We work with a college student organization. Every year at the very first meeting, to set the freshmen at ease and add some comic relief, Ryan shares the blackberry muffin story. For all of our alumni who haven’t heard the story in a while, enjoy…
Sending our oldest off to kindergarten was a big deal. We didn’t do the preschool thing for a variety of reasons, so this mom was full of emotions in anticipation of sending our oldest off. All day, no less! To give some context, when the oldest was still an infant, Ryan and I were watching Forrest Gump on tv, and at the end when his son gets on the bus for kindergarten, Ryan turned to me and said, “That will be Caleb before you know it.” I bawled then, five years before the fact, so you can imagine how I was feeling now that kindergarten was really upon us. I was also pregnant… not helpful for the emotional well-being of a big family change.
I was trying to think of how to make the sendoff special, so the day before school started, we went to pick berries. I got up early on the morning of the first day of school to make fresh blackberry muffins to start the day off well. I was a bit thrown off when I saw that I hadn’t fully prepared ahead, and I was mostly out of flour. I had some whole wheat flour, so I decided to use that instead of the all-purpose I was lacking. I think I had to make some other substitution, though I can’t remember. I just remember thinking that it wasn’t going as smoothly as I hoped. Anyway, I baked the muffins, served one to Caleb and then went to the kitchen to clean dishes and work on packing lunch.
Our townhouse had a cutout window from the kitchen to the dining room, and Ryan and I looked out at Caleb who was sitting at the table, not eating and not happy. He looked at us and said, “You know what the worst part of my day is? This.” And he pointed to the muffin. I think Ryan had taken a bite of one by that time and had been trying to hide the fact that they were terrible. Caleb wasn’t hiding his thoughts at all. His line was perfectly delivered, and the story has been told every fall for 9 years.
Look how cute these two were picking berries and then little Caleb, post-muffin fail and with a belly full of cereal, on his first day of kindergarten.
We were visiting dear friends in Florida the following summer, and my friend served up delicious and beautiful blackberry muffins for breakfast one morning. I was quick to beg her to please share her recipe so that I could redeem the first day of school blackberry muffin fiasco. She generously did, and now we have a tradition of berry picking before school starts (though no one wants to go with me anymore) and blackberry muffins for breakfast on the first day of school every year. I will confess that it took a few years before Caleb stopped asking, “These aren’t the gross muffins, are they?” And I even use half white whole wheat flour in them!
So in honor of the first day of school, here’s the recipe not for the infamous muffins, but for the ones that are amazing. And obligatory first day of school photos and muffin eating… the kids love that I made them pose with their muffins.
Blackberry Muffins 2.0
For the topping:
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Grated zest of ½ lemon
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1/3 cup pecans finely chopped
For the muffins:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or 1 cup all-purpose, 1 cup white whole wheat
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Grated zest of ½ lemon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 egg beaten
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups fresh blackberries or 2½ cups frozen blackberries unthawed
Preheat oven to 375º. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or cooking spray, or line them with paper. Alternatively, place 12 silicone cupcake molds on a baking sheet. (This recipe always makes about 16 muffins when I use my silicone cups).
To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and lemon zest. Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add the pecans and stir to combine. Set aside.
To make the muffins, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter and buttermilk. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Sprinkle with the blackberries and gently fold in with a large rubber scraper just until evenly distributed, no more than a few strokes. Take care not to break up the berries. Do not overmix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each to just below the rim of the cup. Top each muffin with the topping, dividing it evenly.
Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature.