Saturday, August 2, 2008

Baking Memories


Every Saturday morning, once we get our acts together, we head to the Carrboro Farmer's Market. It's the place to be on Saturday, so we're bound to see people we know. Since we tend to be disheveled and unshowered, I wear dark glasses and persuade myself that I'm unrecognizable. At this time of year the tomatoes are magnificent and the aroma of basil is heavy in the air. These sights and sounds typically demand that we make basil, tomato, and fresh mozzarella sandwiches on Weaver Street ciabatta (add a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and you've got a sub worthy of Romeo and Joe's in New Haven). But today it's all about the berries. I promised dd that we'd pick up some juicy blackberries and make blackberry muffins.

Bakers in our family seem to strike every other generation--a pattern I'm trying to break by having my daughter help me in the kitchen. Apparently my grandmother was a crackerjack baker, but by the time she was my grandma, she'd given it up entirely. Since baking was expected of women in her era (and the primary way to have goodies in the home), I think she considered it more work than pleasure. My mother is a terrible baker: she cooks without measuring and cannot follow a recipe. Plus, she's just not that into sweets. So as a child, if I wanted cookies or cake or pie, I made them myself--from about age 6 onwards. My first cupcakes, which I concocted to satisfy a sugar need most acutely felt by six year olds, were blue, hard, and flat as pancakes. I couldn't find the baking powder in the cabinets--what difference, I thought, could a couple teaspoons make? I added the food coloring for extra beauty. Imagine my mother's surprise when she woke up from her nap! To her credit, she actually ate one. I did improve and soon became the official baker of the household, cranking out birthday cakes for my little sister and brother (and myself!), brownies for my uncle, cheesecakes for school fairs, and biscuits for Sunday morning.

From ages 7-9, I spent every Saturday night at my friend Lucy's, just outside of San Francisco. Down the golden hill from her house were oodles of blackberry bushes. We'd spend entire mornings dropping berries in our buckets. After we worked hard for a couple hours, we'd sit down on the hill, covered with scratches and bug bites, and eat our packed lunch of cold lemonade and still-warm burgers (pan-fried that morning) on squishy white bread. Once we returned to the house, our mouths and fingers stained purple, her mom would bake us blackberry tarts and blackberry muffins.

Here's what DD and I made today:

Blackberry Lemon Muffins
(adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)

2 large eggs
1/2 cup Canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint blackberries
zest from one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Stir in blackberries and lemon zest. Mix well. In another bowl sift the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined; don't overmix. Spoon into oiled muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. Knife inserted in center should come out clean.

Here's how they came out . . .

3 comments:

chris said...

just happened upon your blog. i am giving these a try.

ncfoodie said...

You're my first comment! Thank you. Enjoy the muffins.

Annie said...

I remember blackberry picking as a child in Connecticut. We'd go way down the street (300 yards?) and pick them in an abandoned lot where the bushes grew rampantly. This memory is also weirdly tied with the memory of the road being re-tarred and walking home trying to avoid getting sticky, tar-covered feet or ruining fabulous summer flip flops...

And, there is a declension of baking skills, at least with pies, in my family. My great-grandmother made excellent pie crusts, my grandmother made very good pie crusts, my mother makes good pie crusts and mine are most mediocre.

Luckily this seems limited to pie crusts, so I like to think it's all in the lard.