Berry season is almost upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, and I for one can hardly wait. We are fortunate to live in an area with many u-pick farms and despite my fears that they won't survive from year to year, they some how manage to, just barely. The cost of land is exorbitant in this area and I often worry that the days of u-pick farms are numbered.
There is nothing quite like picking your own berries and we have many varieties locally that have the most wonderful delicate taste. Nothing at all like you find in the grocery store of course. Sweet, red throughout and if eaten while still warm from the sun, divine. While exceptionally delicious, they are indeed fragile and will only last in the fridge one to two days after picking.
Every year I tell myself I will only pick what I will use but inevitably I end up picking considerably more. I imagine I feel a bit like an addict does when viewing their drug of choice. I am overcome by the intense desire to pick as many as I can, knowing that this moment is fleeting. This time, this place, these berries are only around for the shortest while. Jams, pies, beverages, all and their myriad recipes are on my mind as I pick. My greedy fingers and aching back are at war with one another and usually my fingers win.
True to the addict analogy, once the berries are weighed and loaded in the car, guilt and remorse kick in. What was I thinking? Thirty pounds of berries?! The next two days are spent in penance for my sins. Two days of cleaning, chopping, jamming, freezing and baking. Time's a-wastin and berries will spoil If I don't move quickly. My once greedy fingers are stained red and my aching back is screaming it's protests.
One such summer when I simply couldn't can another jam jar I found this delicious recipe in the Seattle Junior League Cookbook, Simply Classic. Junior League cookbooks are gems. Gorgeous recipe's from real cooks and bakers: if you ever stumble across one, buy it.
The beauty of this recipe is you can use fresh or frozen berries, and once made the muffins freeze very well. A bit like a coffee cake, but in muffin form this recipe is fantastic for a special breakfast or brunch.
Berry Best Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 regular or 33 mini muffins
1/2 c. golden brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1 1/2 t. lemon zest
1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts
2 T. softened butter
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. lemon zest
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. melted butter, cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 1/2 c. berries, fresh or frozen
If using frozen berries add them to the batter while still frozen.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the topping: Combine all ingredients in a bowl until the mixture is incorporated and crumbly.
For the muffins: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup combine the butter and milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and incorporate the wet mixture gradually. Once combined, add the egg and stir until fully incorporated. Fold in the berries.
Spoon the wet mixture in to muffin cups filling only half way. Any more and the streusel mixture will bubble over on to the pans. Add 1 T. of the topping and press lightly to the muffins mixture.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes clean. If using frozen berries the baking time may increase 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully to determine the best time for your oven. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove.
Recipe from: Simply Classic, The Junior League of Seattle