I Ate Three and Called it Supper

This is my contribution to the May #baketogether from Abby Dodge: Cornmeal Buttermilk Muffins, sweet or savory.

Despite my well-known obsession with dessert, I  initially planned on joining team savory for this one, until I saw how many other people had the same idea. Not wanting to let team sweet down, I opted to switch sides.

The hard part was deciding what to do with the recipe. Curry coconut was a strong contender, then I remembered I still had half a bag of blue cornmeal in the fridge. I had to use the blue cornmeal, but what else? Rummaging around the kitchen I came up with frozen blackberries, a lemon, and a bottle of natural cherry extract. I didn’t have any buttermilk, but I did have plain yogurt. I was set. I would make blue corn blackberry muffins.

Past experience has shown me that buttermilk and plain yogurt are interchangeable in baking. I have yet to find a recipe where this switch did not work. In fact I often prefer things made with yogurt. They just taste better. (Note that this is for baking. They are not interchangeable in other applications like, for example, the buttermilk glaze in my guest post on Abby’s blog)

I also elected to substitute melted butter for the oil, for the flavor. I knew I would sacrifice a bit of moistness by using butter, but I was betting that with all the yogurt in the recipe, the impact would be minimal.

Damn, I love these muffins. As soon as they were cool enough to handle I immediately ate three and called it supper. I ate the other three for breakfast. Now I have to make more because my children are complaining that they didn’t get any.

I’m posting Abby’s recipe with my modifications below. For her original, click here.

Blue Corn Blackberry Muffins
Makes 6, moist muffins.

For the muffins:

  • 3/4 cup (3 3/8 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/3 ounces) finely ground blue cornmeal (instead of yellow)
  • 1/4 cup (2 3/8 ounces) granulated sugar (reduced slightly from the original)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (instead of buttermilk)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (instead of oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure cherry extract (instead of vanilla)
  • zest from 1 lemon (my addition)
  • 6 ounces blackberries, frozen or fresh (about 1 packed cup) (instead of strawberries)

To make the muffins:

  1. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 6 regular-sized muffin cups with paper or foil liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.  Whisk until well blended. Measure the yogurt using a 2 cup glass measure (if you don’t have one, measure the buttermilk and pour into a small bowl). Add the egg, melted butter, and cherry extract and whisk until well blended. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold (no stirring) until just blended. Gently stir in the blackberries.
  3. Portion the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (1/4 cup of batter per cup will be about three-quarters of the way full). Bake until the tops are pale golden brown and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes (longer if using frozen berries). Move to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the muffins from the pan and set them on a wire rack. Serve immediately or cool completely and stow in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. I like them best when they are served warm so please reheat before serving.

Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie!

My father likes to tell the story of how he was mercilessly teased by his family after one day walking into the kitchen to see his favourite dessert cooling on the counter, and exclaiming, rather more loudly than necessary “Oh boy, strawberry pie!” He says they could tease him and tease him all they wanted, but it didn’t matter. It was worth it for that pie.

I wish I could share my grandmother’s recipe with you, but I can’t. She passed away when I was a baby and her recipes passed with her. I can, however, share my recreation of it, based on my father’s memory.

It’s like no other strawberry pie I have ever seen, tasted, or read a recipe for. It is a cooked strawberry pie: think strawberry-rhubarb without the rhubarb, packed top to bottom with the sweetest, ripest, juiciest strawberries you can find. And I will warn you here and now that the quality of the strawberries you use matters.

My children love it almost as much as my father does. I made one last night after they went to bed. My oldest ate three pieces for breakfast. It’s that good.

Oh Boy, Strawberry Pie

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 6 oz (12 T.) cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 2 oz (4 T.) leaf lard (if you can get it, otherwise use all butter), cut into small chunks
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. ice water
  1. Blend the flour with the salt. Toss in the butter and lard and, working quickly, blend it into the flour. I do this by grabbing clumps between my thumb and fingertips and smearing them together.
  2. Blend until the fats are mostly, but not completely mixed into the flour. There should still be small lumps scattered through. Pour the water over the mixture – using the lesser amount if you live in a humid climate and the larger amount if you live in a dry one.
  3. Using your hands again, blend the ingredients just until the dough comes together into a ball. Divide it in two, wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate it for 1/2 an hour while you prepare the filling.

For the strawberry filling:

  • 6 cups of sliced strawberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1/2 cup flour (yes, this is a lot for a pie, but strawberries are a very juicy fruit. You will need it)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  1. Combine all three ingredients and let them sit for 15 minutes to draw the juice out of the strawberries and hydrate the flour and sugar. This will let you blend them in more evenly.

To assemble the pie:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Roll out the bottom crust and lay it in the pie plate.
  3. Fill the plate with the strawberry mixture, spreading it out evenly.
  4. Roll out the top crust and fit it over the pie, trimming and crimping as necessary.
  5. Cut about a dozen vents in the top crust. This is crucial to let the steam escape and reduce the chances of you winding up with strawberry pie baked onto the bottom of your oven. (Still, I always lay a sheet of aluminum foil underneath it on the bottom rack just in case)
  6. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 60 to 80 minutes. It is done when the crust is nicely golden and the strawberry juices are boiling furiously (not just a little bit, wait for full on fury) in the vents of the top crust.
  7. Let the pie cool until just barely warm before cutting. It’s delicious as is, and even more delicious topped with vanilla ice cream.