Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Letter: Raspberry Streusel Muffins

Valentine's Day is probably one of those political things that you shouldn't post about if you want to make all of your readers happy.  Because while some people have great relationships, some people are struggling with their significant others, and others have joined in solidarity at the Black Hearts Party.  Then there's the great Valentines Day retail machine: according to the National Retail Federation, the average person celebrating the holiday will shell out $126.03.  Yikes.

I'll admit that we did our little Valentine's Day exchange this morning.  My son got a cookie pop shaped like a heart from me, and a box of Yodels from my husband (there's a longer story there about a Drake's truck on the highway, and curiosity about Yodels, which have never before made an appearance in this house, but I'll leave it at that).  I cut a heart shape into the middle of his avocado and cream cheese sandwich.  I sent him to school with his box of sticker puzzle valentines, and he will come home later, thrilled to show me what he got in return, and as he's pawing through them for the fifth time, we will probably have a discussion about gender norms and why not all girls like princesses and why not all boys like race cars.  We made our own valentines for each other (even for my daughter, who happily ripped hers to shreds), and sent my husband on his week-long business trip this week with an envelope full of handmade cards and a box of conversation hearts, to be opened on Valentines Day.  (I secretly hope that he stashed them in his pocket today and is munching on them surreptitiously during his very serious meetings.)

But as I've been doing all of this, I've been thinking, even more so than usual, that we shouldn't save our hugs and cards and wishes for Valentine's Day.  We should tell people we care about -- not just our significant others, if we have one, or our kids, if we have them, but everyone that we love -- what they mean to us every day.

I am the first one to admit that I'm not very good at this.  I don't make random phone calls to people.  There are several people who are on my list of people to whom I really owe a letter (you lovely ladies who live in Carmel, you know who you are!).  As life has gotten busier, sometimes I even forget to tell my husband I love him when he leaves for work in the morning.  I tell my kids I love them when I kiss them good night, but that's not the same as taking time out of our busy day to do something different, to stop the train barreling down the tracks for a minute.

People aren't around forever.  Friends come and go.  Parents age and die.  Kids grow up and move away.  Colleagues change jobs, get promoted, leave.  Students graduate.  Isn't part of why we're here to leave our beautiful, unique, messy handprints on the hearts of other human beings?  We crave connection with others, and most of us want to feel like we've made a difference in the world.  Why don't we spend more time acknowledging the ways we change each other?

And while we're at it, why don't we spend more time loving and taking care of ourselves with the tenderness and joy we deserve?  Because how can we properly express love for other people if we don't love ourselves?

Back in July, we had a bumper crop of raspberries.  On the advice of friends, I froze a bunch of them and stashed them for use in some undetermined future recipe, to be enjoyed in the middle of winter, when I needed to be reminded of summer days drenched in sunlight.  I finally dug them out this week, when the February weather has taken a turn for the cold and grey, and made these muffins for coffee hour at church.  I wondered what took me so long to use them; after all, we have so many, and more will come in the spring.

Here's my thought for today: do something nice for yourself.  And then tomorrow, when they least expect it, send a love letter to someone who really needs to know what they mean to you.  Maybe, if you're really feeling ambitious, you can make them muffins.

Raspberry Streusel Muffins


1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 c. brown sugar (or date sugar!)
1/8 t. salt
1/4 t. ground ginger
3 T. butter, cold (you can sub Earth Balance if you like)


1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3 T. coconut oil, melted/cooled (or butter)
3/4 c. sugar
1 large egg
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 1/4 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. frozen raspberries*
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners.

In a small bowl, make the streusel. Stir together all dry ingredients, then cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture. Rub in butter thoroughly until mixture is very fine and sandy. Pick up the streusel mixture and squeeze it in your hand to form small clumps, repeating until streusel appears to have a much coarser texture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, stir together melted oil/butter, sugar and egg until well combined. Stir in half the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Stir in remaining flour mixture, mixing just until the dry ingredients are incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Fold in raspberries (toss frozen berries in 2 tsp of flour to keep them from “bleeding” into the muffin batter).

