I made three-dozen strawberry rhubarb muffins because I refused to use my reading glasses. If I had used them, I would have clearly seen that the recipe yielded 1 1/2 dozen muffins, not 1/2 dozen. As a result, I thought I needed to double the recipe to fill up my muffin pan. The good news is that many people are happy with me – my husband for one, my colleagues at work, my yoga teacher Mary, BFF Roberta, the gardener, and the ladies on my town tennis team. And I have leftovers!
Well, I’m still probably not going to wear my reading glasses. Most likely, it’s for the same reason that I refuse to enter "50" on the Stairmaster at the gym even though I passed that half-century mark a week ago. However, I will pay more attention next time I make this recipe for “Whole Wheat Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins,” which I adapted from the Web site http://www.simplifylivelove.com./
So, why was I making strawberry rhubarb muffins? Because you can only get locally grown rhubarb at your area farmer’s market for a short time – which is right now, at the beginning of June! Plus, there are incredibly tasty strawberries, coming straight from Hudson Valley farms, which are currently in season.
In case you’re not familiar with rhubarb, its stalks look like celery, but usually a bit thicker. Rhubarb stalks have a reddish sheen on the outside and a light green interior. When you buy rhubarb, pick out firm stalks without any brown or soft spots. Unlike celery, you probably won’t want to eat rhubarb raw as it is extremely tart. Most commonly rhubarb is cooked with sugar and used in pies and other desserts. Whatever you do, don’t eat the leaves as they are toxic!
The Rhubarb Compendium at rhubarbinfo.com says the plant’s earliest records date back to 2700 BC in China where it was cultivated for medicinal purposes (as a laxative, LOL!). Marco Polo, who knew all about the Chinese rhubarb rhizome, talked about it at length in the accounts of his travels in China. And one other fun fact: Wikipedia.com notes that while rhubarb is usually considered a vegetable, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
When chopping the rhubarb, there’s no need to peel it, just toss out any stringy bits as you slice. Also, remove the tops and center piths of the strawberries before cutting into pieces.
Full disclosure now, these are not low-fat muffins. Besides the fact that I used rhubarb, strawberries and whole wheat flour, the rest is what my friend’s husband calls “taste crystals” – or basically those yummy but fattening ingredients like brown sugar, butter and canola oil – plus some vanilla and cinnamon and a few other necessary items.
One of those “necessary items” is buttermilk. Now, don’t worry if you don’t have this or can’t find it at the supermarket. I make my own. What you do is take one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and mix it with a cup of milk. Make sure to let it stand for five minutes before using. It works perfectly every time!
Another helpful note, I use whole wheat pastry flour, which gives you a lighter, airier muffin in my opinion.
After mixing all the ingredients together, and filling each of the muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter, the next step is to make the streusel, or crumbly topping. (Remember, I said it wasn’t a health muffin!) It’s a mixture of cinnamon, brown sugar and butter. The butter needs to come straight from the frig, nice and cold. I like to “cut” in the butter by pinching and squeezing the ingredients through my fingers. I recommend taking of any rings you may have on your fingers (and put them in a safe place!) as your hands will become extremely greasy. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter and they’re ready to go in the oven.
Now go share them with all your family and friends, and don't forget the gardener!
Whole What Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
2 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (see blog for subsitute)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1 cups diced rhubarb
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pans.
In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in strawberries and rhubarb. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon (chopped pecans optional). Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spinkle over batter.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool before removing from the muffin pan.
Makes 1 1/2 dozen muffins.