Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cherries - Episode I: Amazing Muffins

One of the most exciting things about the onset of summer, as far as I'm concerned, is the return the beloved cherries. Their little round, red bodies heaped in bins at the farmers markets and roadside stands make me tingle with elation and the anticipation of savoring the sweetness or tartness that awaits every bite.

Most of the time, I purchase Washington-grown cherries by the pound and pop them straight into my mouth. They never stick around long enough be used in a recipe. Besides, they really need no enhancement; practically perfection as is. This year, however, I decided that while many of the cherries brought home would be snacked on immediately, at least a few of my fruitful goodies would be incorporated into delicious treats. And what could top the tasty scale more than cherry chocolate chip muffins? I couldn't think of anything either.

I highly recommend recreating these in your own kitchen. The recipe below will get you there.

Wheat-free Cherry Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from the "Fresh Cherry Muffins" recipe found in The Farm to Table Cookbook by Ivy Manning.
(yields 12 muffins)
  • 6 T. butter or vegan margarine, at room temperature
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C. agave nectar (depending on the voraciousness of your sweet tooth)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg or the equivalent of egg replacer (such as Ener-G)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 C. spelt flour (I can't do wheat, but you're welcome to:)
  • 2 heaping tsp. baking powder (level them off if you go the wheat route)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda, heaping
  • 1 C. milk or non-dairy substitute (I prefer rice)
  • 1 1/2 C. pitted, fresh cherries, coarsely chopped (I used Bing & Ranier)
  • 1/4 C. chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark... whatever floats your cocoa boat)
  • 1/4 C. sliced, raw almonds
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease your muffin pan, or line with paper muffin cups. Beat the margarine, agave nectar and salt in a mixing bowl until well blended, scraping down the sides to incorporate well. Add the egg replacer and vanilla extract, and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, stir the flour, baking powder and baking soda together until well mixed. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two additions, alternating with the milk. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients just until they are incorporated. Overmixing makes for lousy muffins; resist the temptation.

Fold in the cherries and chocolate chips (once again, do not overmix). Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, and sprinkle the sliced almonds over their tops. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and they pass the toothpick test. It'll take about 20-25 minutes.

After removing from the oven, allow your muffins to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes (I couldn't resist sampling one after about 5 minutes - beware the insanely hot fruit!). Remove them from the pan and serve them right away. If you want to hang on to some for a few days, keep them in the fridge, and then heat them up before scarfing. They can also be frozen for up to a couple of weeks.

I know from experience that you will become more popular than ever once these puppies hit the taste buds of your friends and families. Light and slightly sweet with a punch of cherry chocolate goodness, you'll enjoy tea time and cherry season that much more.

Stay tuned for more spherical succulence when we return with Cherries - Episode II: Heavenly Crisp. Bringing divinity to my kitchen and yours.

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