Divide muffin batter evenly into prepared baking cups. Cups will be fairly full. Divide streusel mixture over the muffins (be generous, and don’t worry if some of the streusel doesn’t seem to “stick”)

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cooled muffins can be stored in an airtight container.

Makes 12 muffins.

*Note: If using fresh berries, you may need to reduce the baking time by 1-2 minutes.
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  1. I am glad to know I'm not the only one who has only just broken into the frozen berries from last summers harvest. I was feeling very foolish for having not used them up to now, but maybe it's just that we are finally deep into "winter" and so far from berry season that the time is perfect.

    Also, I have everything I need to make these muffins today. And I plan to MAKE IT SO.

    1. Audrey, you'll have to tell me how they came out! I had to adjust the time a bit from the original recipe because they seemed not to be baking, but hopefully it works for you ...

  2. We don't really celebrate V-Day in our house (but I'm sure we would if we had kids)...we just make jokes about getting an extra hug today, but really that everyday is valentine's day when you're in love. ha.
    Since losing my sister, I make it a practice to be open and expressive to everyone I care about (even if it's just a light friendship)... you never know what the world will bring, and because the one thing that really matters is relationships, it makes most sense to me to express what my relationships mean to me!

    1. V-Day *does* seem to work better for the elementary school set, doesn't it?

      I finally read all the way back in your archives, and I am so sorry for the loss of your sister. Your friends and family are lucky that you are able to tell them what they mean to you ... so many people never get to know.

  3. We don't really celebrate Valentine's day anymore. We try to do special things year round. I always leave my Hubby little notes in his lunch or pockets. I have been trying very hard more recently to express to my loved ones how much I love and appreciate them. It really makes me happy so I am taking care of me too.

    1. Emily, I love the little notes idea ... I've been trying to do that, too. :)

  4. I am another non-celebrator but I still love this tribute to the spirit of the day - and we LOVE raspberries. I planted a raspberry cane this year and am hoping that it does well and provides us with some decent crops down the road.

    ps. I'm sorry I haven't found the time to comment on your wonderful recent posts. I've been unfortunately absent from the blogosphere of late and missed you all terribly.


    1. Nice to see you! And: you have a perfectly good excuse. Thinking good thoughts your way!

  5. I found your blog because Lauren from What's In Lauren's Tummy is one of my very best friends and you commented on her red velvet whoopie pie entry. I love your blog and all of the great recipes you post. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh how I wish we could grow our own raspberries! (It's too warm where the farm is located). Blueberries and strawberries do well, though. Your muffins look lovely. Just wondering - what is the difference between all purpose flour, pastry flour and cake flour in the USA? I always thought cake flour was ground more finely - is that right?

    Reason I ask is here in AU we basically have self raising flour and plain flour and that's it. Although you can buy super fine italian flour for making bread etc in some delis and supermarkets these days.

    1. Different flours have different amounts of protein/gluten. Bread flour has the most, which makes dough "stretchy" and allows the most rise out of the bread while it's baking. On the other end of the spectrum is pastry flour, which has very little gluten and is used for things like pie crust, which doesn't need to rise at all. If you used bread flour for pie crust, it'd be tough, and not very flaky. If you made bread with pastry flour, it wouldn't rise well at all because the gluten is not there to give it structure.

      All-purpose flour falls between the two. Cake flour has less gluten than all purpose flour, and will produce a more tender cake than all-purpose. I use whole wheat pastry flour because it acts sort of like all-purpose flour, but is made from whole wheat.

      But: for this recipe, you can just use plain all purpose flour and they'll turn out fine! (In fact, the original recipe had only all-purpose.)

  7. Hi, over form ICLW #90

    These look delicious - hubby asked for cupcakes yesterday and I think these will do the trick :)


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