Scratch-baking a batch of strawberry muffins sounds like a lot of work for a fruit that is so easily consumed simply piled high atop a scoop of ice cream or morning bowl of cereal, but there is a reason. When baked, Louisiana strawberries take on a deeper and richer taste – a syrupy sweet depth of flavor. And besides, these muffins are healthy.
While Louisiana is one of the premier strawberry growing states in the nation, the season is short. April through June is when the fruit is at its peak. So whenever I see Louisiana strawberries I stock up, and today is no different. Armed with a few quarts of Louisiana strawberries, I’m locked and loaded for strawberry muffins – my favorite..
Tangipahoa Parish, specifically Ponchatoula, is known as the “Strawberry Capitol of the World”–at least around these parts. The second weekend of April marks the seasonal celebration of the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. The crop begins coming in before Easter and lasts until the heat wave blankets South Louisiana as summer approaches. That three month “sweet spot” produces arguably the world’s best strawberries, and I look forward to it every year. The produce markets and roadside stands are flooded with sugary, dark, ruby-colored strawberries and I stock up with enough to last the rest of the year.
Strawberries are versatile in my kitchen – jams, jellies, smoothies, purees, pies and best of all, shortcake. They even freeze well and share space in my reach-in with a variety of other local, seasonal short-timers like Folsom blueberries and Ruston peaches. However, these strawberries will never see the inside of a freezer, it’s muffin time.
Whenever possible, I like to replace white flour with whole grain and this strawberry muffin recipe takes advantage of a stockpile of healthy alternatives. King Arthur whole-wheat flour is the base, but I substitute both coconut flour and almond meal flour as a flavor enhancer and gluten-reducer. The crumb is denser than a cake-like muffin taking on the texture of bread. Also, after a couple of trials I reduced the sweetness ratio so that the naturally sweet flavor of the fruit shines.
Are these Louisiana strawberries the sweetest in all the land?
You’ll just have to taste for yourself.
Make a basketful of these strawberry muffins and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
- 4 cups fresh Louisiana strawberries
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1 cup almond meal flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons agave nectar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup strawberry preserves
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Remove the stems from the strawberries, slice the smaller ones in half, and slice the larger ones into quarters. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift all the flours and combine with the baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
- In a separate mixing bowl, crack the eggs, and add the sugar and agave nectar; whisk until combined. Add the buttermilk, half and half, vanilla, and oil along with the strawberry preserves, and stir until combined.
- Combine the wet and dry mixtures in one large mixing bowl. Reserve one cup of the strawberries and add the rest of them to the mixture; stir until evenly distributed.
- Spoon the batter into the cups of a well-greased muffin pan until completely filled. From the reserved strawberries, press two slices of strawberry on the top of each. Bake for 25 minutes and test for doneness. Let cool before serving.
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