Greet the Day with A Smile — With Balsamic Strawberry Muffins

A splash of balsamic vinegar hides in these strawberry muffins.

A splash of balsamic vinegar hides in these strawberry muffins.

 

The title of this cookbook represents two of my favorite food groups: “Muffins and Biscuits.”

So how could I not fall for this Chronicle Books cookbook, of which I received a review copy?

It’s by Heidi Gibson, chef and co-owner of The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco.

You might think, what does a grilled cheese sandwich maker know about biscuits and muffins? Plenty, it turns out. After all, in addition to those ooey-gooey sandwiches, the restaurant also sells fresh-baked muffins, biscuits and other baked goods.

MuffinsBiscuitsBook

Muffins and biscuits are among the easiest things to make. The trick is to use a gentle hand. You don’t want to overmix or overwork either of them, lest they will wind up tough.

You’ll find 50 recipes for biscuits and muffins, some classic, others more out of the box, such as “Tarte Tatin Muffins,” “Wild Rice and Shiitake Muffins,” “Buckwheat Gruyere Biscuits” and “Coconut Oil-Sweet Potato Biscuits.”

I gravitated to “Balsamic Strawberry Muffins,” not only because of all the strawberries showing up at farmers markets now, but because I was curious about the balsamic vinegar in the mix.

While it’s only 2 tablespoons of balsamic, you still do want to use a quality brand, just like you would when cooking with wine.

Fresh out of the oven.

Fresh out of the oven.

You might expect these muffins to taste a little puckery because of the vinegar. But they are not. In fact, the balsamic is not readily noticeable in the color of the batter beyond the addition of the tiniest rosiness to it nor immediately apparent upon tasting the muffins. Instead, it’s subtle. It is kind of like the role wine plays in cooking — adding a roundness and depth of complexity without you knowing that it’s even there. With its fruitiness, the balsamic amplifies the flavor of the strawberries, bringing them more into focus.

I know vinegar or acid for that matter can tenderize meats. I am guessing it does the same for baked goods because these muffins bake up moist, with a noticeable lightness and airiness.

The streusel recipe seems like it makes a lot. But just mound the mixture generously onto each muffin, and much of it will bake into the batter, leaving just a modest amount visible on top later.

I can’t wait to eat my way through more of these two great food groups.

Good to the last crumb.

Good to the last crumb.

Balsamic Strawberry Muffins

(Makes 12 regular or 6 jumbo muffins)

For Basic Streusel:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the muffins:

6 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

 

To make streusel: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour and brown sugar once or twice until mixed. Cut in the butter with 1-second pulses until the streusel just starts to clump together and visible butter chunks are no bigger than pea-size. (Alternately, combine the butter, flour and brown sugar in a bowl and use two knives or rub between your fingers to break up the butter into pea-size pieces.) The streusel should be a mixture of crumbly and chunky. Store in a resealable container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes about 3/4 cup.

To make the muffins: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-well standard or 6-well jumbo muffin pan with paper liners or coat with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and the eggs. Add the milk, vanilla, and balsamic vinegar, and whisk until well combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and use a rubber spatula to carefully fold together until just combined. Gently fold in the strawberries. Be careful not to overmix, or your muffins will be tough; the batter should still have a couple of streaks of flour.

Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin wells and mound the streusel evenly over the top of each filled well.

Bake until the tops are golden brown and a muffin bounces back when you poke it getnly in the center with a finger, 22 to 26 minutes for standard size or 30 to 35 minutes for jumbo.

Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully  lift the muffins from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool a little more. (Use a butter knife, if needed, to lift the muffins out if you didn’t use paper liners.) Serve warm.

From “Muffins and Biscuits” by Heidi Gibson

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