Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hearty Cherry Muffins

When I was little I loved going to my grandparents' house. It was a big production, since they lived a 7 or 8 hours' drive away and my parents would have to pack up us three kids, as well as a dog or two, into the minivan to make the trip. The minivan was probably a huge blessing for my parents, since us kids didn't fight (or fought less at least) on long drives in it. It was a Ford Aerostar, blue, and there was plenty of room for everyone. Dad usually drove, wearing his straw hat, and I could see his fireman's mustache in the reflection of the rearview mirror. Mom rode in the passenger seat, often with a foot or both propped on the dashboard, peeking out from one of her long sundresses that always made her seem to float rather than walk. My little brother rode in the middle set of seats, and I would watch his head bob up and down to the side as the motion of the van lulled him to sleep. My older sister and I sat in the back, on either side of the van with an empty seat in between where we would seatbelt in our Cabbage Patch Kids. One Christmas we each received one of the dolls that could talk, and sometimes they would talk to each other, which was fun and eerie at the same time.

My grandparents lived in Southern California, in a big mobile home on a huge (to me, at least) lot. Grandma always had a batch of her Monster Cookies for us, giant cookies with M&Ms in them, made from a batter so stiff she'd have Grandpa stir it for her. When I was a bit older we all had our own rooms there: I had the room my Aunt Peggy (Aunt Pegasus) used to live in; my parents had Aunt Ruth's old room, where I used to sit with her on the bed and do word-search puzzles; my sister had the office with the fold-out bed where Grandma kept her two doll-babies. Gee, where did my brother sleep? Maybe it was the living room. He was just a little kid and didn't care I suppose. Or maybe he still did the camp-out in my grandparents' room, in a sleeping bag or blankets next to their bed and reading The Giving Tree before going to sleep. There was a concrete path from the house all the way to the garage at the back of the lot, which sat on a large concrete pad and provided hours of entertainment for roller skating or running around. And they also had a good-sized garden, with orange and grapefruit bushes on one side of the path, apricot and almond trees behind the garage, and vegetables in neat rows to the side. And along the fence was a mass of thorny raspberry bushes. We had to be careful picking those, but it was wonderful eating the foods sun-warm and straight from the plants...

I've been buying frozen berries lately. They're great in drinks since they don't water them down as melting ice does, and they're a good sources of antioxidants. I bought a big bag of frozen blueberries that has lasted me forever, and I've been using them in cookies, pancakes/waffles, oatmeal, and on my cereal and yogurt. Last week I bought a bag of frozen dark sweet cherries, and boy are they good! They are huge, plump, juicy, and meaty. I think I'll always have a bag or two of some frozen berry, and perhaps other fruits, on hand.

The cherries were just calling out to be made into muffins. I wanted something hearty, but still with a light crumb. Since I have a bag of polenta kicking around now I decided to toss it in as well, though I would suggest using cornmeal instead since the polenta stayed fairly firm and chewy. Then again, extra chewing might equal extra satiation, so who knows? Whipping the egg whites and folding them in at the end gives a lighter texture to these muffins, though you can certainly skip it to save time and an extra bowl. Whatever you do, only mix the batter until it is combined; overmixing will give you tough muffins. And if you like it sweet, add more sugar.

Hearty Cherry Muffins
adapted from Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"
Makes 12 regular muffins, plus a few mini muffins
3 Tbsp. melted butter
 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cornmeal or polenta
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, separated
1 c. milk
1 1/2 c. frozen cherries
(chopped in quarters if yours are huge like mine were)
1 tsp. lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a muffin tin or line it with muffin cups.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Beat together the egg yolks, milk, and melted butter. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Stir and fold until just combined. Gently stir in the cherries and lemon zest.In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, then very gently fold into the muffin batter.

Spoon the batter into the greased/lined tins; an ice cream scoop works very well for this. Pour 1/4 c. water into any empty cups. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until browned and a tester or toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let rest for 5 minutes in the tin, then remove. These are very good served warm, with butter. Mmmm....


Michelle Ioapo A'etonu said...

I loved family road trips. We did them all the time as well and your story brought me back :) I'm going to try these muffins someday. I love cherries!

Run Lori Run said...

These look great and we need some stuff on hand this week for breakfast. I don't have the cherries but I do have dried apricots.

Wait, I don't have eggs either... :)