Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Raspberry Lemonade Streusel Muffins

Baking muffins transports me back to my midwestern childhood, waking up on winter mornings in a warm little house smelling of fresh baked blueberry muffins. In the midst of a chilly, grey January a batch of homemade baked muffins, especially these citrus-y, berry laden ones, is like a mini vacation to a warm, sunny place where everything smells of lemon trees and butter cake.

One of my favorite things about blogging has been keeping a record of at least some of what I cook, and being able to look back over that record and notice patterns. For instance, there are some food pairings I really seem to love. Bacon on Pizza. Chocolate and Caramel. Cheese and Beer (and more cheese and beer). Now I can add lemons and raspberries to that list, as this is my second time using this pairing as well.

I try to cook at least somewhat seasonally, but Winter is difficult. One can only eat so much kale, citrus, squash, and apples before one runs out of ways to prepare them. Last year was the winter of hearty greens. S and I ate kale or collards nearly every night it seemed. By the time spring rolled around I could barely remember what other green vegetables tasted like. 

So sometimes I crack. For instance, it is certainly not raspberry season, but I was thinking about lemon muffins and my brain kept whispering Berries. All muffins need berries. Call me weak, but I couldn't resist the idea of a juicy raspberries hiding beneath a streusel crust.

If I lived somewhere lush and verdant like California, I am sure I could eat nothing but seasonal, locally grown produce all the time and never get bored because of the biodiversity out there, but in New York City, where almost nothing grows, and the winter is long, sometimes a little package of berries from the tropical climes of California is the perfect reprieve from the grey and the cold.

The perfect remedy to the winter seasonal food blahs is frozen fresh fruit from summer. If you've never taken fruit at the peak of ripeness, and frozen it until winter, then you don't know what you're missing. A bite of a tree ripened peach in January is heavenly. It's earth shaking, revelatory. This year I froze tart cherries and yellow and white peaches S and I picked at an orchard, and blueberries we picked in the New Jersey Pine Barrens while camping. 

It's great knowing I can reach into the freezer and make a fresh cherry clafoutis or a sweet peach crisp that tastes as if I picked the peaches yesterday. There is also a little bit of triumph in every bite, a little bit of delicious pleasure derived from knowing that you thought ahead enough to pick fruit in the summer and freeze it, and that you had the strength of will to resist eating it all throughout fall, your frozen treats have made it, and you're going to have tasty fruit desserts throughout winter.

If only I had thought ahead enough to pick some raspberries too! Alas, the truth is our refrigerator is very small (whenever I say that, S says "It's bigger than the last one I had here!"), and the massive bags of cherries and peaches are already hogging almost half the space. 

So I made do with winter-grown Californian raspberries and they were delicious. These muffins are moist, but not too heavy, and have a lovely crumb. The raspberries are lovely spots of bright fuchsia in the yellow lemon cake, and the crumble topping rounds it off with a bit of crispiness.

The lemon cake is tart and sweet and tangy, like a glass of lemonade, the lemon flavor is not light, but it doesn't overwhelm either, and the raspberries studded throughout are little pockets of sweet jam-like deliciousness. 

These would be lovely at a brunch, baby or wedding shower, or just any old weekend breakfast. S and I also ate them for dessert Sunday night and they were as delicious as any cupcake. 

Raspberry Lemonade Streusel Muffins
12 large muffins, or around 15 medium muffins


3/4 C oats
1/3 C brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 tbsp butter


2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp coconut oil
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
scant 1/2 C milk
1 lemons worth of juice
2 lemons worth of zest
1 C raspberries
1 tbsp sugar for raspberries.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place your raspberries in a bowl, add 1 tbsp sugar and lightly mash the berries so they're a bit broken up. I recommend using fresh berries for this, if using frozen perhaps omit the sugar and mashing as they'll be plenty wet on their own. 

Combine all streusel ingredients besides butter and mix. Chop 6 tbsp butter into cubes, and add to streusel mixture. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the streusel until the butter is well broken up and the mixture forms little clumps. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Place 4 tbsp lightly softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat with stand mixer or hand mixer until creamy. Add the coconut oil and beat again, then add the eggs, milk, and vanilla, beat until well combined, then add the lemon zest and juice, beat again until well mixed. 

Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula until they're fully combined, but be careful not to over mix.

Grease muffin tin, or use paper or silicone muffin cups. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full. Add a bit of raspberry and sugar mixture to each one and swirl it in with a spoon or butter knife. Don't add too much raspberry juice as the muffins will be overly dense.

Top each muffin with a sprinkling of the streusel topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or if using a stoneware pan like me, 30 minutes.

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