Monday, July 27, 2009

Montana Muffin Monday

It's strange that I've lived in Montana for just about four years, and have never tasted a huckleberry until this past week. Huckleberries are close relatives of the blueberry, and are native to the Pacific northwestern area of the United States. The huckleberry is even neighboring Idaho's state fruit! So you can imagine that huckleberries are abundant here in Montana. When the huckleberry bushes begin to flower and ripen early summer, pickers head out to collect the fruit by the gallon.

What to do with so many tangy wild berries, though? You can freeze them and store up a cache for winter, or bake them into goodies, like the Black Cat Bake Shop's huckleberry coffee cakes. Or, as many huckleberry harvesters do, you could sell them at the local farmer's markets. And that is where I scored my own baggie of berries.

Last Saturday morning, I headed out for a glorious 7.5 mile run. Since the hubby and I had plans to head north for a friends' wedding reception/send-off party, we wouldn't be visiting the market for a treat. Of course I had to steal in for a quick visit after my run, and I scored a tiny Ziplock of huckleberries as well as a Black Cat bread sample.

Huckleberries run on the pricey side, which is probably at least part of why I've never bought them before. After seeing so many huckleberry baked goods around town, though, I wanted to try out my own recipe. So, huckleberries safely stowed in the refrigerator, I cleaned up and headed out for our social engagement, visions of homemade huckleberry scones dancing in my head.

When baking day came, though, I didn't feel quite so sure about the whole scone plan. I have a tasty lemon berry scone recipe in my repertoire, but I did not know how the lemon and huckleberry flavors would meld. They would probably be quite delicious together, seeing as blueberries and lemon work so well. But I also didn't have all the ingredients for scones on hand and so decided -- why not muffins? I mean, I'm the blogger formerly known as the Muffin Chick. It's been so long since I whipped up a good batch of muffins, the food item that really led the charge toward my love of cooking.

Mode of huckleberry delivery decided, I did some quick Googling for inspiration. I happened upon a nice berry muffin recipe (which I have lost the URL for and will post as soon as I track it down!) that helped me to formulate my own rendition, huckleberry-style. They were absolutely delicious. A word of warning, though -- due to the summer's heat, my batch of adorable heart- and star-shaped goodies did not last long on a foil-wrapped plate. If you want to save a few for later, best freeze them and defrost as needed.

That said, here's a healthy treat that's best enjoyed hot from the oven as the sun rises over the mountains (or sky-scrapers, or plain, or whatever your morning vista may be). Feel free to substitute blueberries if you can't get your hands on some hucks. And, as always, enjoy!

Huckleberry Muffins

2 T fat-free sour cream (I used quark)
2 T fat-free vanilla yogurt
2 T lite coconut milk
1/2 cup skim milk
1 egg white (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
scant 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 packet stevia
1.25 cup huckleberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375*F. While its warming, combine the sour cream, yogurt, two milks, egg white, and vanilla extract. In a second bowl, mix the dry ingredients. When they are well blended, stir in the berries. Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the bowl with the berries and dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

Distribute the batter into muffin cups of your preference. Bake for 20 minutes. When a toothpick can be inserted and removed from a muffin free from uncooked batter, take the muffins from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Once they have cooled a bit, remove them from the muffin cups and continue cooling on a cookie rack. Nibble at will.

Makes 10-12 muffins.

What's your favorite muffin recipe or variety?

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