Monday, February 08, 2010

Blueberry Muffins in the Window

Muffin batter en la ventana.

I'm definitely not a baker, but there's something about blizzards that calls me to do a little baking. After a bit of partying last night, I suddenly found the urge for some kind of baked something or other. Maybe some biscuits? Or buttermilk rolls? Something hot and ready for butter to go with some bacon and eggs.

Bust open my notes and oh, those need at least an hour or more to proof. Forget that. Hmmm, pancakes? Not really. Cinnamon rolls? Can't find the recipe. Croissants? Shah, right! How about something that is quick and easy and doesn't require serious commitment on my part? Muffin batter is pretty simple, and I've got some blueberries on hand.

It's a simple recipe of:

8z AP flour, 4z sugar
2tsp baking powder, 1tsp salt
2 large eggs (2z)
8z milk
4z melted butter
freshly grated lemon zest
lots of blueberries

Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately then whisk together until the dry ingredients have become wet. Add the zest and the blueberries, pour into molds and pop into a 350F oven for thirty minutes.

Finished blueberry muffins cooling by la ventana.

Since I was young and my aunt would bring me freshly baked blueberry muffins from Boston's Jordan Marsh, I was hooked. There's nothing like the zesty and tangy acidity of the blueberry matched with butter and sugar sweetness. Slather more butter on a hot blueberry muffin and it's heavenly.

The key is to find really great blueberries that are fresh and in-season. Of course, in the midst of a blizzard in February, there's nary a fresh blueberry field to be found in Maryland and the "fresh" blueberries at Wegman's have probably been flown in from Western Africa or Ecuador. So much for local.

Luckily, I've got a stash of local, seasonal blueberries from Reid Orchards that I IQF'd and vac bagged back in the summer at their peak of flavor. As I raided the box freezer, I was alarmed to find that my larder is running dangerously low - so much for winter blueberry muffins at the new Spro in Hampden.

After resolving to process and preserve an incredible amount of produce this summer so we don't happen upon this predicament in 2011, I grab a bag of the blueberries, rip it open and go to town liberally spraying the unsuspecting batter with individually quick frozen blueberries.

Into the oven they go and thirty minutes later, they're golden and blazingly hot. Drop them onto a cooling tray while I french press a pot of Barefoot Coffee's Amaro Gayo Ethiopia - a coffee that's loved by my staff for its rich and deep berry notes, and a perfect match to the muffins.

After five minutes (okay, I can't wait any longer), the muffins are still hot and loaded with buttery goodness. And since I'm drinking coffee with a berry character to bolster the flavor experience, why not bolster that buttery-ness with a little more butter on top? So good!

Maybe I'll venture out into the cold wilderness later.

Where The Streets Have No Plows

Not much has changed on The Avenue since I left late Friday night.

It's the middle of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and The Who are belting out old rock favorites to an audience of millions. The Indianapolis Colts are up by a couple of points over the New Orleans Saints and I'm out partying with friends and smoking cigars when Sarah calls.

"What are you doing? Come down to the pub."

Hang out with The Guys (sausage fest) or hang out with girls? I'm not stupid. Off into the blistering cold and to the pub I go!

Unlike the county where I live and (sometimes) play, the city is still an absolute mess. I live in a pseudo-rural area of the county and our roads are cleared and passable. Much of Baltimore City is still covered in snow. Unbelievable. Is this really the First World?

Major streets, like Charles, St. Paul and Maryland are covered in snow and barely plowed. Hell, they're barely passable, and if I didn't have 4Wheel drive, I'd be stuck. Twenty-four hours after the storm and four lane streets barely have one lane of plowed width. It's terrible.

Everywhere I go, cars are buried. Sarah's car is buried at home, so she walked to the pub. Some cars are not only buried, but they're parked next to the curb and there's still eight feet of snow from the edge of where the plow has passed to the car itself. Those people aren't driving away anytime soon.

Looks like Spro Hampden isn't opening anytime soon...

Friends ask me to move to the city all the time and because of times like these, I can't figure out why. Trash is removed once a week, property taxes are sky high, the murder rate is amongst the most in America, and the snow removal absolutely sucks. I think I'll stay in the country house, thank you.

After the pub, we swing by Hampden to see how much snow is still covering the streets. Some of my crew is scheduled to work tomorrow but there's still tons of snow and no signs of plowing. Looks like no work tomorrow for them.

On the way home, we retrace my Friday night route. Falls Road is barely passable but suspiciously clears to plowed pavement once we pass Western High School into Roland Park. Hmmm, the traditionally blue collar neighborhood of Hampden is left snow-covered and barren, but the roads of Roland Park (enclave of the rich, fancy and connected) are plowed clean and clear?

Kinda reminds me of New Orlean's Ninth Ward... GO SAINTS!