Do you listen to music in the kitchen? Sometimes I listen to a shuffled mix of music, or I’ll play live a local radio station from their website, or I’ll pick something on Pandora. When I pick something specific, more often than not it’s jazz. And, Sarah Vaughan is one of my favorites. When I read the head note for the recipe shown here today (see below), I was inspired to turn on the music and start baking. These blackberry muffins are from Patty Pinner’s latest book Sweet Mornings, and I received a review copy. This is a collection of sweet, and some savory, breakfast treats Pinner has put together over years of gathering recipes from the women in her family and women from her neighborhood. The recipes all come with stories, and she writes: “my recipes are testimonials to all I’ve learned, listened to, and observed in the kitchens of other women.” It makes you want to slow down in the morning, invite your neighbor in, and chat for a few minutes over hot tea and something sweet. And, if you like coffee cakes as much as I do, this is a book you’ll want. In addition to the muffins, scones, biscuits, rolls, sweet loaves, pancakes, and doughnuts, there are no fewer than 25 different types of coffee cake. There’s a Rhubarb Coffee Cake, Pistachio Coffee Cake, Nutmeg Coffee Cake, Blueberry-Cornmeal Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping, Eggnog Crumb Coffee Cake, and a Peanut Butter and Jelly Coffee Cake to name a few. Don’t they all sound great? But, I had been eagerly awaiting blackberry season and had to try these crumb topped muffins first. Due to the nature of my love of a crumb topping, I should mention that I learned a lesson from another crumb topping aficionado years ago. That lesson was to always double the crumb topping quantities. Ignore that suggestion if you’re not as crazy for crumb topping as I am.
Making that crumb topping is step one. Flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt were combined in a bowl, and butter was worked into the mixture. I used coconut palm sugar which gave mine a darker brown color than it would have had with granulated sugar, and as usual, I doubled the quantities. To prep the pan, I used muffin cups rather than greasing and flouring the pan. Making the batter was a simple matter of combining the dry ingredients including flour, more coconut palm sugar for me, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt. A well was made in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, yogurt, melted and cooled butter, eggs, and vanilla extract were combined and then poured into the well in the dry ingredients. The batter was carefully stirred together so as not to overmix. Next, blackberries were folded into the batter before it was spooned into the muffin cups. The crumb mixture was sprinkled on top of each muffin, and they baked for about 25 minutes.
A hot cup of tea went perfectly with these fruity muffins, and I had received a selection of organic teas from Teavivre to try. The Organic White Peony was subtly floral and lovely. It’s a very light bodied tea that was delicious hot and iced. Next, I tried the Hangzhou Tian Mu Qing Ding Green Tea which is a slightly grassy green tea with great flavor. Another green option is Tian Mu Mao Feng, and this one is milder in flavor and lighter in color. These are high quality, loose leaf teas packed in sealed, airtight packages. And, they’d be great with all those coffee cakes too.
Crumb-Topped Blackberry Muffins
Reprinted with publisher’s permission from Sweet Mornings by Patty Pinner, Agate Midway, 2016.
In 1965, jazz was everywhere. It floated out of project buildings and penthouse windows alike. Daddy listened to Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie on homemade 8-track cartridges he bought from Mr. Manning, who made them in his garage. I guess you could say that making tapes was Mr. Manning’s hustle.
Sarah Vaughan was Mama’s favorite singer. She loved Miss Vaughan’s lush voice and played Miss Vaughan’s “My Favorite Things” over and over on a small stereo in the kitchen. Mama baked while Miss Vaughan’s velvety voice sang on. And the music came out in her cooking—the morning sweets she made were as plush and smooth as cool jazz. These Crumb-Topped Blackberry Muffins are a case in point.
Make 16 muffins
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
Nonstick cooking spray, for greasing
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
1. To make the topping: In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using your fingers, a pastry blender, or the tines of a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes crumbly. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease 2 8-count muffin pans with the cooking spray. Set aside.
3. To make the batter: In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture and set aside.
4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients: the yogurt, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the batter is moistened. (Do not over mix; the batter should be lumpy.) Carefully fold in the blackberries, ensuring they are evenly distributed and that the fruit does not become broken up.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cups of the prepared pans, filling each about 1/2 full. Sprinkle each evenly with the topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
6. Using a serrated knife, separate the muffins from the pans and then tap the pans gently on the counter to release the muffins.
7. Transfer to a serving platter and serve warm.
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