Bread of the Month: Tossing strawberries into muffins

One would assume my April making of Strawberry Banana Muffins came out of a seasonal bent. Strawberries, though found year-round, are often on the docket of spring-to-summer baking projects, coming into prominence as early as April in California. But, to be honest, my muffins came almost completely from a need to use up some things I had on hand.

This included strawberries. I was fortunate enough to share in the bounty of a produce box from Larry’s Produce that came with a pound of California strawberries that remained remarkably fresh in the fridge for the several days I had had them. But, time was a wastin’ on the berries, I had to come up with something to use them in soon, outside of just eating them (which was tempting). 

Also noticeably in need of use (particularly when their icy, rock-hard weight falls out of the freezer onto your foot) was a stash of frozen, overripe bananas. It has long been my practice to throw past-due bananas into the freezer, whole, to recon at some point later to thaw and use in banana bread. They’re not pretty, but the pulp within is marvelous and already pretty much mashed into the needed goopy consistency. It occurred to me that I would revisit a recipe I had not made in a long time for Strawberry Banana Muffins.

Considering how I might update and improve upon an already pretty tasty recipe (you’ll find it here: https://www.joyofbaking.com/muffins/StrawberryBananaMuffins.html). I remembered making the muffins a lot in my early days at my job, bringing them in — both in full and mini-muffin size — to rave reviews. Adding fresh berries to banana bread is a big win. What else could I bring to the recipe? An open bag of pecan halves was waiting and also in need of use. I toasted these beauties up as another flavor/texture element for the muffins.

I also took advantage of the oranges we got in the produce box to add one of my favorite things —- citrus zest — to the muffins. If you have never combined strawberries and orange, you really should!

I blended the banana goop with one stick of melted butter, a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil (another of my additions to the recipe), vanilla, two eggs and the zest.

I mixed together the dry ingredients — flour, brown sugar (for nice flavor and color), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Strawberries, chopped into bite-size pieces, were added into the flour mixture to give them a dusting so they wouldn’t sink in the muffins.

I added the flour mixture, along with the toasted pecans, to the wet ingredients and gently folded everything in until it was all thoroughly combined. 

I had held back some of the chopped strawberries and added them to the tops of the batter doled out in the muffin cups, so berries would be visible in each one.

The muffins puffed up nicely upon baking, holding their shape and their red berry toppers. The pecans and cinnamon, along with a wee whiff of strawberry made them quite aromatic.

Unable to wait, I ate one warm, the strawberries, actually steaming as I cut the muffin open. No butter needed! Well, maybe a little. I had forgotten how good these muffins were, appreciating the fact that the brown sugar made them just sweet enough, but not too sweet. The muffins took on new, more sumptuous tastes and textures with the addition of the zest and those rich pecans. The right move for the right muffin to make all strawberry season.

For the muffin recipe (along with many other great goodies), visit https://www.joyofbaking.com/muffins/StrawberryBananaMuffins.html.

Blogger’s Notes: I added about two teaspoons of orange zest with the wet ingredients, as well as about two tablespoons of vegetable oil. I also added about one cup of toasted, chopped pecans to the recipe.

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