My fearless photographer and I have been baking muffins together so that she can have a relatively healthful weekday breakfast on the go (very important for healthy eaters who school starts at the ungodly hour of 7:25). This week’s recipe was made to order for a movie she’s making with friends for a school project. She wanted strawberries in the muffins since, she told me, “they have to be love muffins.”
I wasn’t sure how strawberries would work in muffins and if we’d get the pop-of-red visuals so I went to my favorite boutique (Marshalls) and found some post-Valentines muffin liners to be on the safe side. But we still added the strawberries because my photographer is actually also my strawberry girl. As a little kid, she actually much preferred strawberries to any other snack and even refused cookies.
These days she eats other snacks as well, but still thinks strawberries are the best. Once, baking with strawberries would have scandalized her. She liked them plain and we used to shock her on our beach vacations by pointing out the chocolate dipped strawberries at the candy stores on the boardwalk; to her, these adulterated berries were an abomination.
Her love of strawberries actually led me to encourage her to read a childhood favorite of mine when her elementary school class had write a report on a Newberry Prize winner. I encouraged her to read Lois Lenski’s Strawberry Girl, first published in 1946. It’s the story of Birdie Sawyer and the hard life of her family of Florida “Crackers” (a term defined in the book not as derogatory but as descriptive). Talking about this brings out the mama bear in me, because the teacher took points off my daughter’s report for not describing the character’s growth over the course of the story; apparently the teacher didn’t realize that there was a time when even in Newberry Award winning books, no one thought the protagonist had to grow or learn a lesson. All that was needed was strong characters (some of whom might be Crackers), a good tale, and a trip to a fully realized world. And it didn’t hurt to add strawberries.
Strawberry Love Muffins
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
¼ cup canola oil
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup organic cane sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup strawberries, cut into eighths (the strawberries should be cut into small pieces or they will make the muffins too soggy; if you use another berry, you will not need to cut them so small).
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and oil together in a small bowl. Add lemon rind.
In a separate, larger bowl, add cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add berries and toss to coat thoroughly. Add buttermilk mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moist and mixture is blended.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan. Bake 25 minutes—or until tester inserted in center of muffins comes out clean. Transfer muffins onto rack to cool. Let stand at least 15 minutes and serve.