Friday, July 8, 2011

Rhode Island Red Fruit: Currants and Raspberries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I stopped by the fruit lady’s this weekend, timing my visit from long experience with the hope of catching, not just the fruit before it was gone, but the farmer herself and her husband. It was nearly the 4th, which means: time to negotiate the delicate dance of acquiring a share of the sour cherries. Over the years I have come to realize that one reason that this is so tricky is that they want some too. The nerve.
Fortuitously, the fruit lady was driving out in her golf cart from the field just as I got out of my car; when I pulled up, there was no fruit on the stand, and no one in sight, and I had determined to risk offense by venturing out behind the house. This is not always prudent, as, of course, neither am I. So I was glad to see her coming toward me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
We (her husband soon buzzed up on his little tractor) had the first of several conversations (negotiations) about the cherries that would culminate a week or so later in my securing, with great difficulty, two quarts of fruit, about which more next week. For now, there were the currants and the first raspberries, and I thought how early July truly is the time of red fruits in Rhode Island. Hence, the little in-joke of Rhode Island Red Fruits, and Rhode Island Red muffins. Couldn’t resist.
As you know from prior rants, I truly cannot stand the common bakery muffin—cake-like, sugary, huge. The one I offer below is an old-fashioned muffin of the non-mutant, non-cake type. It has a nice balance of crisp outside and tender, crumbly inside—as it should.
Rhode Island Red Muffins
No, not muffins made of chickens, or muffins for chickens—just a little play on words. These are all currants, but you could use half currants and half raspberries; I just happened to eat all of mine. Makes 12-15, depending on your pan.Red fruits crumbs
Topping 1 c bread flour
½ c lt brown sugar, packed
5 T unsalted butter, melted
½ tea cinnamon
Big pinch (about 1/8 tea) baking powder
Small pinch salt
Muffin batterOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 2 c a-p flour
½ cup RI jonnycake or other white stoneground cornmeal 
4 tea baking powder
½ c sugar
½ tea salt
6 T unsalted butter, melted
¾ c half and half
2 T pure maple syrup
1 lg egg
1 cup, generous, currants or half currants and half raspberries

Preheat oven to 375F. Generously butter a standard muffin tin.
To make the topping

Blend the flour with the cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Dump in the packed sugar, pour the butter over, and use a fork in a chopping motion to combine the sugar with the flour until the flour the mixture is moistened and crumbly. Set aside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
To make the batter
Stem and pick over the currants and put them in a small bowl.
Mix all dry ingredients in a 2-qt bowl. Remove a large handful of the mixture and add it to the currants, tossing gently with your hand to coat.
Pour the milk into a measuring cup; add the maple syrup and the egg. Beat with a fork til blended. Add to the dry mixture, stirring just long enough to combine, with a wooden spoon. Pour the currants and any excess flour mixture into the batter; fold it in using your hand.
Drop the batter into buttered muffin tin, filling about ¾ full. Sprinkle each muffin with some of the crumb mixture to reach the top. Bake about 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan once, until the tops of the muffins (a little will show through the crumbs) begin to turn golden and the fruit starts to ooze a little; the currants, though, will mostly hold their shape. Remove to a rack; let cool for 5 minutes; then turn out on the rack to cool ‘til warm enough to handle. Break with your hands and serve with butter. If you freeze the extras, be sure to re-warm either in the toaster oven of, if in the microwave, at low power as briefly as possible.


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