I can to throw some almond extract into my pastries. I even make chocolate chip cookies with almond extract instead of vanilla. Now, when I choose a flavor, I don’t take that flavor lightly. Tastebuds are not a trifle matter. These aren’t just blueberry muffins with blackberries and almond extract: I’ve added toasted almonds, almond milk, and a portion of almond flour.
That’s a lotta almonds, y’all.
blackberry almond muffins
makes 1 dozen muffins, based on Mom’s Big Book of Baking
200 g all-purpose flour
100 g almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 c (113 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
150 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs (100 g total)
200 g almond milk, unsweetened
1 tsp almond extract
1 c fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 c sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ C and line a muffin pan with paper cups.
In a dry skillet or on a cookie sheet in the oven, toast the sliced almonds until just starting to brown a little bit. Remove and let cool.
In a medium bowl, combine all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a larger bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, almond milk, and almond extract. Whisk in butter.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, and fold in blackberries. You can chop the blackberries in half if you want them distributed more evenly.
Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 of the way and sprinkle toasted, sliced almonds on top.
Bake for 30 – 45 minutes until they spring back when lightly pressed with a finger and are just starting to brown a little bit.
Remove and let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and finish cooling.
I’ll be blackberry,