26 September 2009

Blackberry Muffins. Last remnants of summer.

In September, I spent vacation in France. Right in the middle of nowhere between Bordeaux and Biarritz, to be exact. The landscape consists mostly of pine forests that have been planted 200 years ago and the understory is overgrown with ferns, erica and blackberry bushes. As it was exactly the right season for blackberries, my husband and I went for a little picking and photo tour. We came back with 122 photos and 2 cups of blackberries.

As I'm still not sure which fruit and what amount of it I can eat without getting the full effect of my fructose malabsorption, I decided to make some quick muffins (regular sugar "dilutes" that effect). But let me tell you: Baking in a small kitchen that does neither have a scale nor American-style measuring cups turns out quite difficult. Plus, the silicone 6-muffin pan I bought in France did not fit into the miniature oven. The hazards of cooking abroad :-)

BLACKBERRY MUFFINS (12 regular ones)

2 cups / 250 g all purpose flour
1 cup /250 g sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup / 60 g almonds, ground
2 eggs
1/2 cup /125 ml milk (or buttermilk)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons / 30 ml dark rum
1 tablespoon / 15 ml lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup blackberries

What to do if the muffin pan does not fit into the oven? Or you don't have a muffin tin? Take the baking sheet and place as many small cups as you can on it. At least, that is how cupcakes were invented.

As cups don't have a non-stick coating as your regular muffin tin, coat them evenly and generously with butter and then flour. Smearing the butter into the cups will only work if they are 100% dry, as water and fat repel each other. Make sure the cups are really dry or your muffins will stick...

Oh, and preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F.

Next, try to find any kind of measuring device. As I knew that 1 cup is 1/4 liter, I could easily use this measuring glass for flour and sugar.

Measuring smaller amounts is a bit trickier, you could use a jigger (the pony/small part contains 20 ml, the larger part 40 ml, at least in Europe) or as in this case a cap of a medicine bottle. By the way, 1 tablespoon is 15 ml.

The rum you can see in the background, called "Negrita" is incredibly intense, nothing like the ones I used before and pastry chefs in Bordeaux making canelés generally use it. I guess it's one of the little secrets that makes them taste so good.

Isn't this cute? I found this nostalgically packed baking powder in the supermarket. In France and Germany, you get baking powder in little sachets, perfectly measured for 500 g or 4 cups of flour.

With all the searching and improvising, I totally forgot to make pictures when making the dough. Don't worry, it's really easy:

Grab a large bowl and mix the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and ground almonds. Use a whisk and you don't have to sift the flour. Then create a little well in the middle.

Get another bowl or large measuring cup for the liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, melted butter, rum, lemon juice and lemon zest. Use the whisk again, especially when drizzling in the lemon juice, then the milk will not curdle. Put the whisk away and take a large wooden spoon or silicone spatula instead.

Now pour all of the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and very, very briefly stir it and don't worry about lumps (Alton Brown says no more than 10 strokes). Finally, put in the blackberries and very gently stir for a couple of times until the berries are evenly distributed. Then put equal portions of muffin dough into the cups, but don't overfill them.

Then hope that your vacation miniature oven (that is generally only used for reviving day-old baguette) is hot enough and put in the muffins immediately.

In a muffin tin, they would take 20 min., but the cups were a bit bigger, so they needed 30 min.

Get them out of the cups and let the muffins cool. Then enjoy with a glass of iced coffee on a summer day.

If cooking in a kitchen unfamiliar to you is a little adventure, then baking is even more so. But very much worth it!


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