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An extravagantly fruity, spicy, creamy cake of a muffin

June 04, 2006

Strawberry Apricot Lime Muffins

Sometimes O Anonymous Readers of mine, you get out of the game. You let the dishes stack up in the sink, deliberately turning your back on them while you heat up takeout leftovers in the microwave. You slink out of the kitchen at night, flipping off the lights to hide the sprawl on the countertop. You leave the oven cold and dark, the cooktop spattered with grease from the solitary egg you ate for dinner two nights ago; and, as a singleton, alone in an apartment, you have that luxury of willed ignorance, leaving one more smeared glass in the sink. I mean, I don't need to be so arch about it - sometimes you run late, run early, run hard, and you just don't cook for a week or so and you let the dirty dishes fall where they may.

But then, eventually, you just have to get back in the game. I cleaned the kitchen today, cleaned it down to the floor. And then I wanted to bake, I really did. I wanted to make something yummy and juicy and tantalizing, something I'd never made before, but with the comfort of familiarity. The problem was, when you've been out of the game for a day, or two, or ten, everything sounds intriguing. New cookie cutters! Let's use them! Citrus - that sounds good! How about chocolate? Yes! What about something soft? Oh yeah baby! Something crunchy? Definitely! Sweet! Sour! Gooey! Crumbly! This does not add up to inspiration, unfortunately, but rather to a paralyzed jumble of twitching nerve ends, cook's intuitions yanked this way and that.

I finally had to pick one constant, just one thing. Something for breakfast, for my work buddies - especially one pregnant friend who lights up when I mutter out loud, So, I'm thinking about baking... So easy to please!

Then I saw Mahanandi's lovely strawberry scones, and something clicked. Yes! I'd make those. But I have these new silicone muffin pans! Hmm. OK, strawberry muffins. Too insipid - needs something else. Dried apricots, cheap at the produce stand. OK! Still a little too bland - how about some lime? Right, OK. In fact, let's macerate all the fruit in something! It just kept going, with a smattering of spice (I can never resist) and a creamy filling flavored with my precious apricot jam from Bakerina.

Strawberry Apricot Lime Muffins

These are not a quick muffin for a quick breakfast - they're the kind of muffin you make when you have time to mess around, to improvise, to play. They are ridiculously extravagant, with a cascade of textures and little fruity bits, a not-too-sweet yet rich, moist, cakey crumb, and a little kick of booze to soften the apricots (again, can't resist) plus a luscious, creamy center. They certainly aren't models of restraint or discipline - I threw just about everything in and hoped it would all hang together. I almost finished them off with a tart lime syrup, but caught myself just in time. That would have been too much, over the top, like the hazelnuts I just avoided tossing in too. These muffins already had too much going on, a veritable model home of muffin features.

But sometimes, you know, you got to get back in the game, and the best way to do that seems to be to just play.

Strawberry Apricot Lime Muffins

As you can see, these don't have much of a domed top or high muffin rise. They are more like little cakes with a strawberry slice on top like a thumbprint. The spice doesn't come through too strongly - just a hint - so the first taste is of sweet strawberry and apricot, with a lingering fresh taste of lime, then the lush cream cheese and preserves in the center. Next time I might try putting the strawberry slices on at the end of the baking process, with a sugar glaze to lacquer them on.

Strawberry-Lime-Apricot Muffin Cakes with a Jammy Cream Cheese Filling
Makes 24

Mix-ins & Filling
8 oz. of dried apricots
2 oz. of whisky
16 oz. fresh strawberries
0.25 cup of fresh lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
2 small limes
1 pkg. of cream cheese
0.50 cup apricot preserves
2 eggs
0.25 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Chop the apricots into small bits, cover with the whisky and refrigerate overnight.
2. Chop 3/4 of the strawberries into chunky bits and macerate in the lime juice and sugar overnight.
3. Slice the rest of the strawberries into thin, delicate slices. Sprinkle a little sugar on them and put them, covered, in the fridge.
4. Zest two limes into long spiral curls and reserve.
5. Zest two more limes and chop the zest finely.
6. Whip the cream cheese with the eggs, sugar, apricot jam, and vanilla.
7. Reserve all the above preparations and put in the fridge overnight.

Muffin Base
1 stick butter, at room temperature
0.25 cup dark brown sugar
0.50 cup white sugar
2 eggs
0.5 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground coriander
1 tsp. fresh ground cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla
Lime zest
Chopped apricots
Chopped strawberries

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs.
2. Add vanilla and lime zest.
3. Mix dry ingredients and add to the butter, alternating with the milk.
4. Mix in the apricots and strawberries until just combined. Don't overmix.

Muffin batter
Cream cheese filling
Sliced strawberries and lime zest curls
Coarse sugar

1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Fill the muffin tins a quarter full with batter.
3. Put about a tablespoon of the cream cheese filling in the batter.
4. Fill the cup with more batter until just about full.
5. Top it off with a sliced strawberry, a couple curls of lime zest, and some coarse sugar.
6. Pop those babies in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. (They smell so sweet!) Don't overbake them; they are good when they are soft and warm with a light brown top.
7. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then on a rack. Best when they are slightly warm, but not hot.

Posted by Faith at 4 June 2006

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