[rule-breaking never looked or tasted so good]
In many ways, it would seem that I was destined to love baking. One such reason is that most bakers wake up at unseemly hours to begin the day's work. And I am, without a shadow of doubt, a morning person. (Consequently, I am no night owl. If I am conscious when the clock reads 10:45 at night, consider it a major victory.) Saturday was one very early day. I "slept in" until 6:30, read for an hour and a half, and then began baking muffins. I must've been in a slightly defiant mood because I just couldn't bring myself to follow the original recipe exactly, even on the first trial. No, I didn't want to use any plums, and the initial process didn't make much sense. And a topping without brown sugar? Pfff, please, Martha. I love you, but let's get real.
If you're a plum enthusiast, by all means, use them. I'm not crazy about them, but really it was because at 6:30, I was going to use what I had available - fresh strawberries. I've rarely seen strawberries baked INTO things, rather than just used as an afterthought or garnish at the end. Why the shunning, bakers of the world? Bake these and you'll think twice about ignoring these red beauties of spring and summer. The crunchy sweet crust on top of the muffin is a nice contrast to the barely tart softness of the warm strawberries swirled into a fluffy muffin.
Strawberry Coffee Cake Muffins
(adapted very loosely from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
-makes 20 standard size muffins
Tip: If you don't have the time to wait for eggs to come to room temperature, fill a small bowl with warm-hot water and let eggs sit in bath for 5 minutes until no longer cold to the touch.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons brown sugar, loosely packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter, cooled
2 cups chopped (1/2 to 3/4-inch chunks) strawberries (about 1 pint whole strawberries)
Preheat oven to 375F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners (if you only have one pan, cover the batter bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until it's needed) and set aside. [Note: I opted for coating the pan in nonstick spray and skipping paper liners, and wished I had used the liners in the end. Just easier for inverting, cooling, and serving.]
In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and remaining 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together melted cooled butter, vanilla, milk, and eggs. [If your resulting mixture looks a little curdled at this point, don't panic! This will go away in the next step.]
Fold the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Again, gently, fold the cut up strawberries into the batter until evenly distributed. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full, or until equally full of batter.
Sprinkle cinnamon brown sugar mixture evenly over tops of muffins. Bake 15 to 20 minutes (18 worked for me), or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Remove pan to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Carefully (and with an oven mitt) turn out muffins onto rack and, right sides up, allow to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in covered container for up to 2 days.